Ernest Borneman

TOMORROW IS NOW by Ernest Borneman (London: Neville Spearman), 1959, 205 pp. There are few careers more fascinating and multifaceted than that of Ernest Borneman (1915-1995), a German-born psychotherapist and non-fiction writer who also wrote several novels (all in English), and whose other professions at various stages in his career included playwright, cameraman, screenwriter, writer for TV and radio, film director, prolific journalist, and jazz musician. I’ve tried to encapsulate a few things about him, including his work with Orson Welles and his discovery of Eartha Kitt, in a long footnote on pp. 3-4 of my book MOVIE WARS, where I quote from a brilliant 1947 essay of his, “The Public Opinion Myth,” in order to counter many of the assumptions underlying the test-marketing of movies. I’ve now read only two of his novels, all of which are out of print: THE FACE ON THE CUTTING-ROOM FLOOR (1937), his first and best known (though published under the pseudonym of Cameron McCabe), a flavorsome murder mystery that I treasure mainly for its dialogue as well as its 24-page Afterword about Borneman–written by the book’s editors, though containing a lot of interview material and a letter from Borneman, dating from 1979 and 1981, respectively. In the letter, Borneman dismisses THE FACE ON THE CUTTING-ROOM FLOOR as “mannered” and “puerile,’ but describes TOMORROW IS NOW as “the best of my books,” even though only 500 copies of the 10,000 print run ever went out to wholesalers and retailers, apparently due to a newspaper strike, and the book has never even been published in the U.S. It’s a pretty remarkable novel–a political story involving American and English characters in London, most of them belonging to the same quarrelsome and dysfunctional family. Much of the action unfolds rather like a play (evoking at times both Ibsen and Shaw, despite the then-contemporary Cold War setting), and it’s beautifully written; Borneman’s ear for various kinds of English and American speech is uncanny. Subtitled THE ADVENTURES OF WELFARE WILLY IN SEARCH OF A SOUL, this is a book that I could recommend to anyone and everyone if it were easy to get ahold of, but alas, it’s a very scarce item. I luckily managed to track down a used copy a few years back for a reasonable price, but when I just checked it out on Amazon, I found only one copy going for $64.80, while Alibris offers another one for $82.39. [5/16/08]

This entry was posted in Notes. Bookmark the permalink.