DeWitt Henry

Selected Works

Short Fiction
These are stories with traction. Henry's writing immediately brought to mind the work of Richard Yates in terms of style, time periods, and deep characterization. And, like Yates, he takes no prisoners. --Susan Tepper, author of THE MERRILL DIARIES....... What a marvelous, fierce collection! --Margot Livesey, author of THE FLIGHT OF GEMMA HARDY....... Who’d have thought we could enjoy such engagement, even entertainment, in some of the worst nightmares of life as a man in America? In the good cop breaking bad, the solid breadwinner who begins to lose, and lose, or the middle-aged middling success who, with one step outside the norms, might break his neck? Dewitt Henry skillfully computes the angle of fall for all those. In one freaky, brainy outlier of a tale, he even details the long drop of the great King Kong. Yet in Kong's case as in the dirt-beneath-the-nails realism of the two novella-length closers — each the rise and fall of an entire Rust Belt cityscape — Falling proves most moving in its grasp of the essential tragedy: the perversion of the dream once pure. --John Domini, author of MOVIEOLA
Memoir
21 brief sketches about growing up on the Philadelphia Main Line during the 1940s and 50s
Hidden River Press. 2011. 252 pages. This is a moving, sepia-toned, and powerful look at the bonds of a family, but it also tracks the development of a deeply gifted writer and his dedication to American letters. This resonant memoir is by turns poignant and harrowing, and with each new page, I felt the exhilarating rush of recognition. In writing about his family, DeWitt Henry ushers his readers to better understandings of their own histories. --Bret Anthony Johnston, author of CORPUS CHRISTI: STORIES
Red Hen Press, 2008. 190 pp."As with any flat-out wonderful book, a few words of praise cannot begin to do it justice. But here goes: SAFE SUICIDE is elegantly written, edgy, touching, inventive, surprising in its shifts of style and form, and completely spellbinding from start to finish. Partly memoir, partly a sequence of interlocked essays, this is a book that works its way under your skin and down into your vital organs. It is really, really good."--Tim O’Brien, author of THE THINGS THEY CARRIED.
Novel
Winner of the 2000 Peter Taylor Prize for the Novel
Anthology
Essays that reflect the tenacity, the strength to go forward and to love. Beacon Press, 2001. 219 pp.
Co-edited with James Alan McPherson. Beacon Press, 1999. 252 pp.
A collection of first or very early fiction by now prominent authors as it appeared in the prizewinning journal Ploughshares over the past three decades.

Safe Suicide

Click cover to order In a collage of elegant, linked essays DeWitt Henry captures the pulse of his American generation-- partly offering a portrait of the artist, partly a man’s pilgrimage of learning, growth and discovery through decades of social and cultural change. Against a background of suburban Philadelphia in the 1950s, and the family secret of his father’s alcoholism, Henry comes of age as the youngest of four children. He rejects his father’s course in managing the family chocolate factory for a third generation, and goes on to college, then to graduate school in the 1960s, becoming a writer and teacher. When Henry marries, and becomes a father himself, he is impacted by the social revolutions of the 1970s, and struggles to avoid his father’s flaws. He leads a literary life in Boston, founds the literary magazine PLOUGHSHARES, teaches writing and literature, and befriends novelist Richard Yates. During 1980s, Henry suffers the deaths of his parents, infertility, rejections of his work, and setbacks in his teaching career. In the 1990s, while his daughter and adopted son are swept up into trials of adolescence and young adulthood, and as his wife grieves the deaths of friends and family, Henry confronts a spiritual abyss similar to his father’s, and learns to surrender to life, to love, to aging and mortality. The drama of SAFE SUICIDE is the writer’s mid-life quest for psychological and spiritual truth. By turns lyrical, quirky, confessional, and experimental in form, Henry’s essays build into an affirming and generous vision. While addiction, the uses of imagination, a passion for literature, and issues of heart and soul are key motifs, a bungee jump becomes Henry’s central metaphor: “isn’t this life? isn’t this art? We live and trust in our safe suicides.”