Saturday, November 20, 2021

Arthur MacArthur

Arthur MacArthur (b. New Orleans, 19 May 1896; d. New Orleans, 24 October 1970)

Arthur MacArthur (the surname in his family sometimes appears as McArthur) was the son of Arthur MacArthur (1866-1908)--himself the son of another Arthur MacArthur (1838-1916)--and Celena Delphina Kemp (1874-1951), who were married in New Orleans on 3 April 1895.  After his father's death, his mother remarried in 1909. He did not attend college but studied music and singing. MacArthur did some military service in the Field Artillery towards the end of W.W. I. 

In the early 1920s MacArthur served as the Assistant Manager and Secretary to the (openly gay) concert pianist George Copeland (1882-1971), and toured with him around Europe. He lived at times in England, France, Germany, and Italy. After returning to America, he went to Hollywood for a while, but returned to New Orleans.

He published very little. One short story is known, "Told in the Mid-Watch," in Sea Stories Magazine, 20 December 1922. (He claimed he gave up short story writing because it was too restrictive.) And he published only one novel, After the Afternoon (New York: D. Appleton-Century, [October] 1941), though  it was retitled Aphrodite's Lover  and given a racy cover when it was reprinted in paperback in 1953. 

After the Afternoon tells the story of the faun Lykos in Crete, who, after a tryst with Aphrodite, becomes a human being, endowed with immortality and able to enter the human body, male or female, of his choice. He passes through various incarnations, one at the bizarre court of an Egyptian king. The "Books" section of The New York Herld-Tribune noted: "Arthur MacArthur displays an inventive capacity, a skill in writing credibly of the absurd and the impossible, that is reminiscent of Thorne Smith. But actually he is less interested in humor than in invention, while his taste for the macabre and the brutal leads him to scenes that read like effective illustrations of Krafft-Ebing. Within his own mythos his characters are strong, rounded and real, once he leaves Greece for Egypt and, fortunately for his story, this happens very early" (review by Lorine Pruette, 21 December 1941). The New York Times Book Review said: "Mr. MacArthur's first novel is provocative enough to call for a trilogy, and as our friend Lykos, since that fatal hour on Olympus, can become who and what he will with each death I suggest that an evening or two could be profitably spent in America at the turn of the last century, and for the present day I give him his choice of London or Berlin" (review by Francoise du Moulin, 9 November 1941).

In the 1930s and 1940s he lived in New Orleans with his paternal aunt and her husband, Edward Alexander Parsons (1978-1962), a lawyer and noted bibliophile. At the time his novel was published, he worked for the Federal Art Project of Louisiana. Little is known of his later life. He never married, and died in 1970. 

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