Wednesday, October 26, 2022

RIP Peter Schjeldahl

Peter Schjeldahl, a longtime resident of St. Mark's Place and "a half-century-long prose stylist of New York City's art scene," died on Friday of lung cancer, his daughter Ada Calhoun announced. He was 80. 

You can read more about his life and wife in this feature obituary at the Times

Schjeldahl and his wife, actress Brooke Alderson, moved to St. Mark's Place in 1973. (They bought a place upstate in the 1980s.) In 2015, Ada published "St. Marks Is Dead." The dedication reads: "To my parents, who looked at the apocalyptic 1970s East Village and thought, 'What a great place to raise a kid.'"

Schjeldahl worked as an art critic at The Village Voice before joining The New Yorker as a staff writer in 1998. New Yorker Editor David Remnick wrote a remembrance, which you can read here
Peter was a man of well-developed opinions, on art and much else. He was someone who, after being lost for a time, knew some things about survival. We met more than twenty years ago. I was looking to hire a full-time art critic. I’d read him for years in the Village Voice. And a voice is what he always had: distinct, clear, funny. A poet’s voice — epigrammatic, nothing wasted. 
We got together at the office on a Saturday in late summer. Someone had shut off the building’s air-conditioning. Peter was pale, rivulets of sweat running down his face. I asked about an empty interval of time on his résumé. "Well, I was a falling-down drunk back then. Then I fixed that." He was harder on himself than he would be on any artist. 

 Don’t misunderstand: in the many years of his writing for The New Yorker, Peter was perfectly willing to give a bad show a bad review, and there were some artists he was just never going to love — Turner and Bacon among them — but he was openhearted, he knew how to praise critically, and, to the end, he was receptive to new things, new artists. ... He took his work seriously — despite the cascades of self-deprecation, there were times when I think he knew how good he was — but he was never self-serious. He once won a grant to write a memoir. He used the money to buy a tractor. 
In June, Ada celebrated the release of her latest memoir, "Also a Poet: Frank O'Hara, My Father, and Me," in the garden at St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery. A proud father was on-hand.
Schjeldahl read a poem. Ada shared an excerpt from the book about the time her father, on his wife's encouragement, decided to buy something for his daughter. He returned from the Strand with two books, one by W. H. Auden and the other a copy of "Lunch Poems" by Frank O'Hara. She was 9 at the time. 

Back to David Remnick's essay: 
When Peter got the news of his cancer — a cancer that he and his doctors kept at bay for longer than anyone imagined possible — Ada asked him if he wanted to revisit Rome or Paris. "Nah," he said. "Maybe a ballgame." And Ada arranged it, Peter wrote, "with family and friends: Mets versus Braves, at Citi Field. Glorious. Grandson Oliver caught a T-shirt from the mid-game T-shirt cannon. Odds of that: several thousand to one."
Photos from June by Stacie Joy


Pennys herb co. said...


Anonymous said...

An amazingly thoughtful writer, stylist, prose wizard.

Anonymous said...

"To my parents, who looked at the apocalyptic 1970s East Village and thought, 'What a great place to raise a kid" - and ya know what? They were right. The life lessons learned from living down here back then would have been far more interesting and useful than anything learned on the Upper East Side.

My condolences to his family on this loss.

Anonymous said...

He was a brilliant writer and a proud East Village resident. He will be missed very much in both respects.

I offer my sincere condolences to his wife, daughter, grandson, and extended family.

His death is a loss to art lovers and to what New York City itself is. He was part of the fabric of our community.

Anonymous said...

A legend in so many regards RIP

Anonymous said...

what a writer, what a voice:

Unknown said...

Perfectly put.

Unknown said...

Indeed. That article was just fantastic.