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Wallace Markfield, 75; Author of Dark, Satiric Novels, Short Stories

June 01, 2002

Wallace Markfield, 75, an author of satirical novels such as "To an Early Grave" and "Teitlebaum's Window," died May 24 in Roslyn, N.Y., of complications from a heart attack.

He made his literary debut with the 1964 novel "To an Early Grave," which chronicles the misadventures of a group of friends headed for the funeral of a second-rate writer named Leslie Braverman. It was made into a 1968 movie directed by Sidney Lumet called "Bye Bye Braverman" which starred George Segal and Jack Warden.

His other novels included "You Could Live if They Let You" in 1974 and "Radical Surgery" in 1991. He also wrote a collection of short stories, "Multiple Orgasms," published in 1977.

In a 1991 review of "Radical Surgery" in the Washington Post, novelist John Calvin Batchelor praised Markfield's talent for absurd dread and called the book a textbook of black-humor trickery.

Markfield's stories were known for their juxtaposition of tragedy and comedy and ample Yiddish references.

Richard Armour, in a Los Angeles Times review of "To an Early Grave," echoed other critics in his praise of Markfield's "remarkable ear for the accents and intonations of the Jewish speech of lower Manhattan."

Though many critics viewed him as a black humorist, he once preferred this description: "I suppose I'd call myself a tone poet of aggravation."

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