Wright, Charles 1932-2008 (Charles Stevenson Wright)

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Wright, Charles 1932-2008 (Charles Stevenson Wright)


See index for CA sketch: Born June 4, 1932, in New Franklin, MO; died of heart failure, October 1, 2008, in New York, NY. Freelance writer, columnist, and novelist. Wright emerged on the literary scene of the 1960s as a writer to watch, a novelist with great potential to transcend the world that, in so many ways, held him captive. His first novel, The Messenger (1963), drew heavily on his own life as a courier in New York City, so much so that fiction blended almost seamlessly with fact. It is the story of a young black man who is just beginning to recognize the futility of his life on the streets of the city in the turbulent 1960s. Yet the sixties represented a decade of change, and the loner has not yet abandoned all hope. Wright's second novel, The Wig: A Mirror Image (1966), contains some elements of satire, but there is no good cheer in the life of protagonist Lester Jefferson. This young black man is angry, even malicious, as he rails against the society that simply won't grant him the salvation that he can glimpse on the horizon, fading into the distance. Even when he straightens his hair in order to blend in, and ventures forth toward his goal, there will be no place for Lester in the Great Society. Wright worked for a time as a columnist for the Village Voice newspaper, and the columns form the core of his third novel, Absolutely Nothing to Get Alarmed About (1973). The "story" is actually a series of vignettes of life in the city, presumably his own life. It is the fictionalized autobiography of a loser who drifts from one transient job to another, seeking gratification from drink or sex, or other cheap thrills. At this point, hope is gone. There is brilliance in the writing, there is power and mystery and wisdom, but the overall tone is one of despair. Wright's third novel was his last. He reportedly sank into the empty comfort of his vices and never emerged. Wright lived in a friend's guest room in Brooklyn for nearly twenty years, and spent the rest of his life anonymously in the East Village, the community that had figured so prominently in his brief literary career.



Contemporary Novelists, 7th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2001.


Chicago Tribune, October 9, 2008, sec. 1, p. 37.

New York Times, October 8, 2008, p. B16.

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Wright, Charles 1932-2008 (Charles Stevenson Wright)

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