Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer 1943-1954 by Jeffrey Cartwright
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Edwin Mullhouse, a novelist at 10, is mysteriously dead at 11. As a memorial, Edwin's bestfriend, Jeffrey Cartwright, decides that the life of this great American writer must be told. He follows Edwin's development from his preverbal first noises through his love for comic books to the fulfillment of his literary genius in the remarkable novel, Cartoons.
1944 (1st birthday). Climbed onto couch, unaided. I should like to add my own brief note to the entry of April 30: Edwin drew himself to an upright position by means of my pants pocket and then let go (the pocket was torn, though not badly). That spring he began to stand in front of his carriage in the pose of a solemn captain. He enjoyed eating ice-cream cones and chewing buttons, and for a while he enjoyed biting tables. I remember him trying desperately to remove the yellow flowers from a
sunglasses. “Let’s lift, okay? But slowly.” Mama and Mrs. Mullhouse each gripped the back and an arm; taking deep breaths they began to lift the heavy chair slowly from its cushion of grass. As the legs rose I saw, from left to right, a white shoe, a knee in red corduroy, a bare elbow, a hand, a bit of hair. As the chair rose higher I saw the complete shoe, resting on its toe and sloping upward from toe to heel, I saw the line of the red corduroys change from horizontal to vertical and curve
artifice (I have quoted from this letter, the only one I ever received from Edwin, in Part One Chapter 1). At the same time a moody restlessness was taking possession of him, so that at times he seemed impatient of all talk and barely tolerant of my companionship. It was during this period, therefore, that I began to apply myself to the systematic accumulation of objective data, copying the titles of Edwin’s earliest books, tracing the hand and foot in MY STORY: A BABY RECORD, and so on. One
museum. In a sense, Edwin never stopped playing: he simply passed from Monopoly to fiction. I see him now, sitting Indian-fashion on the striped bed before the double window, the tip of his tongue escaping from a corner of his mouth as he bends over a piece of tracing paper that he holds in place over a favorite comic book. Ten feet away, on the windowless side of the room, little Karen Mullhouse sits on another bed, in red corduroys and a yellow t-shirt, looking up at the ceiling light with a
purpose of making dioramas or building toothpick forts. By the bubblegum machine in Rapolski’s I learned from Margaret Riley that Anna Maria DellaDonna thought Edwin was handsome. On the grass slope by the willow I learned from May Flowers that Margaret Riley thought Edwin had nice eyes. While fitting a mirror-pool into the sand of a desert diorama I learned from Anna Maria DellaDonna that May Flowers liked Edwin first, Kenneth Santurbano second, and myself (with a giggle) third. During a game of