Sunday, June 17, 2012

Book a Week, June 17

I'm going to be trying to get a number of things done and out of the way this week, and the past few readings have been relatively heavy one-week readings given the number of things on my plate. So for this book I wanted something lighter, and surveying my shelves, picked out a slight volume that I hadn't read before, The Devious Way by Theodore Morrison. Inside the book is stamped in several places, WARDROOM LIBRARY USS GENL. R. E. CALLAHAN (AP-139), which means that it belonged to my grandfather. He served on the USS R. E. Callahan in World War II as a young naval officer. Unlike his older brother, who was Marine in Europe, he never saw any of the harsher side of war, because the Callahan was a supply ship in the Pacific. While it wasn't what you could call a safe occupation, it mostly put him out in the middle of nowhere for long periods of time; when he'd talk about it, he'd say that mostly what he remembered about it was water and water and more water, just endless ocean. He actually died very shortly after a ship reunion in Niagara Falls, so the R. E. Callahan was a bit of a bookend for both parts of his adult life. This book must have been a book he borrowed from the Callahan library and either lost or forgot to return until it was too late to make a difference.

The book turns out not only to be a slim volume but a verse novel. I've tried to find some background on it, but there's relatively little. Theodore Morrison was a professor of creative writing for several decades at Harvard. Looking at D. G. Myers's discussion of creative writing programs in The Elephants Teach (an excellent book, by the way), I see he gets two mentions, which add the information that he was a director for the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference, and that he did a great deal of work to bulk up the Harvard creative writing program, which means he was in the thick of the academic literary world. From that I already suspect that I will not like the book, but as a light bite it might be worthwhile. The Devious Way was published in 1944, given the creative writing program association and the pretty obvious Troilus and Cressida allusions in the chapter titles and the like, I suspect this will be a verse novel about boring people with sordid lives, summed up in the line that I just saw leafing through it, "When Renny yawned, the evening was at end." But we'll give Morrison a chance.

4 comments:

  1. Chris2:18 PM

    I'm happy to hear that you liked it. Have you read any of Conrad's other works? If not, I recommend most of them, particularly Lord Jim and Victory. 

    ReplyDelete
  2. Chris2:19 PM

    I commented on the wrong thread, but obviously, I meant I'm glad to hear you liked Nostramo.

    ReplyDelete
  3. branemrys2:23 PM

    I've read a couple. It's been a while for most of them. I'm pretty sure I haven't read Victory, though.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Chris7:34 AM

    Victory is one of his later novels. I believe it's generally considered his last great novel. It really is a wonderful little book, much less grand than Nostramo, but more touching and human, I think.

    ReplyDelete

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