Wandering Ghost: The Odyssey of Lafcadio Hearn

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9784770016591: Wandering Ghost: The Odyssey of Lafcadio Hearn

Interweaving selections from letters, articles, essays, confessions, and stories, the author creates a well-rounded portrait of Lafcadio Hearn.

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About the Author:

Jonathan Cott is the author of ten previous books, including The Search for Omm Sety: A Story of Eternal Love. He is a contributing editor of Rolling Stone magazine and Parabola

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

[From the Introduction.]

In allowing this voice to manifest itself, I hoped to present the story of a Greek-Anglo-Irish child abandoned by his parents when he was five years old; who was partly blinded when he was sixteen during a schoolboys' game; who felt for most of his life like a social misfit; who, as an adolescent, dared to reject completely his Catholic upbringing because of his ardent belief in the ancient Greek gods; who, at various times of his life, found himself destitute, homeless, and sleeping on the streets and alleyways of London, Cincinnati, and New Orleans; who broke social taboos and antimiscegenation laws with his sexual predilection for mulatto and black women; and who gradually developed into a remarkable, disciplined, mostly self-taught bohemian man of letters--a model for more recent bohemian writers such as Jaime de Angulo, Gary Snyder, and Henry Miller, the last declaring: "My passion for Japan began with Lafcadio Hearn."

In dealing with such a life, about which most casual readers of Hearn knew little or nothing, I also hoped to avoid the often racist, prudish, and provincial comments--as well as the all-embracing reductionist psychologizing (Oedipus complex, inferiority complex, puer complex) or etiological theorizing (Hearn's genius/weakness as a function of his myopia)--that pervade many of the previous biographies about a writer whom many critics, at one time or another, have spoken of as "a sensual Romantic," "a decadent aesthete," "a morbid genius," "a rootless cosmopolite," "a bohemian misfit," "a frightened escapist," "a wandering dreamer."

To be a wanderer, the novelist Marguerite Yourcenar once remarked, "requires an ability to take pleasure in the outer spectacle of things combined with a definite willingness to go beyond that spectacle in order to discover the often hidden realities underneath. Every traveler is Ulysses and ought to be Proteus as well."

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Cott, Jonathan
Published by Kodansha International (1992)
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