Robert Bingham

By: Alix Lambert
March 14, 2013


I met journalist, author, and philanthropist ROB BINGHAM (1966–99) when I started contributing to Open City, a literary journal that he founded. He was a scion of a Kentucky newspaper family sometimes compared to the Kennedys — due to their enormous wealth, bad luck, and untimely deaths. Bingham’s first book, the 1997 story collection Pure Slaughter Value, paints an unapologetic portrait of the people he grew up around. His first and only novel, 2000’s Lightning on the Sun, draws on the years he spent working as a reporter in Cambodia; published posthumously after the author died from a heroin overdose, it is a stunning and devastating book. Not long before he died, I shot some author photos for Bingham — the photo shown here is from that day. Afterwards, over a drink we were talking about the story of Warhol signing a dollar bill and saying “Now it’s worth $10,000.” Bingham took out a dollar and wrote Lightning on The Sun on it, then signed it. On the day of his memorial service, which was six months after his wedding, I opened my wallet to pay for something and there it was — I’d forgotten about it. Dean Wareham, who was at both services, sang “Sweet Child o’ Mine” both times: “I’d probably break down and cry.”


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Algernon Blackwood, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Diane Arbus.

READ MORE about members of the Reconstructionist Generation (1964–1973).


HiLo Heroes, Literature