Willie Morris bio

Chris Lehmann enters a mixed review of Larry L. King’s In Search of Willie Morris: The Mercurial Life of a Legendary Writer and Editor.

“The second act of Willie Morris’ life could be a sequel to The Great Gatsby,” he says,

in which we learn what became of Gatsby’s brooding confidant Nick Carraway, blasted out of the Manhattan high life by a brutal calamity, and spending the balance of his days back home in the provinces, savoring simpler pleasures and sizing up a long, bumpy road back to a less flashy, less unsettled existence.

The story of Willie Morris — the celebrated editor of Harper’s when that monthly was in its highest New Journalism fettle in the late 1960’s — is, above all, a fable of American ambition.

But Lehmann finds that King records his friend Morris’ decline “indulgently, as an unfortunate tic of an otherwise charismatic, larger-than-life character.”

He confines to a parenthesis the protests of Morris’ son, David Rae Morris, that no Oxford friend of his dad ever informed him that the drinking had careened out of control, and euphemistically refers to a drunken episode when Morris took a swing at an Oxford cop as “not a good moment between town and gown.”

Lehmann offers a general indictment King’s cheery, down-home diction. Despite my high tolerance for Southern — and especially Texan — aphorisms, I have to agree. King’s ended up distracting me so that I skimmed the book for anecdotes instead of reading it closely.


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