My Whole Expanse I Cannot See…

I formulate infinity stored deep inside of me…

Feb 28

Julie Hayden

Category: Life,Opinions

So, I listen to the New Yorker: Fiction Podcast. Every month, a writer from today chooses a story to read that was previously published in the New Yorker, then there’s a discussion about the story. I’ve been listening for awhile, but the one story that really sticks out for me is Day-Old Baby Rats by Julie Hayden, published in 1972. It’s a short-story about a day in the life of a young woman in New York City. She’s an alcoholic, we’re there for her first drink in the morning, we see the city through her eyes, we hear her thoughts on everything she sees, and doesn’t see. It’s a gripping story of a woman, stricken by loneliness and anxiety, surrounded be millions of people.

Julie Hayden created a beautiful story in Day-Old Baby Rats, but Julie Hayden’s personal story is also sadly moving. She lived in New York City, had a story collection published, did regular writing for the New Yorker, she was doing things just about every writer aspires toward, definitely what I aspire toward. Still, today you can barely find a trace of her on google, by the time of her far too early death in 1981 her work was largely out of print, largely forgotten. Anxiety and phobia fueled her own alcoholism, she’d carry a flask, taking nips to numb her worries. Cancer ended her writing and her life. forever. She did these great things, but she still slipped and fell and ended badly. Her sad writing mirrored the sadness in her head, people found it beautiful, compelling, and yet for some reason, she died pretty much unremembered. It scares me how that can, and does happen. We all want our stories to end well, but sometimes, no matter what, they don’t. They just don’t.

I worry about my story.

Well, now that I know of her, I’ll remember Julie Hayden, and maybe this post might put her work in some new minds. It’s not much, but it’s something. She, and her work, are definitely worth remembering.


12 Comments so far

  1. Matthew Meade March 8th, 2011 12:27 pm

    Thanks for hipping me to this story. I actually subscribe to this podcast and I almost missed it because I don’t listen to every story. I have it on my ipod now and I plan to check it out.

    As far as the whole “forgotten by history” thing, that reminds me of something a friend of mine just emailed me.

    The following link displays just how small we are compared to the universe. To some it might be overwhelming, but to me it was freeing. It helped me to see that every single one of us, from Julius Ceasar to Mother Theresa to MTV VJay Jesse Camp (Remember him? Neither do I) will be forgotten eventually. (Also, if you spend some time with it, you’ll notice that there is something whimsical about the way the information is presented.)

  2. Ev April 27th, 2011 1:32 pm

    Did u happen to find any of her other stories online? I also listened to the podcast and fell in love with her writing. Please let me know if u find anything

  3. Susan Reid July 3rd, 2011 10:02 pm

    Tonight, I suddenly realized that Julie could possibly be found on a google search even though she died well before Google. In the summer of 1961 we went to the beach and the movies, walked and talked a lot and tried to learn short hand in case we had to earn a living as secretaries. I did not keep up with her, but did read her obituary in The New Yorker. It indicated that she still had many fears, but I did not know about her short stories. What a gift to find this information.

  4. michael July 3rd, 2011 10:12 pm

    Susan: I’m really glad you found this. Julie was really brilliant, I want people to know she existed, someone like her shouldn’t just disappear.

  5. michael July 3rd, 2011 10:15 pm

    Ev: No, there’s so little of her anymore. It’s really sad.

  6. Stewart McDowall September 14th, 2011 6:15 am

    Hi. I was glad to find your thoughts on this because they mirror my own. What haunts me about Julie Hayden is not so much the story – which is great writing – but her personal story. She achieved this thing that I’d love to achieve but it wasn’t enough. I feel as if to get where she got would somehow complete my life – but probably wouldn’t.

    Anyway, after I listened to that podcast months ago I wrote some stuff down and I’m going to paste it here. It’s a bit disjointed but it’s how I jotted it down.

    But what about Julie Hayden. Writer. Worked at TNY and had some good stories published. Had books – all went out of print. She’s forgotten. She was a drunk, but a good writer. So, what’s the point? When she had those stories published she must have been so happy for the recognition, but what good did it do her? No lasting happiness, and cancer came and took her away. I’m fascinated by her story though. The tragedy of her life. But somewhere in there was this talent. I like the idea of talent. Not just anyone who studies hard could get that job. You need talent. Then you need the luck, but you can’t do it without the talent. Those two things need to be together. You can’t succeed without both of them. But why would anyone care about being remembered anyway? What does it matter if once you’re dead you go out of print? If you go out of print while you’re alive that’s a different case and that’s what happened to Julie. If you never get to be in print then you’ve got a problem, and if you become famous after you are dead…forget about it. Absolute worst case. Actually it’s not it’s the same case as if you don’t get printed in your lifetime – because of course everything that happens after you die is of no importance to you.

  7. Lee Jenna Tyler April 22nd, 2012 10:33 pm

    By my bookmarking her, I feel that I’ve solidified her life-which seemed so transient-and her struggles-which were not so. I am glad to find someone has spent the time to create a webpage The date was the making of the page as her life had long since past before that date. But I bow my head to whomever spent the efforts on Feb. 28 2011 to make her life and writings tangible. Did the pple at the New Yorker not like her. Was her drinking a problem? Surely her cancer could be forgiven, even by the coldest soul. Her life asks us all, “What is a life worth?” “Why the struggle to simply live?” I ask the same.

  8. francie einenkel August 22nd, 2012 4:42 pm

    I am curious-I remember reading her work and also about her–he mother was the poet, Phylis McGinley. How did or do you know she was an alcoholic? What a very great shame.

  9. michael August 22nd, 2012 4:49 pm

    francie: On the podcast they talk about her alcoholism, how she carried around a flask just to get through her day.

  10. Lee Jenna Tyler August 22nd, 2012 8:52 pm

    You and I have so much in common. I worry through my disease that I will not write, or finish writing. We both know what that means to us. But your strength will reap rewards beyond this life and in each person you touch, through this webpage, through your family, the people who know you and know of you through the tv show, stories, your wicked humor. There are too many things to list. I am only able to communicate through this virtual world as well and though I can walk it’s only by a few feet. Then back down again. I saw this so you know a little from where you come from. Thank you, in the midst of every move and breath being an effort, for taking the time to tell us of this wonderful woman. You are beautiful.

  11. William Tickel October 10th, 2012 4:57 pm

    Julie Hayden had a story (“In the Words of”), originally published in The New Yorker, that was selected by Martha Foley as one of the Year’s Best American Short Stories in 1973, and appears in that collection. Her biographical detail in the back reads:
    “Julie Hayden grew up in Larchmont, a suburb of New York City. She attended a Catholic boarding school and was graduated from Radcliffe College in 1961. She has lived in San Francisco and Hawaii, where she was deselected from a Peace Corps training program, and now writes out of the latest of a series of Greenwich Village apartments. In recent summers she has been a Fellow of the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire, a haven for artists. Other stories of hers have appeared in The New Yorker.” Hope this helps! She was a remarkable writer, and the inclusion of her story in Foley’s 1973 annual should insure some measure of continuing memory …

  12. Josephine Rowe (@josephinerowe) October 26th, 2012 10:47 pm

    Hi Michael,

    I believe I’m following the same route as yourself—I’ve just heard Moore’s reading of Day-Old Baby Rats, have been utterly overwhelmed (as I was after Tobias Wolff’s reading of Stephanie Vaughn’s ‘Dog Heaven’:, and am now scouring the web for every shred of information I can find. Thus, I am here. The collection ‘Lists of the Past’ is pretty pricey (second-hand copies are in the 100s), but if you haven’t read it yet there’s another of Hayden’s stories, ‘Walking with Charlie’ up on the LA Review of Books site:

    All best,