A CLOAK OF LIGHT: Writing My Life by Wright Morris

A CLOAK OF LIGHT: Writing My Life

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Following Will's Boy and Solo, this new volume of Morris' autobiography begins with the writer now poised on the brink of his career: college in California; marriage to a nameless coed (referred to only as ""my wife""); WPA-level poverty; a move eastward to Cape Cod; and then the first photo-texts (The Inhabitants, The Home Place) that launched his professional-writing life. From the subsequent decades, Morris gives the greatest emphasis to his peripatetic, solitary wander-lusts--especially car-trips to Mexico, a locale that fills him with affection, then fascination and doubt. (""Had I fallen into thinking that this many-ringed circus was staged for my fleeting benefit?"") There are brief appearances by Robert Frost, Saul Bellow, Loren Eiseley, and Granville Hicks. And the domestic details of his later life do eventually emerge, somewhat obliquely: his odd, if not quite loveless, marriage; hints of infidelity on both sides (with vaguely lesbian innuendos); a final break at age 50; and a new beginning with a young art-dealer named Jo. But the emotional substance of Morris' later life (the ""Real Losses and Imaginary Gains,"" to use a Morris title) seems to be largely obscured in this memoir: the specter of what is left unsaid dominates the book--like a horizon that the writer keeps always behind him, out of sight. Morris portrays himself as a plugger, a ""glowworm,"" the wearer of a ""cloak of light."" With literary people, he is amiable but inconstant, a man who makes alliances uneasily and rarely, an essential loner. And Morris' style here--contrapuntal, unrhapsodic, sometimes even tight-lipped--adds to this sense of dislocation, of half-darkened views. Again, as in his previous autobiographical writings, Morris' feel for the conjunction of a specific time-and-place is on ample display--with personal, impressionistic illumination of the settings in his fiction (excerpts of which are interspersed throughout). But, far less vivid than Will's Boy, this curious sequel is more an imagistic collage than a directly involving memoir--frequently haunting in its spooky reticence, yet finally unsatisfying.

Pub Date: Jan. 23rd, 1984
Publisher: Harper & Row