CSULA Department of English | Subtitle

The following review has been assembled from the reminiscences of current and former faculty.

We have had novelists Wirt Williams, Leon Surmelian, and Christopher Isherwood, who fictionalized this campus in his 1964 novel A Single Man. Dorothy Parker was here as a Distinguished Visiting Professor. 

Henri Coulette, a Lamont Poetry Prize winner, graduated from here with a degree in English in 1952 and returned in 1959 as a professor until his untimely death in 1988. Moving reminiscences of Professor Coulette may be found in Terry Santos's "Remembering Henri Coulette" in The Southern Review (1991) and in the introduction by Donald Justice in The Collected Poems of Henri Coulette (1991). 

Sketch Drawing of Dorothy Parker by Don Bachardy

Dorothy Parker
(drawing by Don Bachardy)

John Weston, professor here from 1971 to 1994, guided many fiction writers over the years. His work includes the novels Jolly, The Telling, Hail! Hero (made into a film), and The Walled Parrot, the novellas Goat Songs, numerous short stories, and prose poetry, and most recently Dining at the Lineman's Shack, his well-received memoir of life in depression-era Arizona. Several years ago, Professor Weston provided the following listing of former graduate projects in creative writing that were published as books, including some subsequent works of these authors:

B. L. Barrett, Short Story One, a collection of stories, and subsequently, Love in Atlantis, a novel

Robert Baylor, To Sting the Child, a novel

Gene Farrington, The Breath of Kings, a novel, and subsequently, plays, Halek among others

John Haase, The Young Who Sin, a novel, and subsequently, The Fun Couple, Erasmus with Freckles, The Noon Balloon from Rangoon, Me and the Arch Kook, Petulia, Seasons and Days, Big Red, and San Francisco, novels; The Fun Couple, a play; and films from books, including Petulia and The Wall to Wall War

Pat Kubis, One More Time, a novel, winner of the National Women's Press Association Award for the best novel by a member, 1962, and subsequently, Ocean's Edge, a novel, and a post-doctoral project, How to Write and Publish Fiction and Non-Fiction, a textbook

Dorothy Miller, Showboat Round the Bend, a novel

Darryl Ponicsan, The Last Detail, a novel and made into a film, and subsequently, Goldengrove, Andoshen, Pa., Cinderella Liberty (made into a film), The Accomplice, Tom Mix Died for Your Sins, The Ringmaster, and An Unmarried Man, novels; screenplays, Cinderella Liberty and Taps; originated a TV series, Mississippi; and authored various TV documentaries

Lillian Powers, The Rose Tree, a novel

Judy Romberger, Lolly, a novel, and subsequently, stories, articles, and plays

Boris Stankevich, Two Green Bars, a novel

Helena Maria Viramontes, The Moths and Other Stories, and subsequently, stories in journals, such as "Why Women Burn," in Blue Mesa Review; and anthologized stories in collections of American Fiction

Joseph Wambaugh, The New Centurions, a novel, and subsequently, among others, The Blue Knight, The Choir Boys, The Onion Field; screenplays of all novels; and originated a TV series, Police Story, for which he wrote several episodes

And there were other students, such as Carolyn See and Michael Harper, who would publish subsequently though they did not publish while enrolled at CSULA.

In Being There: An Autobiography of California State University, Los Angeles (1987), Joseph Wambaugh encapsulates his experience here:

I don't know if I could have been a writer without all the reading I had to do, or if I could have been a human being. This kind of reading is important. I'm pretty catholic in my tastes; I just read anything and everything. My college reading gave some direction and point. The Choirboys was a kind of poor man's Catch-22. It was my attempt to approximate in police work what Joseph Heller did in his great book. It was a serious, horrible story using gallows humor, but I'm no Joseph Heller. I first read his book in graduate school.

Finally, there's the magic. I don't know that I would have ever been bewitched by the magic of literature had I been left to my own devices, that is, without the absolutely wondrous atmosphere I found at CSLA.

No matter how tired I was from chasing crooks all day or night, I was instantly rejuvenated the moment I walked into a classroom, particularly a seminar in the Master's program. If I'd never had a word published, I wouldn't have traded my formal education for anything. It was nothing less than magical.