John P. Marquand’s Sincerely, Willis Wayde was number one on The New York Times “Best Seller List.” Nabokov published “Pnin’s Day,” chapter three of Pnin (1957), in the April 23 issue of The New Yorker and was about to sign a deal with Olympia Press in Paris to publish Lolita. Bellow was working on Seize the Day, Malamud on The Assistant. In 1955, William Gaddis published The Recognitions and William F. Buckley came out with the first issue of National Review.
Despite the death that year of Wallace Stevens and the rise of Jack Kerouac, it was a good time, if not a stellar year, for American writing. Some of our best were at work: Richard Wilbur and Whittaker Chambers, Yvor Winters and Janet Lewis, A.J. Liebling and Joseph Mitchell, Louise Bogan and John Cheever, T.S. Eliot and W.H. Auden, Ralph Ellison and J.V. Cunningham, Raymond Chandler and Edgar Bowers, Whitney Balliett and Marianne Moore. Thom Gunn had graduated from Cambridge University a year earlier and came to the United States – permanently, as it turned out -- to study with Winters at Stanford. Coincidentally, Gunn died on this date, April 25, in 2004. In “To Yvor Winters, 1955” he writes:
“Poem and history: for if we use
Words to maintain the actions that we choose,
Our words, with slow defining influence,Stay to mark out our chosen lineaments.”
Happy birthday, Ken.