Yesterday I lucked out and found a copy of the debut novel by a writer I'd heard mentioned a time or two over the years, but otherwise had known nothing about: Coleman Dowell. His first novel One of the Children is Crying was published in 1968 when he was already forty-two years old. He'd been a songwriter and had some previous, notable success, here and there, on Broadway and in television.
The author Sumner Locke Elliott said of Dowell: "He is an artist. He has an ability to project even horror with both beauty and tenderness."
One of the Children is Crying opens with a brother (Robin) receiving a call on Christmas from his sister (Erin) whom he's not spoken to in three years. Abruptly, she relays him the bad news (though in this family I suspect it may in fact be good, no, great news), "Daddy is dead. Will you come home?"
Come home? Robin'll need to board a train. But, first, he'll need to get dressed. First, he'll need to brood...
"Buttons and shoelaces took longest. He found it endlessly interesting that the flooded brain of a drunk could philosophize, compose poetry and music, remember with terrible clarity, while its servants --fingers, feet-- had to be cajoled, with, at best, childish results. He visualized alcohol as the Great Regressor; finally, if he is lucky, the alcoholic regresses to a place of fluids and silences; until then, there are buttons and shoelaces --but no neckties; he could not take on a necktie..."
One of the Children is Crying is going to be good. I'll keep you posted.
Meanwhile, check out Coleman Dowell's page at New Directions.