Batt, James R. (ed.) / Wisconsin Academy review
Volume 20, Number 4 (Fall 1974)
Book reviews, pp. 32 ff.
Night Country Connections THE WORKS OF LOVE by Wright Morris; University of Ne- braska Press, Lincoln, 1972. 269 pp. $1.95. (A Bison Book edition reproduced from the first (1952) edition published by Alfred A. Knopf.) A character in The Works of Love stops frying hamburgers to say: "You start out all alone, and that's how you end up." The novel begins with a man, Will Brady, alone in the wilder- ness and ends with him alone in the wasteland. The time in between, in the clearing, in the moonlight, in the lobby, and even in the cloudland, deals with man's at- tempt to escape loneliness, to make a connection he cannot bear. Love is at the heart of the work. Wright Morris dedicates The Works of Love to Loren Eiseley and Sherwood Anderson. It is interesting to note the dedication because Morris shares in the won- der Eiseley has for the human species s till evolving, traveling through the night country. Equal- ly, Morris realizes with Anderson that woman is the loser when man connects with woman. Morris reveals something about Will Brady, about man: It was in that house he had erysipelas, a painful, conta- gious disease, and a woman, his wife at the time, had taken care of him. Lovingly, as the doctor had said. A very strange word, he thought, and he had marveled at it. She had made him well, she had kept him clean, and when he was fit to be seen again, he had made love to a plump cigar-counter girl. Morris details quite sensitively the fear and loneliness of woman: the woman who is closed and afraid wrapped in her bedsheets like a mummy and the woman who is open, vulnerable and there- fore hurt by the insensitivities of man. Either way the connection is no good. The author also per- ceives man's sense of ownership; the woman is his, but she is "just my wife. " Sherwood Anderson di d not know the answer to the problem of connection. He realized man used woman as an escape from loneliness and that woman was ultimately left with nothing. He urged woman: "Dare to be strong. Dare to love." He hoped the dare would be met. After all, the only other choice is defeat. Morris describes the defeat: re- lationships devoid of honesty and dignity, hollow actions and resig- nation. The moments of wanting to look, to reach out, stifled. Will Brady stumbles into one significant realization: He couldn't really do much for her, somehow, but one thing he could do was wake up in the morning, roll on his back, and lie there listening to her. Sometimes he won- dered if this might be another form of loving, one that women needed, just as men seemed to need the more ob- vious kind. If man would listen and under- stand the woman who met the dare, men and women would not have to wish like William Blake: Grown old in Love from Sev- en till Seven times Seven I oft have wished for Hell for Ease from Heaven. -Mark E. Lefebvre, Madison Vis-A-Vis (Cont. from page 27) in charge of the Academy of- fices and shall manage the affairs of the Academy in ac- cordance with procedures de- termined by the Council. He shall have responsibility for employment and dismissal of Academy staff, shall oversee the work of the Junior Acade- my Director and shall have custody of the Academy's Op- erating Fund.... The Exec- utive Director shall pay from the Operating Fund all legit- imate expenses incurred by the Academy . .. and shall periodically prepare reports and recommendations regarding Academy matters for consideration by the Council. He shall serve as a non-voting me m b e r of the Council and as an ex officio member of all Academy committees. Well, yes -it is all that. But to the natural born probers it must be admitted that there are the less-impressive-but-equally-es- sential functions. As a staff, we may be wiry, but we're also thin. At this stage, that is as it should be. But, regardless of the occupant of the position, it means an execu- tive director who isn't above cart- ing down the bulk mail once in awhile, or changing a bulb now and then, or drafting a proposal for funding, working up an estate planning brochure, setting up and servicing a dozen or more com- mittees, and locking up at the end of the day. So you end the day and you end the week not at all safe in the knowledge that all that was to be done was indeed accomplished. Maybe it's sufficient to know that the Academy's J. W. Hoyts of today-the president, fellow offi- cers, committees and membership in general-have been relieved of much of the detail and are freer to concentrate on policy formation, that along the way you've prompt- ed them to that end. Maybe that's more important than terminology and bylaws. And maybe that's what J. W. Hoyt himself really wanted. Coming in the December REVIEW... * "Raw Data" by Daniel P. Kunene * 'Horicon Marsh Shooting Clubs" by Robert G. Personius * 'Madness and Creativity" by Kenneth J. Fleurant * 'The Wisconsin Idea" by Paul J. Grogan * "Tall Grasses of Search" by Robert E. Gard * "The Winter Comes on" Photos by Herman Taylor * "National Humanities Series: Midwestern Center" by Robert E. Najem
Copyright 1974 by the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters.| For information on re-use, see http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/Copyright