Wray, John 1971-
WRAY, John 1971-
PERSONAL: Born 1971, in Washington, DC.
ADDRESSES: Home—Brooklyn, NY. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Knopf Publishing, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.
AWARDS, HONORS: Whiting Writers' Award, Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation, 2001, for The Right Hand of Sleep.
The Right Hand of Sleep, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 2001.
SIDELIGHTS: After struggling for years with an autobiographical coming-of-age first novel, John Wray shifted focus and plunged into creating a rich, emotionally complex historical novel. The Right Hand of Sleep follows Oskar Voxlauer, a World War I deserter who returns to his Austrian hometown in 1938 and falls in love just as the wave of Nazi facism prepares to engulf Europe. Wray was awarded a Whiting Writers' Award for his novel in 2001.
Although he set aside the purely autobiographical for a more historical slant, The Right Hand of Sleep is still rooted in Wray's family background. The fictional town in the book is drawn from the Austrian village where his grandmother, mother, and uncle grew up, and Voxlauer is inspired by a great uncle who was taken prisoner in World War I. In an interview on the Random House Web site Wray explained, "My novel's focus was on the damaging effect of history, which is essentially brutal, on those unable to ignore it."
A Publishers Weekly reviewer was impressed that "Wray's first novel displays psychological acuity, a mastery of dialogue and an unfailing historical empathy," while Jonathan Shipley of Book Reporter.com believed it "shows the subtlety of the human spirit and the complexities of us all." Not all reviewers agreed; Hugh MacPherson in the Times Literary Supplement found the characters' "naivety" in the face of the coming war and the Holocaust "puzzling, and more irritating than touching." Writing for the New York Times Book Review, Carey Harrison praised the book for the way the "meticulous accuracy with which nature is itemized, set alongside the formalities of human behavior … [and] dignified lyricism." Harrison felt The Right Hand of Sleep's "unfashionable tone, elliptical and odd, authenticates its individuality," adding that it "reads like the fruit of solitary obsession allied to a singular poetry." Lawrence Rungren of Library Journal commended Wray, "More a character study than a moral tale, this is a quietly memorable first novel."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Book, May, 2001, Kevin Grandfield, review of The Right Hand of Sleep, p. 76.
Interview, April, 2001, p. 82.
Library Journal, February 1, 2001, Lawrence Rungren, review of The Right Hand of Sleep, p. 126.
New York Times Book Review, May 20, 2001, Carey Harrison, "A Bird's-Eye view of Hell," p. 34.
Publishers Weekly, March 5, 2001, review of The Right Hand of Sleep, p. 61.
Times Literary Supplement, May 4, 2001, Hugh MacPherson, "The Boy Who Went Away," p. 23.
Book Reporter.com,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (September 7, 2001), Jonathan Shipley, review of The Right Hand of Sleep.
Philadelphia City Paper Online,http://www.citypaper.net/ (September 7, 2001), John Freeman, review of The Right Hand of Sleep.
Random House Web site,http://www.randomhouse.com/ (September 7, 2003), interview with Wray.
Second Circle,http://www.thesecondcircle.com/ (September 7, 2001), Paul McRandle, interview with Wray.*