Author Harry Bernstein Celebrates 100th Birthday and Closes In On Fourth Book
June 1, 2010
Literary late-bloomer Harry Bernstein celebrated his 100th birthday on Sunday with a bash in Brooklyn Heights, announcing to a gathering of awed friends and relatives that, recuperated from a rough patch of health, he was on the verge of completing the fourth volume of his family saga.
“It’ll take me about two more months to finish,” a robust Harry told me while waiting to greet a roomful of family and friends at the Park Plaza Restaurant.
His acclaimed first memoir, The Invisible Wall, was published in 2007 and compared for the strength of its prose about his difficult early life in the poor milltown of Stockport, England with the works of D.H. Lawrence and Frank McCourt. It was followed in succeeding years with two more volumes about his life in America.
Harry’s first short story was published in 1928, the year Mickey Mouse debuted in movie theaters and Herbert Hoover was elected presidents. He was soon heralded as one of America’s most promising young writers, but instead would face the rejection of more than 40 novels over seven decades before the publication of his first memoir following the death of his wife, Ruby.
When I first interviewed Harry, in 2007, for What Should I Do With The Rest Of My Life, he explained his sober response to the accolades he received, “Remember, there were circumstances of writing that book I would rather never have happened. It would have made all the difference for Ruby to be here.” I doubt that I had ever heard anyone speak, at any age, of love with such transcendent, transporting, and true emotion.
I noted as much when I was asked to say a few words on Sunday. I also read personal messages of admiration and birthday wishes written to Harry from all of the other subjects of my book, including a note from inventor Myrna Hoffman, who wrote, “I’m happy to be ‘between the covers’ with you, Harry!”
While recuperating in Brooklyn and unable to sit at his typewriter for the last several months, Harry has been dictating a fourth volume of his family’s story, this one focused on his radical sister, Rose, a seamstress.