Last Night’s Dream: Meeting Morley

(Morley in 1960–a well-known popular Canadian author)

Morley Callaghan, famous Canadian short story writer and novelist of the 1920s to 2000. The man who knew and famously knocked out Ernest Hemingway in a boxing match mistimed by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Callaghan’s work was often praised in the U.S. and he remained Canada’s best-known novelist (along with Hugh MacLennan) from the 1920s to the 1960s.

These literary dreams often take the form of quasi-interviews and time spent together chatting about the artist and their works. Callaghan identified his late great novel as The Loved and the Lost which won the Governor-General’s Award for Fiction in 1951. He was harder pressed to name his best early book though I suggested to him that 1936’s Now That April’s Here, a collection of his most famous stories, would be a contender.
In fact, it was through Callaghan’s stories that I first came to read him in 1969-70 in a CanLit course at U of W. “All the Years of His Life” impressed me as a realistic study of being caught shoplifting, showing how a parent might react. The collection of stories used for the course was Morley Callaghan’s Stories (1959) which is still a good introduction to his accessible style and ordinary-people story-subjects.

From 1980 to 2002, I often drew on his stories for several grade 10-12 educational text anthologies. He was still that relevant and accessible for teens then. (Since then, he has vanished from mass Canadian consciousness like so many other famous Canadian writers including the great Margaret Laurence, Mordecai Richler, Robertson Davies, W.O. Mitchell, Margaret Avison, Earle Birney, Stephen Leacock, Farley Mowat, and Gabrielle Roy–people who are, incidentally, kept alive by/on my perpetual CanLit books blog.

Anyway, Callaghan was his usual slightly pontificating self smoking his familiar author-pipe in the dream. Chatty, cordial, and friendly. Glad to be sought out and still appreciated by one of his olde fans after all this e-mediaization, Netflicking, and nonprint paradigm-change revolution.

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