Before reading Heather’s essay on her grandfather, Morton Wolson, I suggest you go back and read (or re-read) my previous post on Mort’s career as a pulp writer, including the comments, one of them left earlier by Heather.

— Steve

  Dear Steve,

   I perused my father’s e-mail detailing my grandpa’s history concerning his pulp fiction writing. However, if you want a portrait of his personality, I can relate some interesting stories. Regrettably, Grandpa Mort believed that his pulp fiction writing wasn’t to be taken seriously, and as my father has already said, he was working on some other novels, which he deemed more important. How ironic that the writing he took for granted has now become his legacy!

   Concerning his interests, grandpa was a “fellow traveler” in the Spanish Civil War, but would always quiz both my father and I repeatedly on the correct definition of Marxism. In fact, the debates that my father and Mort would get into concerning Marxist ideology, while Mort was driving, would almost plow my Grandma Gaye, Mort, my father and I into several of New York’s finest telephone poles. My grandmother would clutch me around the waist and scream, “Stop debating, oh my God, you’re going to kill us all!”

   Of course, I found these predicaments highly amusing. In fact, during the McCarthy era, Mort was investigated by the FBI for having fought in Spain. He retrieved the 150 page report on himself after the Freedom of Information Act was passed, and read it aloud to all of us. Ironically, most of the report was crossed out, so we couldn’t adequately read anything. Also, prior to fighting in the Spanish Civil War, Grandpa Mort was proud to be the first individual to attempt to organize a union at Macy’s department store. Unfortunately, he was subsequently fired.

   Grandpa Mort was also a staunch vegetarian. He never ate a piece of meat in his entire life! This was due to his own father’s vegetarian “phase.” However, when Mort was old enough to choose whether or not he would eat meat, my great grandfather took him through a slaughter house in order to strengthen his resolve against it. Grandpa never imposed vegetarianism on my own father, and rather encouraged him to eat meat. Grandpa’s meat substitutes were half jars of peanut butter, sandwiches piled high with cheese and lettuce, and vegi-steaks.

   One of my favorite vignettes concerning Mort’s various escapades is the story of how he was a Buddhist at 20 years old. He decided to find out for himself what he was exactly dealing with. So, he hopped a freighter and questioned the chief Buddhist in Calcutta. He asked, so what is the answer to all of this? The monk replied, “I don’t know,” and grandpa, infuriated that he had traveled all the way from New York, exclaimed, “you have rocks in your head!” Later on in life, grandpa confessed to me that the monk was right and he was wrong. Mort claimed his infamous response was simply that of a brash youth. He believed the monk was actually very wise upon reflection.

   When I knew Mort, he was an Atheist. He would also tout Solipsism, the theory that we are all merely products of our own five senses and that nothing which seems to exist actually does. Moreover, when I questioned him regarding his religious inclinations, he answered, “Honey, the only thing I can truly believe in is the law of nature. If you walk off of a cliff, gravity ensures that you will fall off of it, and dash out your brains.” Although this reply seems somewhat severe, I always regarded Mort’s worldly views positively, and deeply admired him. His personality was very much like a character in one of his Peter Paige detective stories.

   These are some colorful pictures of different ways in which I remember Grandpa Mort. Moreover, he always encouraged me to write, write, write. As things presently stand, I am entering graduate school in order to acquire my doctorate in English Literature. Hence, I end up writing quite a bit. I hope the aforementioned descriptions aptly represent both the awe-inspiring, tough and sometimes funny character of my beloved grandpa.

Heather Lara Wolson