"Connoisseurs of Mr Forrest Reid's novels will know" : The Ending of Brian Westby

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KAYLOR Michael Matthew

Year of publication 2012
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Litteraria Pragensia : Studies in Literature and Culture
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Web Neglected Irish Fiction, special issue of Litteraria Pragensia
Field Mass media, audiovision
Keywords Forrest Reid; Stephen Gilbert; Brian Westby; homoeroticism; Ulster fiction
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Description Forrest Reid's 1934 novel Brian Westby--a realistic anomaly within the oeuvre of an author prized for "making the supernatural seem not only possible but actual"--chronicles how a chance encounter between a respected English novelist and an Anglo-Irish youth, both on holiday at the Ulster seaside, blossoms into a firm friendship, a friendship that alters, for both good and ill, after they discover that they are actually father and son. Although universally praised as "a gracious and memorable book," one that displays the extent to which its author is "a master of dialogue," Reid's publisher Faber & Faber, as well as several of his period reviewers, found its ending "disconcerting to the reader." Despite himself preferring the alternative ending, Reid refused to replace it for biographical reasons (all of which involved his protégé and fetish Stephen Gilbert, who served as the novel's principal inspiration and to whom it is dedicated). The jarring ending of Brian Westby and the biographical contexts that occasioned it reveal much about why Reid and his works were, still are, and will likely remain "neglected," however canonical these might appear to the few connoisseurs who consider him "the arch-priest of a minor cult."
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