Christa Malone R.I.P. (1 Viewer)

I don't like to post sad news, but I'm told Christa Malone passed away from cancer a few weeks back. In my interactions, she was such a beautiful, kind and generous person. She was also a tragic person: Her father unexpectedly died, her daughter committed suicide, and her sole sibling (sister) died of cancer as well -- all in the space of two years or so.

Fortunately, it sounds like she had a great few days before the end.

Christa did a great job of preserving her father's legacy, and in the process created a honorable legacy for herself.

She was a rock, even during times when the worst of life can throw at you.

Be at peace, Christa... You're missed
This was indeed very sad news. I got a wonderful letter from her a few days before Christmas. She was, as others here have said, a kind and generous person who had a bunch of bad stuff happen to her, none of it deserved. Rest in Peace, dear Christa.
By the way, I did an email interview with Christa, asking questions about her father, Marvin Malone, and growing up around The Wormwood Review. It wasn't finished (she postponed it a couple times due to her health issues), and now that she's gone, I'm considering if and how I should make it public. Any ideas?
My name is Paul Stachelek. I was Christa's husband for twenty-four years and spent the last eight months of her life with her in Stockton. The first thing I adamantly want to correct is that our daughter did not take her own life. She was diagnosed with something called Neurofibromatosis (NF1) at birth. Christa and I devoted nineteen years to do everything we could to make Sierra's life an abundant life despite her malady and we were successful based on Sierra's acceptance of her condition and the influence she had on so many people before the disease eventually took its toll.

There is a tragic element involved with the demise of the Malone family including Carla (sister), Marvin, Shirley and now Christa. About twenty people, mostly from NorCal, went to Point Arena, CA and spread Christa's ashes at her tree in a forest (Better Place Forest) during a ceremony on Christa's birthday (March 13th).

I also have a copy of the transcript regarding the interview with Christa and I'm sure, to the extent it achieved, would make an interesting read for those familiar with Wormy wherever it might get posted.
Thank you Paul for sharing this information with us. I didn't think that Sierra had taken her own life, but didn't know for sure. I'm glad that you are agreeable to the interview with her being posted here. Bukowski fans are very familiar with Marvin Malone and The Wormwood review, both of which have an excellent reputation here and everywhere else. Christa is well known here and was universally loved for her kindness, generosity, and intelligence. I'll pull together the pieces of the interview (it was conducted in two or three segments over a few years) and post it here soon. If anything seems to be missing or wrong, feel free to comment on that and I'll do my best to address it. Thanks again for your insights (as zobraks said above). By the way, my real name is David Barker. I had a bunch of poems in Wormwood, and had been in touch with Christa since Marvin's death.
Here's my unfinished interview with Christa Malone about her father, editor Marvin Malone, and his highly regarded, long running little magazine, The Wormwood Review. It was conducted by email in 2009. I had planned eventually to ask her about Bukowski, but she needed to postpone completing the interview due to her daughter, Sierra's, serious health problems, and we never resumed it. My wife, Judy, asked several questions as well. -- David Barker

David: What is your first memory of The Wormwood Review?

Christa: My first memory is of going to Sandy (Alexander) Taylor's barn on Wormwood Hill, where the letterpress was housed. I was four years old, nearly five. I suppose my father and Sandy were printing issue number 4 then, as I never met the other founding members of Wormwood, James Scully and Morton Felix. I just remember the barn being ancient and frigid, but there an air of excitement, a sense of something out of the ordinary happening. Sandy was a congenial type, and he and my father were having a good time. My father was a solitary type, so for him to have a joint project with someone else was unusual.

David: Tell me more about Sandy Taylor and Wormwood.

Christa: At the time that Sandy was teaching at the local high school and studying for his master's and doctorate at UConn. Later, he taught at Eastern Connecticut State College and spent some time translating Danish poetry, particularly that of Benny Andersen. Sandy also founded Curbstone Press in Willimantic, Connecticut.

I was in touch with Sandy in the 1990s, when I worked for Harcourt Brace. One of my jobs was to monitor hardcover books issued by small presses for Harcourt's possible interest in paperback rights. Curbstone was a press on my list. I asked Sandy a couple times if he had any material left from the first couple issues of Wormwood. He thought he did. He would try to find it. But nothing happened, and now it's too late to follow up, as Sandy passed away in 2007.

David: Wormwood Hill is in rural Connecticut, a few miles east of Storrs, right? Were you living in town, in Storrs, or in the country?

Christa: Yes, Wormwood Hill was in the country, outside of Storrs. We had moved to Storrs from Albuquerque, New Mexico, which is a substantial-size town. When we drove into Storrs in the summer of 1960, we actually drove through it before we realized that we had missed the town. Even though the University of Connecticut was situated there, Storrs was a dot on the map. There was one grocery store, a drugstore, a five-and-dime, and a small row of connected shops. No movie theater at the time. I think there was just one restaurant. Hicksville.

We moved into university housing, a maze of brick apartments that was outside the UConn complex near the grammar school. There was a forest with skunk cabbage and snakes and a pond across the street. Storrs was the idyllic place for kids. Since almost everyone was associated with the university, it was a "safe" environment. There were lots of other kids and lots of open space to run wild. People didn't lock their doors or worry about where their kids were, as long as they came home for dinner.

My parents made lifelong friends in the apartments, notably Compton Rees in the UConn English department and Cynthia Snow, in the art department. These people became part of my foundation. Although Cynthia died a few years back, I'm still in touch with Compton.

Judy: Do you remember your family reading a lot as a child, and what kind of books did they read? Were there a lot of books around the house? What about music and movies? Do you think your parents influenced your own tastes and interests in the arts?

Christa: Not sure where to begin on those questions!

Both my parents began to collect books and artwork in the 1950s. Every spare cent went to a book or piece of art. My parents especially admired people who could work in more than one medium. After my father's Henry Miller book collection became large, he wrote directly to Miller and purchased a watercolor from him for $25--a big sum of money back then. Wright Morris was another writer-artist whose books and photographs were avidly acquired. My father also wrote to Edward Weston in 1957 and purchased a photograph directly from him--another $25. Weston was ill then, so the return letter with the photo was from Cole Weston. My mother always regretted that they didn't have more money to spend on a second photograph. But the art collecting just snowballed after that.

Books--so many and so diverse. My father read everything from Marvel comics to detective fiction to poetry to science fiction and experimental fiction--all escapist literature. There was the sexy stuff, too, like the Traveler’s Companion series. Very little nonfiction in the house, aside from art-related books and biographies. My mother's tastes veered mainly toward fiction, but she was a very sophisticated reader. My father read to us when my sister and I were little--I particularly remember Joan Aiken's Wolves of Willoughby Chase (with the Edward Gorey cover illustration) and The Wind in the Willows. Of course, we grew up reading, and Carla's and my tastes pretty much mirrored our parents'. That was wonderful later on, when we grew up, as we all enjoyed the same things and could share our discoveries. When we moved to California in 1969, the book collection weighed 6 tons. Eventually the book collection grew to more than 50,000 volumes.

My father was not forthcoming about suggesting books for me and my sister to read. He believed that through some paranormal telepathic process, he would transmit his preferences to us without speaking. It didn't work. So I asked him for lists. One list was of the authors and books that most shaped his reading over his lifetime. The books included the Dr. Doolittle books, Jules Verne's Mysterious Island, Saki, Miss Lonelyhearts, Leaves of Grass, Celine, Henry Miller's Tropic books, George Orwell's Down and Out in Paris, Finnegans Wake, James Drought, Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, William Carlos Williams, Kurt Vonnegut, William Sansom, D. H. Lawrence, and Joyce Cary's The Horse's Mouth.

Although my parents liked quiet, we had music. They played Eartha Kitt, some classical, a lot of Folkways traditional music, and recordings of poets reading their own work. My mother also played the piano.

We didn't have a movie theater in Storrs for several years, so movies were limited to those shown at the student union at UConn. And we didn't have a television until 1966, when I was ten years old. When his mother died, my father inherited her old wheezing model that hummed for several minutes before the picture kicked in. At that point we had just moved into a real house in Storrs, a picture-perfect Colonial with an acre of land. The TV was relegated to the basement and viewing was very limited. My sister and I could watch one show of our choice weekly and we could watch TV if my father was watching. We learned to love horror movies, Star Trek, and Mannix.

David: I've read that Wormwood Review issue #1 -- which your father was not involved in -- and issue #4 -- the first issue he worked on, were both printed letterpress. Did Marvin actually set type and work the press on these issues, or did he mainly provide company for Sandy during the printing? And, do you know if any issues after #4 included hand-printed work?

Christa: (in an email that was about me buying copies of Wormwood, and not a reply to this question.): [Issue number] Three was the first issue my dad helped to edit. Four was the first letterpress issue he did.

[Sierra's hospitalization in October/November 2009 interrupted the interview.]


Christa had told me that she had lots of left over, uncollated and unbound pages from early issues of Wormwood, including some covers and broadsides. She wasn't sure what she should do with these. I suggested that I could publish the completed interview as a limited edition chapbook and include some of these extra pages as special inserts to add color -- that collectors would appreciate these odds and ends. She agreed to that plan and was going to send me some of the extra materials but didn't get around to it. Here's a bit of our discussion about that:

Christa: I like the idea of the old covers being used. I'm only saving the best ones, and after issue 32, the issues were collated, so the covers aren't separate from those issues. I was thinking that whatever publication you put out, you could bind with an original cover and over that put semi-opaque vellum or some such with the title of the new publication. Just a thought. Also, there are no more manifesto pages, but I do have about 70 copies of my father's insert/broadside that appeared in issue 8 or 9 which talks about the role of the little mag. And there are more than 100 copies of the Same Old Thing flyer. So there will be plenty of stuff for some sort of publication.

David: I really like your idea of wrapping a vellum cover around a vintage cover, with the title of the new publication printed on the velum and the vintage cover visible through it -- that's perfect. The broadside/insert where you father talks about the small press would be an ideal item to use in the new publication, as would the "Same Old Thing" broadside.

I'm thinking the vintage parts should be firmly bound into the new publication to discourage people from taking them out and selling them separately for a profit. I could see that happening if they were loose inserts, especially with the flyer, which is sought after by collectors. They are more likely to stay in the new publication if they are bound in.
Not sure if this is the right place in the forum to post, however. If anyone is looking for copies of Wormwoods, Christa packaged up 55-60 banker's boxes and Jeff Maser and Andrea Latham of Detritus Books ( in Berkeley have them. The Marvin Malone signed copies (to family) are bequeathed to the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley. Thanks to all for your kind words of expression.

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