Benny Jay: Joseph Stiglitz and Morry Frank

February 11th, 2010

This  debate over Gary, Indiana’s greatest writer is starting to get nasty.

First our very own Milo claims the title, then Monroe Anderson says it’s his, then Big Mike weighs in, and now everyone wants to know what I think.

Hmm, tough question. Millions of people have lived in Gary over the years.  There’s a good chance the greatest writer is neither Milo nor Monroe.

For instance, the great Chicago novelist Nelson Algren once had a lakefront summer home in Gary. He used to take Simone de Beauvoir there for their summer trysts.

So I guess you could say Simone de Beauvoir is Gary’s greatest writers, or at least the greatest who ever passed through town.

Searching for a clue, I turn to Wikipedia.  I discover a list of fourteen notable people from Gary, ten of whom are related to Michael Jackson.

Dang, if that’s the best Wikipedia can come up with, that’s pathetic.

Off the top of my head I can think of the great football player Alex Karras, the great song-and-dance Broadway star Chester Gregory, the great baseball player Lyman Bostock, the great actor Karl Malden. Hell, Malden won an Academy Award and everything.

But, back to Gary’s greatest writer….

Here’s a shocker.  Paul Samuelson and Joseph Stiglitz — two of the world’s greatest economists — come from Gary.  Each won the Nobel Prize for economics.

Paul Samuelson and friend….

Think about that! Two Nobel laureates out of Gary. Who knew?

Now the real question is: Who’s the greatest economist from Gary?

According to his obituary in the New York Times, Samuelson came from “upward mobile Jewish immigrants” who moved to Chicago in 1923 when he was eight.

In other words, they got the hell out of Gary just as soon as they could (not unlike Milo and Monroe, by the way).

On the other hand, Stiglitz stayed in Gary all the way through high school. And – get ready for this — he graduated from Horace Mann! That’s right – Milo’s alma mater.

That rinky-dink little school – which closed a few years back – actually produced a Nobel laureate.

When I discover this, I call Milo. “Got bad news for you,” I tell him. “Not only aren’t you Gary’s greatest writer – you aren’t even the greatest writer from Horace Mann High School….”

“Who’s greater?” he says.

“Stiglitz….”

“Who?”

“Joseph Stiglitz – the Nobel prize-winning economist. He wrote a ton of books, including Making Globalization Work….”

“Oh, yeah, I remember Stiglitz — I went to high school with his sister. Bookish guy. Good with numbers. He should have been a bookie. All the good numbers guys at Horace Mann became bookies.”

“Milo, the man won the Nobel….”

“Fuck, the Nobel. Name me one great Nobel winner who ever placed a bet….”

“Well….”

“Matter of fact, I don’t know if Stiglitz is as good a writer as my old pal Morry….”

“Who?”

“Morry Frank – another kid from Horace Mann. He wrote Every Young Man’s Dream – a novel about a minor league short stop. Then he went off to Hollywood to write for TV. Probably screwing some starlet as we speak….”

“Impressive….”

“Morry comes from a big-time Gary family. His brother, Harry, was a dentist. Their father, Sam Frank, was a kosher butcher. The last time I saw Morry, I was heading off for Vietnam. He told me, `Don’t worry about the Viet Cong, Milo – they’re only this tall.’ And he pointed to his waist.”

“I hope you didn’t take his advice….”

“You have to understand — Morry was a real tough guy. He had Popeye-like arms. He used to walk around with a mouthpiece, just in case he got into a fight.”

“So is Morry Gary’s greatest writer?”

“Fuck it — us Gary boys gotta stick together. If it’s okay with Monroe, Morry and Joe, I’m ready to share the title with all of them. After all, between the four of us, we’ve got a Nobel prize….”

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