A Visit to Priapus and Other Stories

visittopriapusGlenway Wescott
Edited by Jerry Rosco
University of Wisconsin Press ($26.95)

Author Glenway Wescott (1901-1987) saw most of the major events of the twentieth century, and this collection of autobiographical stories and essays serves as “a truthful, chronological portrait” of the man and his time. The diverse topics range from stoic, stifled families in the Depression-era Midwest to postwar gay urban life; regardless of context, both fiction and nonfiction are saturated with a gentle, verbose melancholy and layered with meaning. Wescott’s work is also subtly informed by an awareness of sexuality, gender, and class issues, and sympathetic toward those that might be outsiders in terms of these elements. Although the stories have distinct plotlines, there is a lack of overt narrative tension—the protagonists spend much more time thinking than doing, and are often “irresolute as the dead in heaven, where there is nothing more to be resolved.” Wescott’s meandering, adjective- and aside-laden sentences invite the reader to get lost in the rhythm of the words, but will frustrate those looking for a conventionally event-driven tale. These pieces are concerned with the timeless tide of humanity—the characters lose something of themselves as they encounter the inexorable, shared experience of birth, reproduction, and mortality, yet the focus on their interior lives allows them to remain individuals. In thrall to the animal laws of sex and death, Wescott’s work is also a meditative affirmation of our mystic, fragile sentience.

2015 Really Short Review. Return to Really Short Reviews