01 April 2012

Now that April's Here...

Spring has sprung and the thoughts of a middle aged man turn to work. Much of these past few months have been spent going through John Glassco's letters in preparation for a volume to be published this coming autumn.

More on that another day.

This morning, rereading correspondence between the poet and his old McGill friend Leon Edel, I was stuck – for the nth time – by their final exchanges. Glassco, not long for this world, continues to be haunted by a short story published a half-century earlier: Morley Callaghan's "Now that April's Here".

The story is one the writer's most anthologized, but I've never quite understood its weight; Callaghan had better than this. Its real value lies in it being a nouvelle à clef, with Glassco cast as Johnny Hill, a young, chinless expatriate who is writing his memoirs. Glassco's friend Graeme Taylor appears as Charles Milford, whom Johnny supports through a small monthly income. As portrayed by Callaghan, they're two gay boys who delight in snickering at others. Robert McAlmon makes an appearance as Stan Mason, a boozy writer who is hurt to discover that he is their chief target.

Graeme Taylor, John Glassco and Robert McAlmon, Nice, 1929
The story was first published in the Autumn 1929 number of This Quarter, by which time Callaghan had completed his "summer in Paris" and was safely back in Toronto. He never got to witness the effects the time bomb left behind in Montparnasse had on Glassco's friendship with McAlmon. Leon Edel came to Glassco's aid by dismissing the story in his "Paris Notes" column for the Montreal Daily Star. Late in life, after Glassco's death, he allowed that Callaghan's depiction of the "two boys" was accurate.

For Glassco, it was a story that just wouldn't go away. In 1936, he saw it given a place of prominence in Now that April's Here and Other Stories. It would return in Morley Callaghan's Stories (1959) and lives on in the man's misleadingly-titled Complete Stories (2003).

Then we have Now that April's Here, an odd 1958 feature comprised of four Callaghan short stories": “Silk Stockings”, “Rocking Chair”, “The Rejected One” and “A Sick Call”, but not the one that gives the film its title.

Now that April's Here enjoyed a gala opening in Toronto, closing after two weeks. After a few more runs through a projector in Hamilton, it was never screened again. Glassco was spared the distress of reading the title on Montreal movie marquees.

This seven minute clip, courtesy of YouTube, reveals why the film is forgotten:

Criterion will not be interested.

Cross-posted at A Gentleman of Pleasure.


  1. Fun post. I kept wishing that the credits would be gone to better see 1958 Toronto.

    Massey was an amazing actor to speak that drivel without laughing. I wonder who Walter Massey was?

  2. Only a pro like Raymond Massey could make it through lines about "men and women, moving, breathing, growing and loving, giving the city its life."

    IMDb tells me that Walter Massey was a cousin. It turns out that I've seen him in all sorts of movies and television shows through the decades. My daughter will recognize his voice as that of Principal Herbert Haney on Arthur.

  3. I remember reading him years ago. Thanks for reminding me. I am going to find a short story of his to read for 365.

  4. Wish I decide on which to recommend, Patti. For obvious reasons, I always return to "Now that April's Here". You might also be interested in "Where the Myth Touches Us", an early short story the lesser-known Hugh Hood, which features a character clearly modelled on Morley Callaghan.

  5. Sounds like bitter grapes from someone who will probably never be as good a writer as Morley Callaghan.

    1. Bitter? Going by Glassco's writing and correspondence, "hurt" might be more accurate. Whether one considers Callaghan's writing superior to that of Glassco is, of course, a matter of opinion. Certainty, the latter never saw himself as being in any way inferior to the former. How either might improve his standing after death is a matter for theologians.