Morris recalls at the beginning of A Cloak of Light that when he returned from Europe at the age of twenty-four, determined to be a writer, his intention was to draw upon the expatriate adventures he had sought and enjoyed. He found instead that native material, especially from his childhood in Nebraska, dominated his thoughts. The style in which this material appeared on his manuscript pages emphasized compactness, simplicity of language, and the specific in time and place: “Time had not actually stopped, but the movements were slow enough to be photographed. The scene had the characteristics of a still life.” It is not coincidental that his early work emphasized photography and prose, leading to The Inhabitants and The Home Place. This early preoccupation with visual qualities—texture, surface detail, arrangement—has continued to influence Morris’ work throughout his career and characterizes Will’s Boy, Solo, and A Cloak of Light. Morris does not seek to demonstrate a grand plan for his life, or a sense of steady progression toward some generalization about the American Self, the American Novelist, and the like. These volumes might best be regarded as a series of vignettes whose course is dictated by accident as often as by design. The Morris who spent so much of his early years without much guidance refuses to write about his life as if plot were its essence. Surprise and puzzlement share equal...
(The entire section is 2097 words.)
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