Forgotten American writer of the early 20th century. 1922 winner of a Literary Digest poll and subject of the first doctoral thesis on Modern American Literature. Though once considered the equal of Flaubert and superior to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hergesheimer saw his fortunes tank in his own lifetime, as the flowery, "aesthetic" writing style fell out of favor during The Great Depression and World War II. A characteristic sample from Hergesheimer's book Cytherea:

The early gloom gathered familiarly in the long main room of the clubhouse; the fire cast out fanwise and undependable flickering light upon the relaxed figures; it shone on tea cups, sparkled in rich, translucent preserves, and glimmered through a glass sugar bowl. It was all, practically, Lee Randon reflected, as it had been before and would be again.

Hergesheimer's reputation has shown signs of reviving in recent years, buoyed by re-evaluations of contemporaries like Sinclair Lewis. However, he is the subject of only a handful of scholarly studies. More information at

An exuberant furniture description from Hergescheimer's novel Java Head, a tale of money, power, drug addiction and racism:
"She could see by her fireplace the elaborately carved teakwood chair that her grandfather had brought home from China, which had never varied from the state of a brown and rather benevolent dragon; its claws were always claws, the grinning fretted mouth was perpetually fixed for a cloud of smoke and a mild rumble of complaint. The severe waxed hickory beyond with the broad arm for writing, a source of special pride, had been an accommodating and precise old gentleman. The spindling gold chairs in the drawing-room were supercilious creatures at a king's ball; the graceful impressive formality of the Heppelwhites in the dining room belonged to the loveliest of Boston ladies. Those with difficult haircloth seats in the parlor were deacons; others in the breakfast room talkative and unpretentious; while the deep easy-chair before the library fire was a ship. There were mahogany stools, dwarfs of dark tricks; angry high-backed things in the hall below; and a terrifying shape of gleaming red that, without question, stirred hatefully and reached out curved and dripping hands."

I clipped this passage back when I used to be in the furniture repair business because the "difficult haircloth seats" appealed to me, upholstery being a curiously efficient form of torture for me at the time. I got out of that line and into another one scarcely less torturous in its own way, but the feel of dark gnarled wood and the evidence of things unseen still stick with me now.

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