Picks and Pans Review: A Cloak of Light

UPDATED 04/01/1985 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 04/01/1985 at 01:00 AM EST

by Wright Morris

This fragment of an autobiography takes up where Morris' Will's Boy and Solo left off. Solo, a fine book, was concerned mainly with a year spent in Europe in 1933-34 after the author dropped out of college. In A Cloak of Light, Morris recalls how he later produced 19 novels and other assorted volumes of photographs-with-text, short stories and essays. His first book was published when he was in his 20s, and although none of his early works made money, he seemed never to doubt what he was to do with his life. Morris tells how he met and became friends with such notables as Loren Eiseley (they both were from Nebraska), Elizabeth Bowen, Granville Hicks, Mark Shorer, Robert Frost and the editor Maxwell Perkins. It also tells how, while Morris' wife taught at the Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr, Pa., he, financed mostly by Guggenheim grants, traveled and wrote. Then in his 40s, while he was in California, Morris fell in love with a much younger woman. The older Morris isn't nearly as attractive as the young man in Solo. His preoccupation with his need to write makes him appear self-absorbed, and he uses everyone—family and friends alike—to give himself the time he needs to produce his books. For those who are interested in such single-minded pursuits, A Cloak of Light provides some insights into the literary art: "The writer—the true fiction writer—does not write to say what he thinks or feels, but to discover what it is. What I discover I am thinking and feeling takes all the time and thought I am able to muster, and it is seldom enough." (Harper & Row, $19.95)

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