Larry Woiwode Cause Of Death, Obituary Not Yet Available – Larry Woiwode, the author of lyrical, expansive novels, short stories, poems, and essays set largely in the American West and exploring the power of geography, family bonds, and spiritual and non-spiritual faith, died on April 28 in Bismarck, North Dakota. He was 80.
According to nytimes.com, Joseph, his son, verified his father’s death in a hospital, but did not give a cause. Mr. Woiwode’s 600-page story about four generations of a North Dakota farming clan, “Beyond the Bedroom Wall,” published in 1975, cemented his place in American literature. He was compared to Dickens, Melville, and Tolstoy for his epic sweep, graceful language, and fundamental issues.
In a New York Times article, novelist John Gardner described it as a “great answer” to the aesthetic issues brought by modernist authors who were upending traditional structure and avoiding “plain, grown-up language about love and death.” Mr. Gardner continued, “It appears to me that nothing more moving has been written in years.”
“Beyond the Bedroom Wall” was named one of the 20 best books of the twentieth century by Jonathan Yardley of The Washington Post in 1982. “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison and “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald were among the other titles on his list.
Mr. Woiwode (pronounced WHY-woody) had worked on the book for more than five years — but his wife, Carole Woiwode, said it seemed like ten — and the effort had nearly broken him. For a time, it shattered their marriage, as well as their finances and his health. The delay was derided by authors who should have known better.
Mr. Woiwode nearly immolated himself and Joseph, who was strapped to the seat with a cowboy belt as a child, when he set fire to the weeds blocking a tractor one day. Mr. Woiwode had to fuel his shaky wood-burning furnace with the dead chickens that had frozen in their coop during a devastating blizzard one winter.
The family, as well as Mr. Woiwode’s work, thrived in this environment. “The virgin soil has a stagy thump here over unshaded ground, so unlike cultivated country,” he wrote, “and you can suffer the sense of being on a sound stage in the surrounding painter’s hues, in light undimmed by pollution.” For a brief while, you believe the entire panorama is being built around you.”
Mr. Woiwode, a former Roman Catholic, wrote frequently on his chosen faith, the land, and the biblical stories that supported and shaped it. This set him apart in literary circles as well as in the liberal arts colleges where he spent decades teaching.