William Gibson was born in the Bronx, New York City, on November 13, 1914. His father, a mailroom clerk and a talented amateur pianist, died during Gibson’s childhood, and his Irish Catholic mother had to work as a scrubwoman to support the family. A Mass for the Dead (1968) is a heartfelt chronicle of Gibson’s childhood and adolescence. Emulating his father, Gibson learned to play the piano as a child and in his early writing days worked as a piano teacher and as a performer to supplement his income. His lifelong interest in music is reflected in his work on the libretto for the operetta The Ruby (1955) and the text for the 1964 musical Golden Boy. By the time he was sixteen, Gibson had graduated from Townsend Harris Hall, a Manhattan public high school for gifted boys, and had begun work at what later became known as City College of the City University of New York. Gibson did not like college, however, and dropped out after two years.
In 1940, at twenty-six, Gibson married Margaret Brenman, a psychoanalyst, whose work with the Menninger Clinic had led them to Topeka, Kansas. At the Topeka Civic Theatre, Gibson had his first plays performed, a one-act verse drama about the Apostle Peter, I Lay in Zion (1943), Dinny and the Witches (1945), and A Cry of Players (1948). Dinny and the Witches was revised and produced Off-Broadway in 1959 but was panned by critics and closed after only twenty-nine performances. A Cry of Players was also produced in New York City at Lincoln Center in 1968 but enjoyed only moderate success.
In the 1940’s, however, Gibson had not settled on being a playwright. He was also writing short stories and poems and won the Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize for a group of poems published in Poetry in 1945. He also published, through Oxford University Press, a collection of poems titled Winter Crook in 1948. Eventually, he wrote a novel, The Cobweb (1954), which he sold to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studios, earning enough to buy a home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where his wife had taken a new job.
In Massachusetts, Gibson turned again to drama and in 1956 completed the play that would launch his meteoric Broadway career....
(The entire section is 931 words.)
William Gibson was born in New York on November 13, 1914, the son of lower-middle-class parents. The families of both parents were musical. Several of Gibson’s maternal uncles belonged to the most famous banjo band of the early 1900’s, and his mother’s family operated a music school, where Gibson’s mother had met his father, a talented popular pianist. Gibson himself mastered the piano and, in his late teens and early twenties, he tried to become a professional musician. This background explains his lifelong attraction to music, an interest reflected in his writing of pieces such as the libretto for the operetta The Ruby (which he wrote under the name of William Mass) and the text for the 1964 musical Golden Boy, a project that he finished for Clifford Odets, who died before it was completed.
Although Gibson was graduated at age sixteen from Townsend Harris Hall, a high school for academically talented boys that was affiliated with the City College of New York, he found college stultifying. He took his most rewarding classes at City College of New York from English professor Theodore Goodman, who encouraged his writing. After attending college sporadically for about two years, Gibson dropped out to educate himself, to become a musician, and to launch his writing career. During his years in college and immediately after, he became a Depression-era communist and lectured on street corners to support this cause.
In 1940, Gibson married Margaret Brenman, a psychoanalyst, whom he had followed first to her graduate school and then to her psychiatric positions in Topeka, Kansas (where they married), and later in Stockbridge, Massachusetts where he lived until his death in 2008. His first literary success came with the recognition he gained from his 1945 Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize. In 1954, he published a best-selling novel, The Cobweb, which he sold to Hollywood. The movie of the same name starred Lauren Bacall, Charles Boyer, and Richard Widmark and appeared in 1955 after Gibson helped rewrite the screenplay.
Gibson became interested in drama early in his career. After dropping out of college, he acted at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia, where he wrote several unproduced plays. While in Topeka, Kansas, he...
(The entire section is 934 words.)