The cause was pneumonia and complications from the coronavirus, said actor-producer Bob Balaban, a friend of Mr. Goolrick’s since the 1970s, when they met in a Kool-Aid commercial.
Beginning with his autobiography, “The End of the World as We Know It: Scenes from a Lifetime” (2007), in which he wrote about being raped at age 4 by his alcoholic father, then with “A Reliable Wife” (2009) and “Heading Out to Wonderful” (2012), bestselling and darkly sensual novels, Mr. Goolrick explored human connections that could turn violent and lurid.
Following a great career in the southern gothic vein of William Faulkner, William Styron, Carson McCullers and Pat Conroy, among others, Mr. Goolrick said he found through his retrospective approach to storytelling a modest, albeit reckoning. never a fuller consolation, with a past that held a terrifying power over him.
More than the loss of innocence, it was the wanton destruction of innocence that concerned him most thematically. “Childhood is a dangerous place,” he told USA Today. “Nobody walks away without scars,” but added as a warning, pointing to his own spiral into alcoholism, cocaine addiction and self-mutilation: “It’s what happens after that, later in life, that’s so destructive.” “.
He had spent much of his adulthood masking personal anguish through what seemed, by all accounts, to be an external achievement. He became an executive with major New York advertising firms like AC&R and Gray, where he worked on brilliant corporate campaigns.
A humorous storyteller and meticulous dresser from his John Lobb shoes to his Hermès ties, he was in high demand as a dinner guest. “Whether he was sitting next to a celebrity or a plumber, he was always curious about the way people lived their lives,” said Lynn Grossman, a writer married to Balaban who described his broad intellect. friend. “If he were talking to the plumber, he could speak with authority about the plumbing in 17th-century British castles.”
Director-screenwriter Paul Schrader remembered Mr. Goolrick as a “source of inspiration and companionship”. Schrader used to invite his friend on sets and credited him as an associate producer on “The Walker” (2007), about a young man who accompanies older women from high society. “A lot of those people you give credit for the money, but with Robbie, it was because he was someone you could bounce ideas off of. He was a person to go to for feedback and ideas.”
In an essay after becoming a published author, Mr. Goolrick reflected on navigating “the complex and often terrifying interior of a seemingly ordinary life. My life had been an effort to appear right at all times, and the effort had worn me out. My clothes were immaculate, my house was lovely, and my dinners were a success, but inside I felt completely dead.”
He wrote that he was becoming increasingly dependent on gin and cocaine, prowling Manhattan seeking anonymous sexual encounters with men and women, and furtively slashing his body. She once cut off her arms while she was watching the Broadway show “Dreamgirls”, noting in her memoir that the purplish red blood that seeped out resembled “a beautiful woman’s dark, glossy lipstick”.
Sometimes he was so stoned after a night out, he wrote, that he could barely pronounce your street address to taxi drivers. And he was so unaware of his surroundings that he was mugged five times in his own stable.
An increasingly difficult colleague, Mr Goolrick said he was “suddenly and giddily fired”. He was subsequently institutionalized for months after a nervous breakdown, but left with the conviction that he could become a writer, an ambition he had long held. Writing, he added, was “giving to the world.”
“The End of the World As We Know It,” published by independent house Algonquin Books, received largely positive reviews: “sharp and cunning, with a keen eye for inflicting pain,” wrote New York Times book reviewer Janet Maslin. He revealed a paternal heritage of bourbon and mental illness and painted his mother as elegant, intelligent, emotionally undemonstrative, wallowing in her unhappiness, and prone to somber, alcohol-infused statements such as: “You ruin your own life and then, very gently, you destroy the lives of those around you.”
The success of Mr. Goolrick’s memoir prompted Algonquin to publish his first novel, which had been written before and had been rejected by dozens of publishers.
“A Reliable Wife,” praised by a Guardian book reviewer for its “great drama springing from greed and lust,” summed up the New York Times bestseller list, which Mr. Goolrick attributed to her bodice-ripping qualities and her popularity with book clubs. The plot, set in frozen 1907 Wisconsin, was about a widower looking for a practical, homely mail-order bride and instead getting an ominous beauty.
“What interests me about human life is the possibility of goodness,” Goolrick told the Daily Beast. “With ‘A Reliable Wife,’ I wanted to make a novel where troubled people somehow redeem themselves with love.” “.
Robert Cooke Goolrick was born in Charlottesville on August 1. He was born on January 4, 1948, and grew up in Lexington, Virginia, where his father taught history at the Virginia Military Institute. He graduated in 1970 with a degree in English from Johns Hopkins University and initially became interested in film on a scholarship that financed his travels to France, England and Greece.
He eventually entered advertising, a field he once said “requires people who have talent but no specific ambition,” and enjoyed a steady if restless rise as a copywriter at major firms. He worked as a freelance writer and once published an article about his futile attempt to track down reclusive novelist Thomas Pynchon.
The piece ends in a vivid dream in which Pynchon sends her a letter – “written on graph paper, paragraphs closely spaced and unindented” – and concludes with an existential riddle befitting its literary goal: “The world gives nothing. The world, my dear, give all there is.”
When he became a writer, Mr. Goolrick left New York to avoid Manhattan’s cocktail scene and “weird literary extravaganza.” From his rented 19th-century farmhouse in Weems, Virginia, he wrote two more well-received novels, “Heading Out to Wonderful” (2012). , about an illicit romance in small-town Virginia in 1948, and “Fall of Princes” (2015), about a Wall Street trader in the 1980s who falls victim to his debauchery.
Mr. Goolrick, who never married, is survived by a brother and sister. He said the memories of her caused a schism between the brothers and prompted accusations from their parents’ friends of beautifying or lying. She usually responded by quoting the first line of “A Reliable Wife”: “The thing is, all memory is fiction.”
After the publication of his memoirs, Mr. Goolrick found satisfaction in offering help to the many people who sought his advice in surviving childhood trauma. He often put them in touch with support groups that could offer understanding and comfort.
“When I was young, I used to have a nightmare all the time,” Mr. Goolrick told interviewer Skip Prichard. “And the nightmare was that there was something terribly wrong with me, something that hurt. And I opened my mouth to tell my mother or whoever was around that something was wrong with me and nothing came out. I was mute In writing I found a way to break that silence and find a voice”.