Born February 7, 1914, in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Russian immigrant parents, Max and Yetta (Reinbach) Ignatow, David Ignatow had the misfortune to graduate from New Utrecht High School in 1932: “I stepped out of high school into the worst economic, social, and political disaster of our times, the Great Depression.” He did enroll at Brooklyn College but lasted only half a semester, subsequently schooling himself in literary matters by reading Ernest Hemingway,Walt Whitman,Friedrich Nietzsche,Arthur Schopenhauer, Søren Kierkegaard, the Russian novelists, the French poets of the previous century, and the Bible. He worked in his father’s commercial pamphlet bindery, running a machine or delivering the finished pamphlets by hand-truck, and wrote stories and poems in his spare hours. Oppressed by the tedious labor, and by an ambivalent, often heated relationship with a hard-driving father, Ignatow envisioned literature as an escape. With his mother’s aid, he managed to secure an appointment as a reporter for the WPA (Works Project Administration) Newspaper Project. The year before, his short story “I Can’t Stop It” had appeared in The New Talent magazine, earning a place on Edward J. O’Brien’s Honor List in his The Best American Short Stories annual in 1933.
Ignatow was finally able to leave the family business and home in 1935, when he found a cheap apartment in Manhattan’s East Village, where he became a part of the literary scene and met artist Rose Graubart, whom he married two years later. Their son, David, was born in 1937. Financial difficulties plagued the young couple, and from 1939 to 1948, Ignatow was forced to work at a series of low-paying jobs, as night clerk at the sanitation department, as a health department clerk, as an apprentice handyman in the lathe workshop at the Kearny Shipyards in New Jersey, and, for five years, as night admitting clerk at Beth Israel...
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