Half a Look of Cain: A Fantastical Narrative

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TriQuarterly Books, Northwestern University Press, 1994 - Fiction - 136 pages
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"I was twenty when I followed away from my town a trapeze family, aerialists, a group of beautiful winged people, mother, father, son and daughter. They were the Ishbels." Chris, whose leg is injured, and his lover Stella, with whom he lives in a ruined, abandoned house; Chris's male nurse; Marvello the circus aerialist; a lighthouse keeper; a flagpole sitter in small-town America - these are the creatures of William Goyen's visionary fable of love, lust, and loneliness. Half a Look of Cain: A Fantastical Narrative was written in the 1950s and early 1960s, and is now being published for the first time.
Part fable and part rhapsodic exploration of desire and loss, Half a Look of Cain bears Goyen's unmistakable artistic signature on every page. Too far ahead of its time in its swirling visionary structure, this novel was rejected by Goyen's first publisher as not sufficiently commercial and remained unpublished despite extensive revisions. The novel is shaped as a group of "medallions" - a series of related episodes. It dreams of defying mortality - as if living in the air, like the aerialists or the flagpole sitter - and of finding perfect companionship in lover and friend. The novel is both a rediscovered cry against the conformity and suppressed emotions of the 1950s and a celebration of passion. Reginald Gibbons has edited the novel from the author's multiple manuscripts and has contributed an illuminating afterword.

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Half a look of Cain: a fantastical narrative

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Written in the 1950s, this posthumously published short novel by the author of the estimable The House of Breath is a poorly conceived, tortuously literary fabula. Curran, a lighthouse keeper on the ... Read full review

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About the author (1994)

A longtime friend of William Goyen's, editor Robert Phillips is Director of the Creative Writing Program and Professor of English at the University of Houston. He also edited Letters of Delmore Schwartz and Delmore Schwartz and James Laughlin: Selected Letters.

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