Short stories by Benedict Thielen
PERSONAL: Born April 29, 1903, in Newark, New Jersey; died 1965; son of Henry J. (a banker) and Theodora (Prieth) Thielen; married Virginia Berresford (a painter), June 20, 1930 (divorced, 1949); married Helen Close, July 9, 1949; children: Charles Close (stepson). Education:Princeton University, B.A., 1923, M.A., 1924. Hobbies and other interests: Scuba diving, marine biology. CAREER: Writer, 1932-65. Contributor of stories to magazines, including New Yorker, Harper's Bazaar, Scribner's, Town and Country, Esquire, Atlantic Monthly, Yale Review, and London Mercury. Stories also appear in anthologies. SIDELIGHTS: Benedict Thielen was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1903, the son of banker Henry J. Thielen, a German who had immigrated to the United States at age twenty, and Theodora Prieth Thielen, whose father was also a German immigrant. Thielen grew up with his parents and widowed maternal grandmother. When he was sixteen, he entered Princeton University. His mother died in 1923, and his father in 1928. After his parents' deaths, Thielen was taken in by a wealthy uncle, Lothar Faber, whose family manufactured pencils. Faber's family was large and eccentric, and Thielen used his observations of their vivid and funny personalities as the basis for many of his fictional characters. After earning both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree at Princeton, Thielen traveled widely, spending a year and a half in Paris and five years traveling through southern France, England, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Greece, and Yugoslavia. He married Virginia Berresford, a painter, on July 20, 1933, and moved with her to New York City, where they lived until 1940. They subsequently divided their time between Key West and Martha's Vineyard. In 1949, they were divorced; shortly thereafter, Thielen married Helen Close. Although they did not have children, he raised Close's son from an earlier marriage as his own.
Thielen was a disciplined writer: at Key West he worked every day in an attic; at Martha's Vineyard, in a small shack separate from the main house. When he was not working, he indulged his hobbies of scuba diving and marine biology. Thielen's first novel, Deep Streets, explores the effect of city life on characters who live vain, empty, and deluded lives. According to Eric W. Carlson in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, critics praised "its lively, natural dialogue, its genuine feeling for nature and music, and its sardonic treatment of the futility of attempting to escape from the urban to the primitive in nature." He followed this with a collection of stories, Dinosaur Tracks and Other Stories.Stevie is a satiric comedy starring Stevie, who is an "honest businessman," the book's narrator, Joe, and their wives, who appear in eleven amusing situations in which they reveal themselves to be "perfectly dreadful people," as Thielen explains in his introduction to the book. He commented, "Stevie and his pals are, it seems to me, the corned-beef-and-cabbage, the beer, the weeds, the burlesque shows of this existence, and as such I like them and like to report their doings." Thielen's next work, The Lost Men, examines the intimate relationship between man and nature and the impact of man's past upon his present. The Lost Men tells the story of three jobless World War I veterans who are caught up in the violent hurricane of Labor Day 1935. Some of the veterans survive the storm, while others are either washed away from their inadequate shelters or "baptized" by the hurricane waters with a new view of life. "Out of the tragedy of spiritual and social lostness there emerges the epic theme of survival and rebirth of the spirit of man," Carlson wrote in Arizona Quarterly. He continues, "Thielen can use vivid and colorful language to the point of brillance . . . his description seeks . . . to represent nature as felt reality, nature transformed through some experienced realization of eye and mind." Another hurricane, this one in 1938 on Martha's Vineyard, inspired Thielen to write "A House by the Sea," an essay penned shortly after Thielen's new house was swept off its foundation and moved by the ocean and winds a half mile away. Friday at Noon is a more complex book, with a complicated series of relationships among characters, each of whom is seen from the point of view of all the others. Several important themes run throughout the book, including materialism, artistic idealism, social democracy, and emotional domination. Carlson wrote, "Thielen here makes effective use of leitmotifs, symbolism, contrast of the subjective and the objective, past and present, interacting characters, and the subtle revelation of mood and motive." In the Princeton University Library Chronicle Carlson described Friday at Noon and Thielen's serious fiction, "If one function of literature is to expand our sympathy and understanding by sensitizing us to a larger range of values, then Thielen's work fulfills that purpose in the highest degree." Summing up Thielen's career, Carlson noted, "Thielen was 'a voice of his time' in the rich variety of his characters and themes," and wrote, "His voluminous journals (1920s to 1965) and letters . . . further represent the wide range of human values that inform Thielen's fiction."
Listing 5 stories.
A retired army officer immerses himself in creating an honorary parade for the world war that ended over a decade prior. In his obsessions with recognizing the past, his present relationship with his family becomes strained.
A nameless soul is stranded on an unknown shore, watching the countless soldiers of wars long past go about their nightly activities.
Two young individuals on their honeymoon stop at a gas station in an Indian reservation to buy souvenirs and eat lunch. To the great embarrassment of his wife, the husband spends the entirety of their stop mocking the Native Americans who live there.
A psychologist and his longtime companion must decide on a vacation destination, overcoming the tensions between them in the process.
A young married woman asks about her older husband's past relationship with a nurse during the war.