Remembering Robert Bingham

The Louisville Courier-Journal has a lengthy feature on the life of Robert Bingham, the fiction writer and founding editor of Open City magazine who died of a heroin overdose in 1999. There’s no strong time hook to the piece, except that his sole novel, Lightning on the Sun, was published ten years ago this month, and that he was born into a family that owned the Courier-Journal. Still, it’s a sad, interesting read, following up on the influence Bingham has had on writers working today, both financially (PEN American Center awards the Robert Bingham Fellowship for Writers to debut works of fiction) and in terms of specific guidance to authors, among them Sam Lipsyte:

One of the writers Bingham helped launch was Lipsyte. Lipsyte’s recent novels have won significant awards, but his first break came when Open City published his story collection “Venus Drive.” They met as fellow students at Brown.

“He was really an early champion of my stuff,” said Lipsyte, whose latest novel is “The Ask.” “He was the guy who was calling me up saying, ‘Let’s do this.’”

Within his own fiction, Bingham was keen at being a provocateur. It served him persuasively.

“Rob Bingham’s work has lasted because he was great at the anti-hero, fascinated by failure, and failure is usually the most deeply personal and most difficult-to-satire aspect of storytelling,” said Sam Brumbaugh — whose debut novel “Goodbye, Goodness” was published by Open City — in an e-mail.