From Sobaski’s Stairway to the Irish Club: Lester Goran’s Pittsburgh

October 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

American writer Lester Goran died aged 85 on February 6, 2014. This week the University of Miami is celebrating Goran’s life and work – and his legacy to his many thousands of creative writing students – with Goran’s Gifts, a series of events. I’ll be appearing at the celebration.

Here is my long unavailable scholarly essay on two of Lester Goran’s most important novels. I first presented this paper at the Interdisciplinary Themes conference on The City: Culture, Society, Technology at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada (November 6-7, 2009). An earlier version of this text appeared in Interdisciplinary Themes Journal 1.1 (2009).

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ABSTRACT: For more than half a century Lester Goran (1928-2014) wrote fiction set in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This paper explores Goran’s continuing attempts to map this evolving urban space in novels such as The Paratrooper of Mechanic Avenue (1960) and Bing Crosby’s Last Song (1998). Passages in these novels are closely examined in relation to Pittsburgh’s postwar ‘urban renewal’ and the expansion of the University of Pittsburgh. Additional insights are drawn from an extensive 2008 interview with the author. Goran’s imaginative recreations of Sobaski’s Stairway (a fictionalised Hill District) and the Irish neighbourhood of Oakland constitute an unjustly ignored trove of postwar American urban realism.


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