Weldon Kees: Excerpts from His Fiction

excerpt from "The Public Library"

originally published in Diogenes (1940)

Two dirty boys pushed around and around in the revolving door until one of the librarians came over and told them to stop at once.

I am not a fussbudget about what I read, but I do like a story that makes me feel uplifted when I finish it.

On Wednesday, May 8th, the Library will present Mrs. Howard C. Wriston in a review of "Seven Grass Huts," by Cecile Hulse Matschat at Blucher Community Center.

Here is one you might like. It was made into a picture with Lionel Barrymore, and it has big type, too.

The man took up a collapsible rubber cushion from his pocket, blew it up, screwed the cap of the valve on tightly, and put it on one of the chairs in the browsing room. He sat down and began to read The Critique of Pure Reason.

I’m a taxpayer and a property-owner and it seems mighty funny to me that I can’t get a card just because I don’t have any identification.

No, I don’t care to read anything but historical novels ands books about small-town life.

For heaven’s sake, leave this door alone!

There will be no book review on May 29th. Blucher Community Center is being used on that date for a symposium on "Whither America?" On the following Wednesday, however, Mrs. Harold O. Utterback will review "How to Read a Book: by Mortimer J. Adler.

From Weldon Kees, The Ceremony and Other Stories, ed. Dana Gioia (Port Townsend: Graywolf P, 1984), 62, 64.

from "The Evening of the Fourth of July"

New Directions Annual 1940

There were explosions everywhere. McGoin decided that it was impossible for him to concentrate any longer on the Bhagavadgita, which he had been trying to read. Putting the book down, he dressed and left his room. On the porch, he unrolled the newspaper to see what was happening in the world. Deaths and injuries from the holiday celebrations had exceeded the wildest prophecies, he noticed. He briefly scanned the headlines. A notorious Continental pervert was being feted in New York. A captain of industry predicted better times and announced a thirty-five per-cent wage cut. There was a picture of him making the announcement. He had a flower in his buttonhole. A ravishingly beautiful Hollywood star was to undergo a dangerous rectal operation at Mother of Christ Memorial Hospital. There were brief accounts of various murders, rapes, swindles, divorces, wars, poisonings, accidents, and beatings, and an illustrated feature story of an interesting child-torture case, in which the torturer claimed to have employed his razor blades and red-hot irons to bring a consciousness of Divine love to his youthful victims.

From Weldon Kees, The Ceremony and Other Stories, ed. Dana Gioia (Port Townsend: Graywolf P, 1984), 76.

from "The Purcells"

printed in Circle No. 5 (1945)

Yet the hall gave less of an impression of clutter and general disorder than did the living room, which, it was said, had cost more to complete than any room in town. The room could have been quite handsome, with its dark walls of paneled wood and its leaded windowpanes, its great chandelier and oriental rugs; but these were obscured by the scratched (and untuned) grand piano, covered by a vast batik cloth of appalling hideousness, and in turn littered by stacks of books (unread, and still in their dust jackets), best-sellers of a few years back; dog-eared sheet music; piles of Christmas cards; a glass ball that, when agitated, surrounded the little castle which it enclosed with languid flurries of snow; bills and letters and purses; vases filled with half-withered flowers and dried berries, some of which had fallen off; plates of candy and cookies, which had been there for a long time and had become hard and inedible; rubber balls and other objects for the amusement of Mrs. Purcell’s dog. (There were seven or eight of these through the years, all Boston bulldogs, all female, all quite stupid, and all named "Betsy Bobbitt," and all alike, so far as I could tell, except for one which had something wrong with one of its eyes.) At the windows were green curtains of a heavy corded silk; these were drawn together most of the time. The house smelled of incense and candles and of Mr. Purcell’s cigars; there were always cigar-ends lying about. Most astonishing were the many chimes, or whatever it is that they are called – those arrangements of glass rectangles like laboratory slides, which dangle from pieces of string and are usually found on porches, where they tinkle feebly in the wind. Mrs. Purcell had the house filled with these devices, and it will give some indication of the draughty nature of the house to set down the fact that they were seldom quiet. There must have been thirty or forty clocks; most of them had run down and had never been wound again, and the others were hours off. They were constantly striking, and no one paid any attention to them; I doubt if Mrs. Purcell was conscious of time at all.

From Weldon Kees, The Ceremony and Other Stories, ed. Dana Gioia (Port Townsend: Graywolf P, 1984), 130-131.

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