class of 1962
inducted in 1999
Author and Columnist
was a popular author of novels and short stories. Before her untimely death
in October 1992, Colwin garnered a large following
with her sparkling tales of love and family in the upper middle class.
Colwin served as editor of Cheltenham's literary magazine The Panther before
graduating in 1962. She attended Bard College, the Sorbonne in Paris, the New School for Social Research, and Columbia University. Beginning in 1965, Colwin
worked for a number of years in publishing. Her first employment in the field
was with Sanford Greenberger International Publishers, a firm which she would
later remember with great affection. She went on to serve on the editorial
staffs of many leading publishers, including Putnam, Pantheon Books, Viking
Press, and E.P. Dutton. During this period she edited and translated works of
Isaac Bashevis Singer, winner of the 1978 Nobel
Prize in Literature.
Colwin sold her first short story to The New Yorker
in 1969. She would later see her stories published in such magazines as
Cosmopolitan, Playboy, Redbook, Mademoiselle, and Harper's. Some of the
finest of these early short stories were collected in Passion and Affect
(1974). Her first novel, Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object, was published
In 1977, Colwin ended her career in publishing to
devote herself entirely to writing. She soon produced her second novel, Happy
All the Time (1978) which was well received by critics and readers alike.
John Romano wrote in the New York Times Book Review, "her book has the
elegance called Mozartian -- pretty themes,
The publication of the short story collection The Lone Pilgrim (1981) and the
novel Family Happiness (1982) brought Colwin
national acclaim. Critics praised her clear prose and sparkling wit. Readers
fell in love with her wonderful, lifelike characters: witty men and women of
the upper middle class who are perpetually falling in and out of love in the
most entertaining ways.
She continued her successful career with her short story collection Another
Marvelous Thing (1986) and her fourth novel, Goodbye Without Leaving (1990).
She was honored with the prestigious O Henry Award for short fiction, and she
was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 1987.
Food held an important place in Colwin's life and
career. A talented chef, Colwin cooked for
protesters during the 1968 campus uprisings at Columbia University and later volunteered as a cook at
homeless shelters in New York. Her fiction often explored the
fascinating connections between people, food, and love. For many years she
was a food columnist for Gourmet magazine, publishing many of her columns and
essays in the 1988 book Home Cooking.
In October 1992, Colwin died in her home in Manhattan at the age of 48, survived by her
husband Juris Jurjevics
and her daughter Rosa. Colwin was honored the
following February with a memorial tribute in New York City. Personal memories and readings from
her work were shared by friends and colleagues including Anna Quindlen, Blair Brown, Tony Randall and C.H.S. classmate
Willard Spiegelman, ‘62. Her last two books were
published posthumously in 1993. More Home Cooking was a second book of food essays, and A Big Storm Knocked It Over her final novel.
Colwin has been compared to authors as diverse
as John Updike, Danielle Steele, and Jane Austen. "Colwin
writes with extraordinary authority in a cool, slangy, hard-edged style that
delights the mind even as it touches the heart," wrote Jane Clapperton in Cosmopolitan. One reviewer praised "her
elegant, delicately colored prose" while Newsweek's Walter Clemons
remarked of Happy All the Time that the "successful depiction of
happiness is rare enough to qualify Colwin's novel
as daring experimental fiction." In a New York Times column published soon
after Colwin's death, Anna Quindlen
wrote, "Laurie Colwin was a splendid writer,
her characters wrought with perfect pitch, her world view sharp and telling
but neither dark nor mean."
Colwin said of herself: "I write first drafts
by hand with a Mont
Blanc pen with
real ink...I'm real old-fashioned." In an age when many serious writers
concern themselves with despair and alienation, Laurie Colwin
won the hearts of millions with her engaging and honest explorations of
happiness, family, and love.