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Wright, Richard B(ruce) 1937-

WRIGHT, Richard B(ruce) 1937-

PERSONAL: Born March 4, 1937, in Midland, Ontario, Canada; son of Laverne and Laura Willette (Thomas) Wright; married Phyllis M. Cotton (a library technician), September 2, 1966; children: Christopher, Andrew. Education: Ryerson Polytechnic Institute, graduate, 1959; Trent University, B.A., 1972. Politics: Conservative. Religion: Anglican. Hobbies and other interests: Walking, reading, music.

ADDRESSES: Home—52 St. Patrick Street, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada L2R 1K3. Agent—The Cooke Agency, 278 Bloor Street East, Apt. 305, Toronto, Ontario H4W 3MI.

CAREER: CFOR-Radio, copywriter, 1959-60; Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., Toronto, Ontario, Canada, editor and sales manager, 1960-68; Oxford University Press, sales representative, 1969-70; Ridley College, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, teacher of English, 1975-2001, head of department, 1976-79. Sales representative, Oxford University Press, 1969-70.

AWARDS, HONORS: Canada Council junior fellow, 1971-72, senior fellow, 1973-74; Book award from City of Toronto, 1974, and Faber Memorial Prize, 1975, both for In the Middle of a Life; Ontario Arts Council fellow, 1975-76; Governor General's Literary Award, government of Canada, and Giller Prize for Canadian Fiction, 2001, both for Clara Callan, 2001. Several honorary degrees.

WRITINGS:

Andrew Tolliver (juvenile), St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1965.

The Weekend Man, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1971.

In the Middle of a Life, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1973.

Farthing's Fortunes, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1971.

(Editor, with Robin Endres) Eight Men Speak, and Other Plays from the Canadian Workers' Theatre, New Hogtown Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1976.

Final Things, Dutton (New York, NY), 1980.

The Teacher's Daughter, Macmillan (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1982.

Tourists, Walker (New York, NY), 1984.

One John A. Too Many (juvenile), Schoolhouse Press (Independence, OH), 1986.

Sunset Manor, Seal Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1990.

The Age of Longing (novel), HarperCollins (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1995.

Clara Callan, HarperFlamingoCanada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2001, HarperCollinsPublishers (New York, NY), 2002.

Editor, The Malarkey Review.

SIDELIGHTS: Richard B. Wright has been praised for his ability to make ordinary lives seem fascinating. In novels such as The Weekend Man, In the Middle of aLife, and Clara Callan, he has featured protagonists whose lives are constrained or even failed. Wright is "a smooth and natural stylist," according to James Doyle, a contributor to Dictionary of Literary Biography; he "creates his characters and settings by means of a brilliantly figurative and ironic language." Doyle further praised Wright for "his attempts to capture in fiction the moral and aesthetic complexity of urban Canadian life," which constitute "a valuable contribution to the imaginative literature of his country."

Wright's first novel, The Weekend Man, relates a few days in the life of its narrator, Wes Wakeham. Wes is a textbook salesman, a job also held by Wright for a time. Profoundly dissatisfied with life, Wes goes through a temporary estrangement from his wife shortly before Christmas, which leads to a series of adventures that are not particularly remarkable. Yet Wright has a unique ability to present his characters authentically, according to Richard P. Brickner of the New York Times Book Review, and "he gets types, situations, conversations, down so sharply that we chuckle at recognizing what we may have never, in our own experience, seen." Brickner especially noted the author's talent for "making the boring glamorous—glamorous because so vivid, and, sometimes, funny." L. J. Davis, a contributor to the Washington Post Book World, concurred that The Weekend Man is "a brilliant first effort, a breath-taking stylistic tightrope act where a single, small misstep (never taken) could have sent the author plunging." Davis concluded that The Weekend Man is "a haunting book and very nearly a perfect one."

Davis regarded Wright's next book, In the Middle of a Life, with less enthusiasm. This novel told of another middle-aged man in crisis, and was described as very much like The Weekend Man by numerous critics. Davis found this follow-up "disappointing," but Walter Clemons in Newsweek praised Wright for again demonstrating his "gift of making ordinariness enthralling." A Times Literary Supplement reviewer allowed that there was no great moral revealed through In the Middle of a Life; the protagonist "is just there to be relished. All the clichés come to life again: irony, pathos, compassion."

The picaresque life story of a ninety-five-year-old man in a nursing home is the basis of Farthing's Fortunes, a work of historical fiction that takes in Victorian Toronto, the Klondike Gold Rush, World War I, and the Great Depression. "As a work of historical fiction the novel is convincing," stated Doyle, adding, "As a fable of North American life the story takes on allegorical implications." Wright returned to contemporary times with Final Things. This novel's main character, Charlie Farris, bears some resemblance to those in The Weekend Man and In the Middle of a Life; like them, he is a quiet failure in urban Toronto, struggling with ordinary problems of alcoholism, marital failure, and a disappointing job. This life of quiet desperation is interrupted by the brutal murder of Charlie's son. The novel details how "the distraught parent is exposed to the ordeals of funeral, police investigation, and the reactions of friends and relatives, the irrational and selfcentered response of human beings to crisis situations are relentlessly laid bare," commented Doyle.

Wright's novel Clara Callan earned two major Canadian awards for its author, the Governor General's Literary Award, and the Giller Prize. The title character is an unmarried schoolteacher living in Ontario during the 1930s. Her life appears sterile, but in fact she has a rich, passionate secret life, which includes an affair with a married man in Toronto. Wright delves into "Clara's hidden reserves of passion with a skill that makes her one of the most compelling heroines of recent Canadian fiction," commended John Bemrose in Maclean's. Doyle defined Wright as "a polished, sensitive, thoroughly professional writer," who "may well emerge in time as one of the more important Canadian novelists of his period."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 6, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1976.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 53: Canadian Writers since 1960, First Series, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1986.

PERIODICALS

Atlantic, December, 1973.

Best Sellers, May 15, 1971; March, 1977; December, 1980, review of Final Things, p. 318.

Booklist, November 1, 1984, review of Tourists, p. 345.

Books in Canada, December, 1978, "Life to Wright," pp. 10-12; November, 1980, review of Final Things, p. 12; December, 1980, review of Final Things, p. 34; January, 1982, review of Final Things, p. 27; September, 1982, review of The Teacher's Daughter, p. 59; October, 1982, review of The Teacher's Daughter, p. 17; January, 1985, review of Tourists, p. 13.

Book World, June 6, 1971.

Canadian Book Review Annual, 1996, review of The Age of Longing, p. 178.

Canadian Forum, December, 1976; December, 1982, Meredith Yearsley, review of The Teacher's Daughter, p. 40.

Canadian Literature, September, 1981.

Chatelaine, February, 2002, review of Clara Callan, p. 20.

Choice, December, 1973; April, 1977.

Essays on Canadian Writing, spring, 1987, review of Tourists, p. 133.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 1980, review of Final Things, p. 1114; September 1, 1984, review of Tourists, p. 826.

Library Journal, April 1, 1971; September 15, 1973; September 15, 1976; November 1, 1980, review of Final Things, p. 2348.

Maclean's, November 17, 1980, Douglas Hill, review of Final Things, p. 70; December 3, 2001, John Bemrose, "Hero of the Humdrum: Richard B. Wright Proves That the Tale of a Dull Life Can Be Extraordinary," p. 64.

New Republic, May 29, 1971.

Newsweek, October 1, 1973, Walter Clemons, review of In the Middle of a Life, p. 96.

New Yorker, June 12, 1971.

New York Times Book Review, September 23, 1973, Richard P. Brickner, review of In the Middle of a Life; January 2, 1977; December 14, 1980, Todd Walton, review of Final Things, p. 10.

Publishers Weekly, September 5, 1980, review of Final Things, Barbara A. Bannon, p. 64; March 5, 1982, review of Final Things, p. 68; November 2, 1984, review of Tourists, p. 68.

Quill & Quire, December, 1980, review of Final Things, p. 29; September, 1982, review of The Teacher's Daughter, p. 59; December, 1984, review of Tourists, p. 31; July, 1990, review of Sunset Manor, p. 57; April, 1995, review of The Age of Longing, p. 28.

Saturday Night, November, 1982, review of The Teacher's Daughter, p. 72.

Saturday Review, July 3, 1971.

Studies in Canadian Literature, summer, 1977, Sheila Campbell, "The Two Wes Wakehams: Point of View in The Weekend Man," pp. 289-305.

Times Literary Supplement, April 2, 1971; February 15, 1974, review of In the Middle of a Life, p. 149; November 13, 1981, review of Final Things, p. 1330.

Washington Post Book World, September 23, 1973, L. J. Davis, review of In the Middle of a Life.*

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