In Youth Is Suffering: Denton Welch and the Literature of Convalescence

Daniel Felsenthal in the Los Angeles Review of Books:

PhpThumb_generated_thumbnailIn 1935, the writer and artist Denton Welch, then a 20-year-old student at Goldsmiths’ College in London, was struck by a car while biking to his aunt’s house in Surrey. It was the beginning of a bank-holiday weekend, and if his autobiographical fiction can be taken as fact, Welch was unused to the amount of traffic on the road. The vehicle crushed his legs, leaving him catheterized and sporadically impotent, with ultimately fatal injuries to his spine and kidneys. Before he died at the age of 33, Welch drafted three novels, Maiden Voyage (1943), In Youth Is Pleasure(1944), and the posthumously published A Voice Through a Cloud (1950), along with numerous stories and poems. He also produced oil paintings, watercolors, and a refurbished dollhouse now in the permanent collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood. His biography places him in a lineage of doomed literary geniuses, one that includes Flannery O’Connor and Carson McCullers, whose premature awareness of their own mortality gave their artistic visions an askew acuteness.

While England’s young males were at war, Welch lived an invalid’s life in the countryside, developing an idiosyncratic voice that addressed highly personal passions: material culture, food, manmade grottos, architectural restoration, homosexuality. In real life, Welch haunted antique stores and junk sales; his narrators pride themselves on finding beautiful objects among other people’s garbage. He exerted enough control over his books’ design that they beg consideration as physical objects.

More here.