Voyage To Destruction
The Moroccan Letters of Alfred Chester
Edited by Edward Field
ISBN 978-1-956005-09-7 380 pages $25.00
“Returning from Europe to New York in l959, he soon found himself sought after, not for his fiction, to his dismay, but for his essays and reviews, by such high intellectual journals as Commentary, Partisan Review, NY Review of Books, which have been collected in Looking For Genet (Black Sparrow Press, l992). His reviews were never hackwork, though, and if occasionally unfair, even bitchy, were the product of his shrewd literary intelligence. I think he, himself, saw them primarily as performances, or entertainments. He would never have admitted it, but writing for money brought his splintered character into focus and coherence. Not only Esquire magazine, which published one of his stories, but Mademoiselle, placed him among the “hottest” writers of l963, including Anthony Powell, Dawn Powell, Robert Lowell, W.D. Snodgrass, James Baldwin, and William Gaddis, which could not but be flattering. But he remained uncomfortable with that part of his career. It was to escape this success as a literary critic that was sidetracking his unfinished novel that, after throwing a wild party and burning his furniture, he left New York with not much more money in his pocket than the landlord was paying him for vacating his apartment.”
Edward Field, from the introduction
Chester’s voice, outrageous persona, War-
holian wig, and defiantly open sexuality
were for an aspiring literary figure in the
Alfred Chester embodied Camp.
Alfred Chester, a Double Reading
by Jan Herman
A Brooklyn Boy in Tangier
by David Bergman
Edward Field was born in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in Lynbrook, Long Island, New York, where he played cello in the Field Family Trio, which had a weekly radio program on WGBB Freeport. He served in World War II in the 8th Air Force as a navigator in heavy bombers, and flew 25 missions over Germany. He began writing poetry during World War II, after a Red Cross worker handed him an anthology of poetry. In 1963 his book Stand Up, Friend, With Me was awarded the prestigious Lamont Poetry Prize and was published. In 1992, he received a Lambda Award for Counting Myself Lucky, Selected Poems 1963-1992. Other honors include the Shelley Memorial Award, a Rome Prize, and an Academy Award for the documentary film To Be Alive, for which he wrote the narration. He received the Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement from Publishing Triangle in 2005.