Before Elman died, he read the galley-proofs of his memoir, Namedropping: Mostly Literary Memoirs. What sets this work apart from other recent memoirs is that Elman (Tar Beach) is finally less revealing of himself than of his cultural milieu. Through brief essays, Elman records his encounters with a range of important and interesting public figures, mostly other writers but also musicians, actors and politicians.
Nation Magazine, April 28 1979.
New York Times, Sunday Oct. 8, 1989
Published in 1967, Ill-at-Ease in Compton is a book of reportage, about the mechanisms of discrimination at work in Compton, California a city with a large lower middle-class population. Richard’s first visit to Compton (a population of 75,000 at the time), was during the 1964 election when he had been sent there to prepare a script about the community for an educational TV station. Compton had been picked as a typical Democratic town which was to be compared to a typically Republican town in program about voting patterns.
New Statesman, Sep. 25 1964.
In 1978-79 Elman worked as a journalist in Central America, covering the war in Nicaragua against the Somoza regime. He travelled on assignment for GEO magazine and his text accompanied the images of photojournalist Susan Meiselas for the essay, “Nicaragua: A People Aflame,” GEO I (1979) pp. 32-60, first published in December 1978 of the German edition of GEO, as “Das Drama von Managua.” Elman’s account of that trip and succeeding visits to Nicaragua are told in his book, Cocktails At Somoza’s: A Reporter’s Sketchbook of Revolutionary Nicaragua.
New York Times, Jan 22 1984.
In 1985 Elman taught in the Creative Writing Department at the University of Arizona in Tucson, where he also attended the trial of clergy providing sanctuary for political refugees from El Salvador and Guatemala. These clergy, who were part of a larger Sanctuary movement, were accused by the American Government and the INS of smuggling aliens into this country. The government’s case prevailed.
Letter to the editor with Albert Fried NY Review of Books, May 22 1969.
Elman travelled on the U.S. portion of The Rolling Stones’ 1972 ‘Exile on Main St’ tour for Esquire Magazine, and the essay was expanded for a book, Uptight With The Stones: A Novelist’s Report. “Sharp, witty and sometimes un-PC (by today’s standards), …Elman’s prose borders on poetry in places and takes an unbiased look at the band.”