Three of Wright Morris's most memorable explorations of old age: The Fork River Space Project (1977), Fire Sermon (1971), and A Life (1973).
Fork River, Kansas, was established in the 1870s by a railroad tycoon as a gift for his young bride. Never populous, it is now, in 1977, a ghost town or it would be if it weren't for the presence of Kelcey, an elderly writer, Alice, his young wife, and Dahlberg, the independent contractor who keeps their water running, their porch painted, and their married life unpredictable. In town, the shops have closed one by one, their proprietors disappearing, as it were, into thin air. Did they find better prospects elsewhere? Or were they abducted by space aliens? Kelcey thinks the latter, but what does the old man know? He can't even see that Alice is being abducted from him by the hired help...
In Fire Sermon, Morris returns with a more mature sensibility to the premise of his first novel, My Uncle Dudley (1942). A ten-year-old boy named Kermit accompanies his eighty-two-year-old guardian, Uncle Floyd, from their trailer home in California to a small town in Nebraska for the funeral of Floyd's only surviving sibling, Viola. Along the way, Floyd picks up a hitchhiking hippie couple named Stanley and Joy, and is disturbed by the realization that his nephew has more in common with them than with him. After Viola's old house, a storehouse of family artifacts, burns to the ground, Floyd, cut free from his past and ready for death, abandons Kermit to an uncertain future with Stanley and Joy.
A Life (1973) is the sequel to Fire Sermon, revealing what lies in store for Floyd after he has disappeared into the open, empty spaces of Nebraska. The aging, uprooted Floyd, now unmoored in time, indulges in an unhurried but intensely nostalgic reconstruction of his family's and his own past. When he befriends Mr. Blackbird, a transient Indian, Floyd is doomed by his inability (or his unwillingness) to focus on the present and to contemplate a future for himself. Or has he introduced himself to Blackbird as a way of speeding along his own wished-for demise?
About Wright Morris
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Published November 1, 1993
by Black Sparrow Pr.
Travel, Literature & Fiction, Education & Reference.