by and proud of life in Sicily. Sicilians of scrapbooks, and sure enough, therenbehave badly, and it isn’t because they was a faded telegram from 20’s glam­ndon’t know any better; what is tragic is our girl Gilda Gray.nthat they do. They do know better. We Visits with Henry are like that: enor­nall do, which makes our failures all the mously pleasurable — and personal­nmore heartbreaking and all the more ized—tours of the last hundred years.ndeplorable.nHenry is half as old as the Americannrepublic and has a much better memo­nDavid R. Slavitt is a poet and novelist ry. He has lived for seventy years innwho lives in Philadelphia.nthat most interesting of precincts, thenoutskirts of fame. (When, after a whirlwindncourtship, he married Olympicnswimmer Charlotte Boyle, daughter ofnrakish adventurer Joe “King of thenKlondike” Boyle, the New York WorldnLITERATUREnimmortalized swain Henry in “Thenwooing of Charlotte Boyle” and thennanathematized him in “The Showernthat Shattered a Mermaid Friendship.”)nI daresay that no American writernhas ever known a place for as long or asnwell as Henry W. Clune knows Rochester,nNew York. He was born in 1890,nto a father who once lived in the samenboardinghouse as Susan B. Anthonyn(who was, by Mr. Clune’s report, nonbarrel of laughs). His mother was onenof 12 employees on the first payrollnthat George Eastman ever met.n(Mom’s boss was fictionalized innClune’s 1952 epic By His Own Hand,nan ambitious work that merits comparisonnwith Dreiser’s Cowperwood trilo­nHenry and Louise gy-)nin the LairnHenry grew up on Linden Streetnduring “the finest time to have beennde Clunenalive” — the years preceding “our en­nby Bill Kauffmanntrance into World War I.” He flunkednout of Phillips Academy, learned then”Rochester had sprung up like a mush­ newspaper racket, and soon becamenroom, hut no presage of decay could be the most popular columnist in thendrawn from its hasty growth.”ncity’s history. Over the years he wouldn^-Nathaniel Hawthorne write six novels and seven books ofnTnmemoir and regional history, includingnhe day after his 101st birthday, The Genesee, a gem in the Rivers ofnnovelist Henry W. Clune escort­ America series.ned my wife and me to a fine local A local imprint published a book ofnrestaurant, where we dined in the Hen­ Henry’s stories shortly after he turnednry Clune Room. “It’s a sin to live this 100; at 101, he’s shopping around annlong,” he said as we drained our pre- unpublished novel describing the desoprandialnmartinis. We later repaired to lating effect the Vietnam War has on anhis wooded estate for a nightcap and a family in a small Upstate village. On itsnchat into the midnight hours.nmerits alone, the novel deserves publi­nHenry had been rereading (with an cation, and besides, Henrv wrvly notes,narray of glasses that have the magnifying “There might be a sales dodge in thenpower of Palomar’s telescope) The age of the author.”nGreat Gatsby. “Somewhere in that Lucine and I stop by the lair denbook Fitzgerald mentions Cilda Clune every ten days or so to seenGray,” he said. “She was a friend of Henry and his son, Peter, an actor andnmine.” We delved into Henry’s library superb raconteur. We enjoy these eve­nnnnings immensely; I feel, at times, asnthough I’ve wandered into a John P.nMarquand novel and have become,nwilly-nilly, a gentleman.n”I always wanted to be a snob,”nHenry admits. “But I know too manynmugs.” Yes, he does. Who else couldnbalance friendships with GeorgenCukor and characters named PeachesnStrange and Ratflesnake Pete? Henrynmoved with remarkable agility betweennthe country clubs and the pool halls.nHe knew Eastman and Frank Gannettnand the fraying Rochester aristocracynthey destroyed — “the old Castilians inntattered purple snooting the world andnowing the grocer.”nClune cheerfully concedes that he isna provincial. He loves quoting BernardnDe Voto: “Why see Paris, France, ifnyou haven’t seen Paris, Illinois?” It’sneasy for him to calculate the price he’snpaid for his stubborn parochialism —nlack of critical attention and nationalncelebrity — because he’s known sonmany writers who haven’t paid it. Forninstance, his Rochester friends PhilipnBarry and Louise Brooks.nPhilip Barry grew up several blocksnfrom Henry Clune. An Irish-Catholicnboy of considerable charm, Phil left thenFlower City for Yale and later GeorgenPierce Baker’s drama workshop at Harvardn(where Thomas Wolfe was anclassmate) and he never looked back.n”Phil was a dandy,” Henry recalls;nwas he ever. He married a rich girl,nlived at Cannes and East Hampton,nand wrote a series of clever drawingroomncomedies that made him “a tidynsum of money,” as Wolfe noted, notnwithout envy. For a time in the 1930’s,nPhilip Barry was the golden boy ofnAmerican theater.nTwo of Barry’s plays—Holiday andnThe Philadelphia Story—are amongnthe most delightful of screen comedies,nbut except for an anthology edited bynBrendan Gill, the playwright rests innobscurity. “Phil is even forgotten innRochester,” Henry laments; Barry’snsophisticated epigrams and horsey-setnbadinage are alien to his native soil andnsimply cannot survive without continuousnsunlight from stars afar. Phil Barryndidn’t need a hometown, and now, I’mnafraid, his hometown doesn’t neednhim.nLouise Brooks staggered into Rochesternbecause she had nowhere else tongo. She was a Kansas chorine whonAUGUST 1991/49n