26. The Pilgrim Hawk: A Love Story, by Glenway Wescot

30 Aug

The New York Review of books has a small and fittingly dour publishing imprint that puts out wonderful, weighty, lesser-known or overlooked classics. This book’s intro, written by a Michael Cunningham (who I think is the art writer, but that could be my name dyslexia flaring up…) speculated that the work might be overlooked by the canon since the title is a clunker, but is otherwise a gem.  It’s a very clever, cool, restrained diagram of passion and appetite, sketched out by a dispassionate or possibly deeply fetishy and repressed narrator at a rich American’s country house outside Paris in the 30s.

The story concerns a wealthy Irish couple who descend as guests upon the narrator and his hostess (who he is in unrequited love with). The woman carries a peregrine falcon hooded on her arm, which is a symbol of sexual appetite, a character and the occasion for many fabulous sentences. The couple burst in, discomport themselves with their hawkish patterns, drink and are indiscreet, and things start to unravel from there. The narrator and his love interest watch it all without touching. A provocative and very enjoyable book.

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