Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Glenway Wescott: writer, Paris expatriate

Glenway Wescott
It is the birthday of novelist Glenway Wescott (1901), who was among the American expatriates in Paris in the 1920s. Ernest Hemingway's character Robert Prentiss in The Sun Also Rises was based on Wescott. Wescott's best novel, The Pilgrim Hawk: A Love Story (1940) was well received, and continues to stay in print. It concerns an afternoon lunch at an estate outside Paris, with a failed American writer and a wealthy English-Irish couple. It has been compared favorably with William Faulkner's The Bear as a fine American short novel. Wescott's last novel, Apartment in Athens (1945), concerns a Greek couple forced to share their apartment with a German officer in Nazi-occupied Athens. Wescott never wrote another novel, leading writer Michael Cunningham to suggest that he "seems to slide into the golden handcuffs of expatriate decadence: supported by the heiress his brother married, surrounded by literate friends, given to social drinking and letter-writing." Wescott was lifelong companion of publisher and book designer Monroe Wheeler, a co-founder of the publishing house of Harrison of Paris in the 1930s with Wescott's future sister-in-law, Barbara Harrison (she married his brother, Lloyd). With Wheeler, Wescott participated in the design and production of high-quality, limited edition books of the work of the literary and artistic elite in Paris at the time. Later, in Manhattan, Westcott and Wheeler shared apartments with well known photographer George Platt Lynes. Still later, they all lived in a farmhouse in New Jersey on the farm of Lloyd and Barbara Harrison Wescott.

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