Saturday, December 16th, 2017

Pallid short fiction by Glenway Prescott

“It is the recollection of delight that constitutes desire,” Glenway Wescott wrote in his nasty (offputting rather than prurient) “unpublishable” story “A Visit to Priapus.” The story was written in 1938, it has become the title story of scraping up by his biographer (and editor of his diaries, Jerry Rosco) of some short pieces by Wescott, whose final pair of novels — The Pilgrim Hawk and An Apartment in Athens—I much prefer). I have found the tone of most of the stories in the posthumous collection annoying, except for an account of visiting an arthritic bed-ridden Colette in 1952 that I presume is not fictitious. As for his aphorism, I think desire predates experience, hence recollection.

In “The odor of Rosemary,” Wescott wrote that “a part of fiction is error, and another part is forgetfulness.” Maybe…

In the story a youth from California asks if Spain is an island, and then remembers that it is Portugal that is the island….

Rosco claims that Wescott was a perfectionist, yet Wescott produced trips like “All summer long that country and the sky over it, if anyone could have embraces it allay once, would have been said to be silken. Roman-striped with rainbows. Hard-looking clouds and hard rainy days were interspersed with choking sunshine. Prodigal breezes brought the needed moisture, and then perversely burned the oats and the immature corn. The continued lighting had much in common with the wild lilies, the grass snake… Flowerbeds, green fruit, and pools, shone in abundance in the landscape—false jewels upon plaques of wind-engraved light…” (from the first paragraph of “The Babe’s Bed”).

(Also see further discussion of Wescott’s short fiction in my review of his later diaries, A Heaven of Words.)

© 17 June 2014, Stephen O. Murray

About The Author

Stephen O. Murray grew up in rural southern Minnesota, earned a B.A. from James Madison College (within Michigan State University), an M.A. from the University of Arizona, a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto (both in sociology), and was a postdoctoral fellow at Berkeley (in anthropology). He is the author of American Gay, Homosexualities, etc. and lives in San Francisco.

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