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A Heaven of Words

Last Journals, 1956–1984

Glenway Wescott, Jerry Rosco

Publication Year: 2013

Charm, wit, compassion, wisdom, literature, nature, sex, humor, politics, sorrow, love: these themes fill the late journal pages of enigmatic American writer Glenway Wescott. From humble beginnings on a poor Wisconsin farm, Wescott went on to study at the University of Chicago, narrowly survive the Spanish flu pandemic, and eventually emerge as an influential poet and novelist. A major figure in the American literary expatriate community in Paris during the 1920s and a prominent American novelist in the years leading up to World War II, he spent a decade living abroad before relocating permanently to New York and New Jersey with his partner, Museum of Modern Art publications director and curator Monroe Wheeler. Together they mixed with such intellectual and creative greats as Jean Cocteau, Colette, George Platt Lynes, Paul Cadmus, Somerset Maugham, Christopher Isherwood, Marianne Moore, W.H. Auden, Truman Capote, Joseph Campbell, and scores of other luminaries. During the second half of his life, Wescott wrote nonfiction essays and worked for the Academy-Institute of Arts and Letters, all the while keeping journals in which he recorded the experiences that fostered his love of life, literature, the arts, and humanity. A Heaven of Words looks back on Wescott's entire fascinating life, and reveals the riveting narrative of his last decades.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Cover

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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-5

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Preface

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pp. vii-viii

Originally, there were supposed to be several volumes of Wescott journals, according to a contract signed in 1972. The man who agreed to take on this task was the wonderful literary editor Robert Phelps (1922–89). A graduate of Oberlin College, Phelps was the author of one novel, Heroes and Orators. ...

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Introduction

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pp. 3-6

As a writer and public figure, Glenway Wescott (1901–87) doesn’t fit neatly into the categories of either literature or celebrity. While the high art of his four novels assures that he’ll be remembered, four aborted novels make him something of an enigma, so that it’s best to say simply that he was a major talent. ...

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1956–1959

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pp. 7-50

Glenway Wescott’s earlier collection of journals, titled Continual Lessons, ends in December 1955 with the death of photographer George Platt Lynes at the age of forty-eight. Lynes had remained a close friend after the breakup of the three-way relationship between himself, Wescott, and Monroe Wheeler in 1943. ...

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1960–1964

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pp. 51-116

The new decade is first marked by the death of Josephine Wescott on January 4, and then by the move from Stoneblossom to Haymeadows, which is completed in April. In the city, Wheeler finds a more suitable apartment, number 8M at 251 East Fifty-First Street at Second Avenue, where he and Wescott will host their memorable gatherings for almost three more decades. ...

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1965–1969

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pp. 117-180

The mid-sixties are a time of strength for Wescott, personally and as a public figure. Several of his books are reprinted in paperback, and The Pilgrim Hawk, already in the Dell mass market paperback Six Great Modern Short Novels, is re-released in hardcover by Harper & Brothers. ...

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1970–1974

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pp. 181-238

During the 1960s Wescott still had some periods of public celebrity—on the television, on the radio, and in mainstream publications. By the 1970s he is beyond that, though he sometimes appears in gossip columnist Liz Smith’s society page, or in a New York Times photo of a literary event. ...

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1975–1979

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pp. 239-264

Throughout their mid- and late seventies, Wescott and Wheeler continue the pattern of their lives, with some moderation naturally. Almost heroically, Monroe keeps up his foreign travel for museum exhibits and business, even as he requires strong drugs every day for painful arthritis. ...

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1980–1984

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pp. 265-276

During the early eighties, Wescott manages to add some final journal material in a sporadic way. It is not a priority, and bouts of poor health lead to a month or months of silence. But he bounces back strongly, repeatedly, as some of these last entries show. Correspondence with some of his favorite friends had bolstered his journal writing in the past, and now those friends are gone. ...

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Afterword

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pp. 277-280

Wescott never believed he would outlive Wheeler, even though Monroe had suffered with arthritis and other problems for the past two decades while Glenway remained relatively healthy. Now it was Glenway marooned at Haymeadows while Monroe kept up his city routine and international travel. ...

A Glossary of Glenway Wescott’s Contemporaries

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pp. 281-294

Index

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pp. 295-306


E-ISBN-13: 9780299294236
E-ISBN-10: 0299294234
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299294243
Print-ISBN-10: 0299294242

Page Count: 192
Illustrations: 24 b/w photos
Publication Year: 2013

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Subject Headings

  • Wescott, Glenway, 1901-1987 -- Diaries.
  • Authors, American -- 20th century -- Diaries.
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