Episode 144: Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff

61e5GkZTaPL._SL1408_This is about the outer limits of compassion. Is it possible to have compassion that somehow doesn’t avail, or doesn’t work?

Well, in principle, no. In practice, fairly often.

No American playwright understood his characters more compassionately than William Inge, who died exactly 40 years ago. Inge’s prefaces to some of his plays reveal perspectives that were both Christian and existentialist. Nowhere is the far country of his compassion more powerfully mapped out than in the 1970 novel “Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff”.

Incidentally, the novel was made into a faithful movie version in the late 1970s. It is due out on DVD/Blu-Ray this August.

I find Inge’s tender mercy towards his characters to be immensely stirring. But there is something unavailing in the grace he unveils in the later works. Kindness to sufferers always, but the poor saps don’t get much benefit from it.

I think William Inge lost some ground in later life, or at least lost some “purchase” on hope. Isherwood picked that up when they had dinner together in Santa Monica. Not very long afterwards, William Inge committed suicide.

This podcast tries to ask what’s missing in the later work. Could it be that something quite big is missing? I have a thought. John Yale, by the way, is going to help us, and even a personal word that came to me, a word that arrived to me, last week.