Eugene Kramer (right) with his friend Isaac, not the character from the 1953 “Isaac.” Sometime in the mid 2000s.
Eugene Kramer (b.1929) has accomplished much. He holds a Master’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Chicago, had a successful career as an urban planner — including work on Soul City, North Carolina, a planned community premised on racial integration — and is an avid collector of jazz records and memorabilia and chess books and magazines.
Less well known is that from about 1948 – 1954, Eugene actively pursued fiction writing as an avocation — and as all writers hope — a vocation. Mostly, beginning in his sophomore year at the City College of New York, Eugene produced his early work in Professor Henry Leffert’s English 2 and English 12 M.
Revisiting his collegiate corpus in 1990, Eugene took a dim view, noting on its sheaf: From My Infancy, to be destroyed after my demise, EK.
At the University of Chicago and in several years after, Eugene’s work matured. The most polished or interesting is probably “Isaac” (November, 1953). Along with the five page short story are about a dozen extant pages of notes.
The piece is perhaps too philosophically driven and could be illuminated with more penetrating detail. Nonetheless, the story is well paced and engaging. In his notes, Eugene says one intended theme is the interplay between artistic and sexual impotency.
As seen in To Dad from Talker with Love, Eugene has made solid yeoman contributions to the magazine. As such, we are rewarding him by publishing “Isaac” (at end), making “Isaac” Eugene’s first fictional publication. 65 years is better late than never.
At the same time, we wonder why did Eugene gave up his pen around 1954? Three years later, he was married and settling into a comfortable bourgeois life. Was Eugene perhaps akin to Léon Dupuis, Flaubert’s character in Madame Bovary?
In the novel, Léon, an artist manqué, sets down his pen for the safe and conventional life of a head clerk.
— for in the heat of his youth, every bourgeois man believed, if ony for a day, for a minute, that he is capable of boundless passions, lofty enterprises. [from Madame Bovary (1857) by Gustave Flaubert, Part III, Chapter 6 ]
Eugene (first row, last, rear) in 1947 at age nineteen when a student at City College in New York. He dreamt of becoming a writer and a jazz musician:
the most halfhearted libertine . . .
In 1970, while working for the Urban Development Corporation, Eugene took a junket to Finland and the Soviet Union where he exposed himself to communistic ideas of free love:
. . . has dreamed of sultan’s wives;
And so he gave up the flute, exalted sentiments, and fancies of the imagination;
Besides, he was about to be made head clerk: the time had come to get serious.
In 1957, Eugene married Carol Klapprodt and settled into a bourgeois existence with an occupation, home and two children:
When recently re-discovering his manuscripts, Eugene kindly offered them to Talker of the Town.
every notary carries within himself the remains of a poet
“Isaac” by Eugene Kramer, November 1953
EDITORS NOTE: The publication of “Isaac” puts to rest any conception that Eugene is or was, in any form, Flaubert’s Léon Dupuis.
EDITOR’S NOTE: I recently discovered a letter I wrote to Eugene and Carol in April, 1986. The snippet reveals the theme of Flaubert and the bourgeoise writer runs deep.