Friday, December 21, 2007



FADE OUT seems like a perfect title for what a blog is all about,really, a reflection of the inevitable personal urge toward such an activity, and of the fate of the individual who gives into the urging that comes from a sense of his own slow disappearance which is what such an activity implies


However, it is also the title of an early Grove Press novel by Douglas Woolf which I picked up for a dollar in the SOHO Housing Works bookstore--- Housing Works is one of those charities designed to provide well paying jobs for a few people who in turn "help" a designated population--- while I was waiting for another shop to open... the long familiar book: the fading grey cover photo of a cane being held by a man's aged hand and two legs caught in motion, the light blue lettering of the title and author's name: an EVERGREEN ORIGINAL with the original price of $1.75 crossed out with a pencil and on the inside page the reduced price of 39 cent or 3/1.00.. in the hurried penmanship of the guy who was doing this marking for the remainder Marlboro bookstores--- sometime in the late 60s or early 70s which used to be all over New York City... when Grove back then was clearing out its shelves during one of it periodic crisis...

Calling to mind of course that GROVE PRESS along with NEW DIRECTIONS were the most important literary publishers in the latter half of the 20th century and without Grove Press it is very likely that today we would not have known of the work of swriters like Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet, William Burroughs, Henry Miller, Robert Pinget, Alain Robbe-Grillet...I could go on... there is still a Grove Press but it basically exists to sell the re-published editions of such authors as they lost any sense of what it means to be an innovative literary publisher; now publishing more from whim or from a sense of what seems right...

But FADE OUT. Douglas Woolf went on to write ten more books of stories and novels by the time of his death in 1992... two are available--- of course--- from DALKEY ARCHIVE: who else, that successor to Grove and New Directions.

FADE OUT was published in 1959 when Woolf was 37. Dedicated to Robert Creeley. From the cover: FADE OUT is chronicling the experiences of its 74 year-old-hero as he struggles for a life of dignity in a world which treats old age like a dangerous disease.

The opening paragraph brings you right into that world:

Mr.Twombly was awake before Cynthia. Usually they slept only until the sun entered their room, and usually Cynthia woke first, woke him. Not today. Perhaps the sun had grown too weak for her or, hard to believe, would be in the room for too short a period to interest her. Yesterday it had been just twentynine minutes; this morning, although he was too late to time, he knew it would be a few seconds less. And Cynthia lay with her head pillowed by her hands, in sun and unaware. When he scratched her underside with his fingernail she stretched her long neck a little, opened her eyes to blink at him. Mr.Twombly did not really like to tease her, but he did not like to see her sluggish either. Shaking his head he dropped her two breakfast flies. Some days he preferred not to watch her dismember and devour them, so he lay back on the pillow listening her knock her rocks, and listening for Kate's snoring to stop, soon Ben's, little Gloria's. When finally that happened he knew, even more surely than when he felt the sun, that a day was here.
Mr.Twombly had been living with his daughter's family for only four months but in that time he had had ample opportunity to learn the rules of the house.

FADE OUT awaits you. I am sure you noticed that the author has a certain respect for his reader. He is not bothering to tell you what/who Cynthia is or might be...


Yet, the personal reason I rescued FADE OUT was because I have been brooding on the appearance of the first of two books from the Library of American devoted to William Maxwell. At some future moment I will write about Maxwell but it is the absence of a Library of American volume or volumes devoted to Glenway Wescott that had me thinking
of the process of fading...

Glenway Wescott wrote THE GRANDMOTHERS, PILGRIM HAWK, GOODBYE WISCONSIN... but in this mood of fading it is hard to work up the energy to rehearse the greatness of GLenway Wescott's achievement or the destruction of that reputation by the inattention of publishers, incompetent editors and a academic world given over to the adulation of hacks beyond number.

Yes, Pilgrim Hawk is available from New York Review Books... but the general unawareness of Wescott and for that matter Douglas Woolf or Edward Dahlberg... to shape it into a question in order to push away the final resolution of such thoughts: what is to be done?