THE MEMOIRS OF THE LATE MR. ASHLEY: An American Comedy by Marianne Hauser


Email this review


Hauser (The Talking Room; Prince Ishmael; Dark Dominion) has written an ornate, entertaining novel about a man who looks back on his life from the grave. Drew Ashley, a sometime actor/author, has just discovered that he has died of a heart attack in a sleazy Manhattan apartment, far from the uptown home of his rich widow, Gwen (whom he now sees arguing with his mother-in-law over what they did with his ashes). Using this as a departure point, Ashley goes back over his errant life in elliptical fashion: he came from a poor family that ran a boardinghouse, and grew up dreaming of becoming an actor. He met heiress Gwen (young and extremely fat) in New England during some amateur theatricals, married her mainly for her money, and settled down to a life of rich idleness, abandoning his acting ambitions for the life of a gentleman writer, working for most of the time on a scholarly opus on southern mansions (The Glory That Was) but never finishing it, and indeed playing tapes of himself typing in case Gwen should be listening at the door. Most of his considerable energy was spent on drinking and chasing Richie, a young, Hispanic hustler he eventually moved in with, much to Gwen's dismay--it was in Richie's arms that he finally died, full of booze and unused talent, a wastrel's wastrel, but with his sense of humor (quite considerable) intact. Afterwards he can look down with a smile as Richie pretends to have some unpublished writing of Drew's, and tries to sell it to Gwen at a dollar a page. Hauser never makes full comic use of her voice-from-beyond-the-grave device (Ashley may as well be holed up on Cape Cod writing his autobiography), but she is an amusing writer and the novel, while longish in places, is diverting entertainment.

Pub Date: July 21st, 1986
Publisher: Sun & Moon