Wednesday, April 26, 2006

"The Glow-Worm" by Frederic Prokosch

The celebrated Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova comes to visit Texas in the early twentieth century and leaves a lasting impression on a young boy and his family. The dancer ignites something in the lad which he perhaps has not realized before, a longing to visit "realms and passions immeasurably remote from Austin." Read by Scoot. Time 5:56.

There is a long line of books on a shelf in our study, all by Frederic Proksoch, and most all but forgotten today, in a world of chick-lit and manly thrillers. But once upon a time Mr. Prokosch made a huge splash with his first novel, The Asiatics, in 1935, and managed to carve out a literary career for the next several decades as he traveled the globe, until his death in France in 1989. He invented what has been termed the "geographic novel," and landscape does indeed often play a bigger role in his works than human characters. Which is to say that they are truly sui generis, some of them both sloppy and overwritten, but most of them brilliant in their own peculiar ways. Interestingly, considering today's news of plagiarizing novelists and fake memorists, Prokosch ended his days tainted with the discovery that he had forged poetry volumes here and there and probably invented much of what he relates in his still beautifully composed last book, the autobiography of sorts, Voices (1983). Which is why we're including this vignette here: because he never wrote short stories, and because many critics considered the chapters of this last book to be little fictions--ironically, the one we present here might be among the most truthful of the whole book. Since he is our favorite "pet author," we could go on and on here, but advise you instead to start scouring the usual places for those foxed and faded copies of his books which can still be found.

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