To most literate Americans these days, the name probably means nothing. To some, who haven’t read him but are aware of his reputation as an American expatriate writer contemporary with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein, it may conjure up vague images of Paris, the Riviera, and the transatlantic literary scene entre deux guerres. To those select few that are acquainted with his best writings, however, the name of Glenway Wescott, who died on February 22 at the age of eighty-five, doubtless recalls a number of very fine things: sensitively drawn characters; a witty and perceptive eye for detail; a prose of wonderful, almost Flaubertian, control, elegance, and penetration; and, above all, a rare delicacy and honesty of feeling—but feeling that has been digested, disciplined, transfigured into art.

Like Fitzgerald (who was five years his senior) and Hemingway (two years), Wescott was a son of...

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