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Wescott, Glenway (1901-1987)  
 
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Bawer describes the novel as marked by a style that includes "sensitively drawn characters; a witty and perceptive eye for detail; a prose of wonderful, almost Flaubertian, control, elegance, and penetration; and above all, a rare delicacy and honesty of feeling--but feeling that has been digested, disciplined, transfigured into art."

The novel was awarded the Harper Prize for distinguished fiction in 1927 and became a best seller.

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The following year, Wescott published Good-bye, Wisconsin (1928), a collection of stories that again explored the experiences and settings of his own childhood. Some critics saw the book as an "attack" on the U.S. Midwest as a "place that in countless ways prevents the development of the self." As William Rueckert noted, "The stories of Good-bye, Wisconsin tell over and over again the sad lives of those who have been victims of the Midwest and found it impossible to flourish there."

The Babe's Bed, a novella-length work also set in Wisconsin, was published in 1930 in a limited edition. However, due to his self-doubts as a writer, Wescott did not publish any other fiction for the next ten years.

During this time Wescott's reputation waned, partly because the two nonfiction books he published--Fear and Trembling (1932) and A Calendar of Saints for Unbelievers (1933)--were critical and commercial disappointments.

Return to the United States

In 1935, Wescott and Wheeler moved back to the United States, setting up households at both a farm in New Jersey owned by Wescott's younger brother Lloyd and in New York City, where they shared a series of apartments with Lynes.

It was at this time that Wheeler began a long-term association with the Museum of Modern Art when he joined the staff as a guest curator. In 1941, he was named director of the department of exhibitions and publications, a post he held until 1967, when he resigned to become an adviser to the board of trustees. In 1951, in recognition of his work in bringing French artists to the attention of American audiences, Wheeler was made a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor by the government of France.

With Wheeler's prestigious museum appointment and Wescott's reputation as a novelist, the two men became a well-known gay couple in New York City's artistic community.

The Pilgrim Hawk

In 1940, Wescott published The Pilgrim Hawk: A Love Story, a short novel that revolves around a group of people who spend the afternoon together in the French countryside during the late 1920s. The work was widely acclaimed by critics and is often considered Wescott's greatest achievement.

A reviewer for the London Times described the novel as a "haunting, poetic, compressed story of love and art, freedom and captivity."

Bawer, pointing to the work's restraint, complexity, and drama, considers it "an exemplary novella in the classic tradition, its manner stately and elliptical, its characters subtly and ironically etched." He believes it to be perhaps Wescott's "most nearly perfect work--taut, subtle, and exquisitely ordered."

Lynes Ends the Relationship

By the early 1940s, George Platt Lynes had achieved fame as a fashion and portrait photographer, whose works were distinguished by their dramatic lighting and stylized settings, although these assignments did not hold his interest over time. "How I loathe making schoolgirls beautifully vague," he once complained to a friend.

His real passion, and perhaps his most lasting achievement, however, was his intensely dance images and male nudes, although very few of these photographs were exhibited publicly during his lifetime.

In 1943 Lynes, having fallen in love with his young studio assistant George Tichenor, decided to end his seventeen-year relationship with Wescott and Wheeler.

"This is a milestone date in our lives: this afternoon Monroe received a letter from George to say he is leaving us," Wescott wrote to his brother Lloyd and sister-in-law Barbara on February 26, 1943.

Writing in his private journal years later, Wescott recalled sadly, "Everyone felt sorry for George. It was young love, and so on. George was so beautiful--and that boy destroyed him! Poor George. I knew he was doomed."

The three men, however, remained friendly until Lynes's death in 1955.

Apartment in Athens

Wescott published his last completed novel, Apartment in Athens, in 1945. Significantly different in setting and tone from his earlier works, the novel concerns a Greek couple in Nazi-occupied Athens who must share their living quarters with a melancholic German officer. The tensions between the couple and their unwanted guest are described, as William Rueckert notes, "with the minimal amount of fictional distortion. It is the attempt of an essentially romantic, lyric, naturally symbolic novelist to write realistic fiction."

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