Summer is the right time for long, strange books, so it might just be the moment to sit down with a singular St. Louis writer, Charles Newman, whose posthumous novel In Partial Disgrace is out in a beautiful paperback edition from Dalkey Archive Press.
While he spent most of his life in St. Louis and Chicago, where he was the editor of the legendary literary journal Triquarterly, he also spent time in Communist Hungary and in Virginia as a farmer and dog breeder, and both of these places inform the portrayal of Cannonia, the fictional country where In Partial Disgrace is set. To learn more about the author’s fascinating life, there’s no better place to start than Joshua Cohen’s introduction in Harper’s or this portrait by Ben Ryder Howe at The Millions.
Charlie was also my professor in 2005. It was the last class he taught at Washington University. Despite being very sick at that point, and often drunk, he was a remarkably kind and brilliant man. I write more about him and the novel in this personal essay at Quarterly West.
While it sometimes seemed like his work would slide off into complete obscurity after he died, there has been something of a Newman revival this year, with glowing coverage in the Chicago Tribune, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Times Literary Supplement, The Rumpus, and elsewhere.
This list would be incomplete without Robert Boyers’ heartfelt and complex reminiscence at AGNI, which begins: “The most beautiful man I ever knew was Charles Newman …” And lastly, Charlie was a great lover of music; you can read unpublished portions of In Partial Disgrace via this playlist at Largehearted Boy.
You can check out Charlie’s novel from the St. Louis Public Library, or purchase a copy locally from Left Bank Books.