George Hodgman, whose memoir, “Bettyville,” conveyed with wit and emotion his experience caring for his ailing mother in Paris, Missouri, died Saturday. He was 60.
The author was found in his New York apartment, a cousin said on Sunday. Molly Roarty of Kirkwood said the cause of death is pending.
Mr. Hodgman, who grew up in mid-Missouri in Madison and Paris, later worked with some of the nation’s best-known writers as an editor at Simon & Schuster and Houghton Mifflin publishers and at Vanity Fair magazine.
When publishers downsized, he returned to tiny Paris as a freelance editor and caregiver for his mother, Betty, who at 90 suffered from dementia and other ailments.
He published “Bettyville” in 2015, detailing their loving and humorous, yet sometimes testy, relationship. Mr. Hodgman’s memoir also reveals his difficulties growing up as a gay boy in small-town Missouri and his fear of coming out to his mother.
The book, highly praised, was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award in the autobiography category.
In 2016, it was Columbia’s “One Read” book selection.
In an interview with Calvin Wilson of the Post-Dispatch, Mr. Hodgman said: “You have to be really honest, and you have to treat the reader like a friend. If you’re not willing to confide in the reader, you can’t do a memoir.”
On his website, he wrote of his childhood: “I loved these towns, the characters who inhabited them, and all the stories that a nosy kid like me could manage to eavesdrop on. All my life, the people in these places have stayed in my head, rattling around, chatting, and causing trouble in what was already a noisy place.”
He graduated in 1981 with degrees in English and journalism from MU. He earned his master’s degree from Boston College.
Roarty, who grew up near her cousin, said that he had been the family clown and that “it was very brave of him to write (‘Bettyville’) because he was brutally honest.” She also remembers him as “so kind,” helping her when her own mother died.
Paramount TV announced three years ago that it planned to produce “Bettyville” with actors Shirley MacLaine and Matthew Broderick. Roarty said Mr. Hodgman had still been “optimistic that it would work out.”
In recent years, Mr. Hodgman lived mostly in Paris with his dog, Raj, Roarty said. He was interested in historic buildings, she said, and “loved St. Louis and the Portland Place area.” She believes he had been writing a novel.
Mr. Hodgman had been on the committee to choose the winner of the St. Louis Literary Award. Award director Edward S. Ibur noted in an email Sunday that Mr. Hodgman “was brilliant, compassionate, and intellectually engaged in the world. He was also an invaluable member of the St. Louis Literary Award selection committee ... Despite George’s ongoing struggle with depression, his razor-sharp humor and empathy for others in the world always took precedent over any of his personal issues.”
Information on services was not immediately available.