Spencer. Swados. They're not far from each other on the shelves. Ladies first, and now for the gentlemen, or gentleman in this case. I'd not heard of Harvey Swados before, but the catchy title made me look, and then made me pull it from the shelf. With no dust jackets I have to rely on pretty spines and catchy titles. Woe to the poor book that has been mended and has that awful binding tape covering the spine making the book blend in with all the rest.
Harvey Swados, born in 1920 in Buffalo, New York, was a literary critic, author of novels, short stories, essays and journalism. He probably doesn't need any help from me when he has the New York Review of Books reissuing Nights in the Gardens of Brooklyn (originally published in 1951). It was pure chance I pulled him from the shelf, but I expect it was more than chance that led to NYRB from adding him to their backlist. This is what they have to say about this collection of short stories:
"Harvey Swados’s many splendid stories speak of work, friendship, and family. They are about the common world, as well as the final loneliness from which the common world cannot protect us. And yet Swados, as Richard Gilman has written, was above all concerned with 'the breakthrough into true feeling, the attainment of moral dignity, and the linking up with others through compassion'."
Swados served in World War II as a merchant marine and began publishing his books in the decade or so following the end of the war. The title story of the book is "without doubt one of the most enduring achievements of postwar American fiction" according to NYRB. High praise indeed.
I think I am going to follow up Colm Toíbín's book of short stories with this one. I like much of the writing of the postwar period in the US and admit that seeing the NYRB edition of it makes me even more eager to read it.
An interesting side note. I read that Swados's article "Why Resign from the Human Race", which was published in Esquire might have been the inspiration for the founding of the Peace Corps. And a little teaser of his writing:
"There was a time when New York was everything to me: my mother, my mistress, my Mecca, when I could no more have wanted to live any place else than I could have conceived of myself as a daddy, disciplining my boy and dandling my daughter. I was young, the war (the one that ended in 1945, the only one that will ever be 'the war' for people my age) was just over, and I was free."
Who has read Harvey Swados?