Howard Wolf


July 30, 2008

Dear “Committee”:

   I’m pleased that I’ve been asked to contribute something to Irving’s 80th celebratory website, though it’s hard to think of Irving the handball and squash player being anything but young. Still, facts are “sensational as Saul Bellow says somewhere. Although Irving and I were not close, I knew him well enough to see and to appreciate his moral, satiric, and lyrical qualities, to say nothing of his involvement with Jewish life at its deepest levels.

   I knew him also as one of the important members of the Al Cook circle, so to speak, who created the modern UB English Department and made it for a while, perhaps a decade, one of the most exciting and creative places in the American literary academy. But that atmosphere changed, especially when Al Cook left to go to Brown University. Irving said to me at the time, “We’ve lost our soul.”

   After Al left, a sense that many voices, styles, and approaches could flourish at once gave way to a “hegemonic,” as the say, tyranny of “theory,” as they say. Ideology and power-politics (or the assertion of Ahabic egos) replaced something like a friendly community. One enduring emblem of that community for me was the department’s somewhat motley softball team which included for a while among its starters both Irving and Fernando.  That was a kind of Golden Age for me.

   I include as a  tribute to Irving a short story that I’ve been working on that touches humorously, but seriously, on some of the absurdities, cruelties, and deceptions of  life in the American literary academy. Its “villain” may be recognizable. I hope so. I know that there are, at least, some great one-liners in it. If Irving thinks so, I’ll be pleased. I once asked him who his favorite poets were. Without missing a beat, he said, “Some lines of some poets.”

    Irving, you may not be immortal, but I know you have many good years ahead of you.

A son of Manhattan salutes a child of Brooklyn with affection and admiration and


Yours friend,                

“Howie” (Wolf)

P.S. Alexis, who lives in the Golan with her three boys (Tyler, 14; Yarden, 4; Adir, 2), sends her love on this special occasion.

P.P. S. The story, “Ludwig Fried’s Cultural Risorgimento,” is part of a series that makes up a collection: Exiles by Starlight