In his second collection of short stories, James Leo Herlihy explores a landscape of people living on the fringes of normal society as the pleasures of daily life fade. Men and women search for the missing fragment of meaning from their existence with Herlihy’s signature humor and deft dialogue.
"His characters are distinctive. He has a sense of place which he vividly conveys to the reader. Above all there is originality. Mr. Herlihy follows an inspired tradition of contemporary American writing." —Baltimore SunIn his second collection of short stories, James Leo Herlihy explores a landscape of people living on the fringes of normal society as the pleasures of daily life fade. Men and women search for the missing fragment of meaning from their existence with Herlihy’s signature humor and deft dialogue. In the titular story, Mary Ellen McClure is trapped in a dull, unfulfilled life in a trailer park, suspecting her husband of having an affair. Together with her neighbor Ivy, she dabbles with a Ouija board which spells out the name Ezra and implies that Mary Ellen will have an affair. She becomes enamored with the fantasy of this unknown man—at first falling deep into the escapism of the imagined affair, then resolving to find him for real to save her from her stale life. Herlihy’s other gothic tales tell of Consilada Rector, who can’t get people to believe in the leprechaun that presides over her husband’s bar; Mrs. Dorothy Fitzpatrick, who records of the existence of a ghostly mail delivery truck; and a dying man who comes to stay with a mother and her blessed son William.
James Leo Herlihy
James Leo Herlihy was born in 1927 in Detroit, Michigan to a working-class family. After serving in World War II, Herlihy studied art, literature, and music at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, whose faculty had boasted such luminaries as William De Kooning and John Cage. After a professor told Herlihy that he had no future as a writer, the disillusioned Herlihy turned his attention to theater, where he met with considerable success and found acting roles in more than fifty plays over the span of several years.But Herlihy continued writing fiction despite the discouragement he had received and in 1960 he published All Fall Down, a largely critically acclaimed work which was later adapted for film. In 1965 he published Midnight Cowboy, which cemented his reputation as a serious writer.After the success of Midnight Cowboy, Herlihy retreated from the public eye and turned his attention to teaching. He took creative writing posts at the City College of New York, the University of Arkansas, and the University of Southern California. Herlihy died in Los Angeles in 1993 from an overdose of sleeping medication.