The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

husband, and committed suicide in the space of little more than a year.
Although raised in comparative comfort by a loving but irascible grand-
mother, Maie Van de Venter, he frequently suffered feelings of guilt and
isolation in his adolescence.2
Young Perry alternated between negative and positive introspec-
tion. George forced himself to compete in football, basketball, and
boxing, though he detested bodily contact. He gained acceptance as a
claranetist at local dances, where the comfort of alcohol bolstered his
conviviality. At Southwestern University George met and later wed a
popular coed, Claire Hodges, the major accomplishment of his col-
lege career, which, despite three attempts, never culminated in a col-
lege degree. Travels to Europe and North Africa before Perry married
provided material for his aspiring literary career. A series of unpub-
lished biographical novels, laced with anguish and alienation, under-
scored his frustrations at breaking into the literary market during the
depression years. Finally heeding advice to lighten his subject matter,
Perry sold a humorous, rustic short story, "Edgar and the Dank Mo-
rass," to the Saturday Evening Post in 1937. The favorable reaction
inaugurated a lifelong association between the author and the publi-
cation and pointed Perry toward other creative successes. In rapid
order he wrote a Hollywood script for comedian Bob Burns; pub-
lished his first novel, the wildly comical Walls Rise Up; and received
the National Book Award for Hold Autumn in Your Hand, a poignant
story of a sharecropping family.
Although physically unfit for military service because of an injured
arm, Perry insisted on participating in World War II in some capacity. At
length he convinced the New Yorker and the Saturday Evening Post to com-
mission him a war correspondent. The reporter crisscrossed the enemy-
infested Atlantic and witnessed the horrors of combat from the front row
during the sanguinary Allied invasion of Italy. Although he discoursed on
his fears and inadequacies under the guns, and intimates and analysts
assessed his war experiences as contributing to a subsequent mental and
emotional collapse, Perry kept his humor in public and personal writings.
He remarked on the exhilaration and confidence-building of survival
2Hairston, George Sessions Perry, 8; Perry to Ralph Knight, Guilford, Connecticut, in MS Perry,
G. S., Letters A-Z, George Sessions Perry Collection (Harry Ransom Humanities Center,
University of Texas at Austin; hereafter cited as Perry Collection); George Sessions Perry, "The
Story of Jim" (unpublished manuscript, n.d., n.p.), chapter io, p. 3, Perry Collection. For rela-
tionship with his grandmother see George Sessions Perry, My Granny Van (New York: Whittlesey
House, McGraw-Hill Book Co., Inc. 1949).
'Perry, "The Story of Jim," chapters 12, 13; Cowser, "A Biographical and Critical
Interpretation of George Sessions Perry," 9-14; "George Sessions Perry," Wlson Lzbrary Bulletin,
17 (Feb., 1943), 434 For other autobiographical novels see "Portrait of the Morning" and "After
Many Days," Perry Collection.

July

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/. Accessed September 16, 2014.