The Morning Is Near, Susan Glaspell, Frederick A Stokes Company, 1940, 296 pp
I don't remember how I came across this author. This book was not a bestseller in 1940, but I found it just when I was starting the project. The Morning Is Near is a beautiful story about a woman who is sent away from her family as a young girl. She never understood why except that there was something shameful connected with it. She returns to her home as a young woman to find out the truth about her past and when she does she can make sense of her life. The writing is excellent and the characters well portrayed. Lydia, the heroine, is a woman I could totally love and even want to be.
The Power and The Glory, Graham Greene, Penguin Books, 1940, 222pp
My father was a fan of Graham Greene, probably because they both struggled with the idea of faith. As far as I am concerned this book is a great work of literature. The central character is the whiskey priest. He is left behind in a Mexican state after the revolution has banned the Catholic Church and all priests. He secretly manages to minister to people but he also secretly has lost his faith in that religion. Therefore the moral code he has lived by has ceased to be relevant. One of the products of revolutions is a disruption of moral codes, but one of the causes of revolutions is the failure of a religious group to truly live by its moral code.
All of this leaves the priest in confusion, so he drinks, he takes insane risks and it does not end well for him. Graham Greene can pack so much truth into a page of writing that it astonished me.
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1940.
I first read this book when I was very young, possibly in highschool. It is one of the saddest books I ever read. The human condition of being basically alone and trying to find someone to connect to is better portrayed in the teenage Mick than almost anything else I've read, possibly because McCullers was so young when she wrote it. I remembered Mick and Singer, the deaf-mute whom she befriends, but on re-reading it I was also hugely impressed with Dr Copeland, the negro doctor; Jake, the crazy commie; and Mr Brannon, who owns the all-night restaurant.
My Name Is Aram, William Saroyan, Dell Publishing, 1940, 151 pp
I had never read Saroyan before and this was his first book. It was short and worked as a collection of short stories about Aram, an Armenian boy growing up in an Armenian community in Bakersfield, CA. Aram is arrogant, irreverant and irrepressible. It is not a serious book, which was good for a change. It felt autobiographical and Saroyan was Armenian, grew up in central California and became a writer. In the last story, Aram leaves for New York,
I was so impressed with the writing that I read a biography of Saroyan. He was not a happy man, had a terrible temper, had trouble with women and money and was always fighting someone. But I think he put the dream of how he wished he could be in his books. He was pretty much crucified by the critics because of his brevity and his refusal to play any writer games except the one he wanted to play. I don't think the critics of the 40s got him at all.