You know when you read something by an author that you’ve never read before and everything just feels right? You connect with his/her writing immediately. You find yourself hanging on every word that’s set before you. You feel as though you and the author are linked as kindred spirits. Well, this is exactly how I felt the first time I read Morley Callaghan a couple of weeks back, and it’s a feeling that’s stuck with me.
I’d originally been put on to the Canadian author by Joe Queenan. In his book One for the Books. Queenan talks briefly about a memoir by Morley Callaghan that had been recommended to him as the ‘Canadian Moveable Feast’. Being a huge fan of Hemingway and of the literary scene in 1920s Paris, I jumped at Callaghan’s memoir, and I wasn’t disappointed.
The book in question is That Summer in Paris, and it recounts the summer of 1929 when Callaghan spent a few glorious months in Paris with his wife, and in the presence of Ernest Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald, and others. From the first word to the last I was utterly gripped. Callaghan quite literally charmed the socks off me, and I count the reading of this book as being one of the finest moments of my reading life so far (not surprisingly Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast is another :)).
Since reading That Summer in Paris I’ve been dipping lightly into Callaghan’s short fiction, and every time I have he hasn’t failed to move me in extraordinary ways. He’s a magnificent storyteller. He writes with insight and understanding, and with a prose that’s always precise and unpretentious.
From the little I’ve read of Callaghan I’ve always been left thirsty for more. It’s as though my appetite for him cannot be sated, and so it’s a good job that he was so prolific in his lifetime, publishing thirteen novels, half a dozen novellas, and close to a hundred short stories. The shocking thing though is he seems to be largely unheard of (or forgotten about) in the UK.
Enter ‘Totally Callaghan’ (christened to compliment my long running ‘Totally Knut’ reading project, and future ventures), and my quest to not only absorb every word that Morley Callaghan has ever written, but to bring him to the attention of as many people as I can. To not read Callaghan is to miss out on a remarkable reading experience in my mind, and so I consider it my duty to enlighten others, in the best way I know how – by reading through his bibliography, and using the passion and enthusiasm it will undoubtedly generate, to motivate others (which is exactly what literary evangelists do, right? :)).
So, how am I going to set about this Totally Callaghan reading project? Well, firstly I intend to read all of Callaghan’s novels and novellas in chronological order. His short fiction I intend to treat differently, and I will read it as and how it comes to me, starting with all of the stories that Callaghan had published in the New Yorker magazine. I’m also aware that Callaghan wrote a number of plays, and as and when I get a hold of these then I’ll certainly work through them. But heaven only knows how I’m going to review a written play (much the same way as reviewing a novel?) but I’ll figure it out.
As a starting point then, here is a rundown of Callaghan’s published novels and novellas – which will eventually be linked up to afterthoughts posts – in order of publication (I’ll be tracking my short story reading separately on this page):
- Strange Fugitive (1928)
- It’s Never Over (1930)
- No Man’s Meat (1931) *novella
- A Broken Journey (1932)
- Such Is My Beloved (1934)
- They Shall Inherit the Earth (1935)
- More Joy in Heaven (1937)
- Luke Baldwin’s Vow (1948) *novella
- The Varsity Story (1948) *novella
- The Loved and the Lost (1951)
- The Many Colored Coat (1960)
- A Passion in Rome (1961)
- An Autumn Penitent (1973) *novella
- A Fine and Private Place (1975)
- Close to the Sun Again (1977) *novella
- No Man’s Meat and The Enchanted Pimp (1978) *novella
- A Time for Judas (1983)
- Our Lady of the Snows (1985)
- A Wild Old Man on the Road (1988)
Whenever I focus on an author in such an exhaustive way I also like to learn as much about them as I can. And so along with working my way through Callaghan’s fiction I will also be seeking out the biographies and memoirs that offer an insight into the man. And you can be sure that I’ll be posting afterthoughts on these too.
To ensure that I remain regular and in focus I’m also designating Mondays as ‘Morley Monday’. Both on the website and on Twitter (using the hashtag, #MorleyMonday) I’ll be devoting time and space every Monday (unless the unexpected dictates otherwise) to discussing some aspect of Morley Callaghan and his work.
I know that I said earlier that I think Morley Callaghan seems to be largely forgotten about, but I also know that there will be many of you out there – even in the UK 🙂 – who have had the pleasure of reading this writer (I was speaking to a Canadian on Twitter last week who has actually met him *faints*). If you’re one of these people then I’d love to hear your own thoughts and feelings on the man, and of any tips and sage words of advice that you may have to pass on. To all who haven’t read Morley Callaghan, well I hope that I can encourage you to do so in the coming months. It would be marvellous to tread the same road to discovery with you. I look forward very much, to all that lies ahead.