THE MAN WHO WAS THERE by Wright Morris


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My Uncle Dudley (Harcourt-1942) was fun reading, though at times it seemed somewhat Saroyan derivative with a touch of Steinbeck. The Man Who Was There is wholly original; Morris' only parallel -- that occurred to me as I read -- was Claude Houghton, author of I Was Jonathan Scrivener, whose work, dating some ten years back, left me with that some elusively tantalized feeling that I had as I read The Man Who Was There. Ages Ward dominates the book, and yet the reader never really sees him, oven in the thoroughly ""American Gothic"" chapters that tell of his visit to his old home, where the relatives and friends discuss him as though he were not there. For most of the book, he is encountered (a), as seen though the eyes of Grandmother Herkimer, whose memory is failing and who insists on called Private Reagan ""Agee Ward""; (b) through a sporadic record left in the family album; (c) through the episodic memories of neighbors; (d) through his few friends, and those who knew him superficially and called themselves friends, driven by the urge of curiosity when he was reported ""Missing"" and his land-lady, Miss Newoomb, was named ""next of kin"". They were a queer bunch, close to the verge of madness, with Miss Newcomb maddest of the lot, and her admirer, Mr. Bloom, a close second. But they were mad in such a nice way, that you love the lot of them, even Peter Spavic. The final impression has somewhat the confusion of a dream, into which you want to get back so as to know the end. Odd blend of impressionistic treatment, and realism, down to a photographic accuracy of minutie -- and phonographic record of sound. The man can write -- and someday he may achieve some degree of order and balance that this lacks. I cannot see a large audience, but it will be an appreciative one.

ISBN: 0803258135
Publisher: Scribner