Ethan Frome

 by  Edith Wharton

A Norton Critical Edition edited by Kristin O. Lauer and Cynthia Griffin Wolff

Ends with authoritative text backgrounds and contexts criticism

Ethan Frome

The narrator is curious about lonely and quiet Ethan Frome. He begins to learn a bit more when Frome begins giving the narrator rides to work.

1

We go back in time 24 years earlier

“The guests were preparing to leave, and the tide had already set toward the passage where coats and wraps were hung, when a young man with a sprightly foot and a shock of black hair shot into the middle of the floor and clapped his hands. The signal took instant effect. The musicians hurried to their instruments, the dancers–some already half-muffled for departure–fell into line down each side of the room, the older spectators slipped back to their chairs, and the lively young man, after diving about here and there in the throng, drew forth a girl who had already wound a cherry-coloured ‘fascinator’ about her had, and, leading her up to the end of the floor, whirled her down its length to the bounding tune of a Virginia reel.

“Frome’s heart was beating fast. He had been straining for a glimpse of the dark head under the cherry-coloured scarf and it vexed him that another eye should have been quicker than his. The leader of the reel, who looked as if he had Irish blood in his veins, danced well, and his partner caught his fire. As she passed down the line, her light figure swinging from hand to hand in circles of increasing swiftness, the scarf flew off her head and stood out behind her shoulders, and Frome, at each turn, caught sight of her laughing panting lips, the cloud of dark hair about her forehead, and the dark eyes which seemed the only fixed points in a maze of flying lines” (14).

“The face she lifted to her dancers was the same which, when she saw him, always looked like a window that has caught the sunset” (16).

Frome is beginning to care more for Mattie, his wife’s cousin, than for his wife.

II

I think Frome’s wife, Zeena, knows what is going on.

III

Zeena will be in town overnight to see a new doctor. Frome and Mattie will be alone.

IV

“There was in him a slumbering spark of sociability which the long Starkfield winters had not yet extinguished. By nature grave and inarticulate, he admired recklessness and gaiety in others and was warmed to the marrow by friendly human intercourse” (29).

“…the laughter sparkling through her lashes” (34).

A special dish is broken during dinner. When will Zeena learn of the broken dish and how it was being used over a flirtatious dinner?

V

Mattie and Ethan spend a quiet evening together, both too nervous to really do anything.

VI

All Ethan thinks about is Mattie though they’ve never touched or kissed. His wife has now returned. Ethan now has to secretly fix the dish they broke.

VII

Zeena finds the broken dish. Mattie confesses. 

VIII

Ethan is going to ask the Hales for an advance so he can run away but he changes his mind. He just couldn’t lie to them.

IX

“She clung to him without answering, and he laid his lips on her hair, which was soft yet springy, like certain mosses on warm slopes, and had the faint woody fragrance of fresh sawdust in the sun” (60). 

Zeena knows all…you can tell by the clues and the way she acts.

“…all their intercourse had been made up of just such inarticulate flashes, when they seemed to come suddenly upon happiness as if they had surprised a butterfly in the winter woods…” (63).

Mattie and Ethan stop by a shared memory space on the way taking her to the train. They share a sled ride down a long run and almost hit a tree. Mattie decides instead of parting that they should sled down the hill once again and that is when they hit the tree. They’d rather die together than part.

“…and her dark eyes had the bright witch-like stare that disease of the spine sometimes gives” (71).

Read this short novella to find out the juicy details! The story is only 72 pages long (in this version). Just an afternoon’s read. 

I didn’t read all of the background and context material (too boring), but I did find something of note in a piece by Carroll Smith-Rosenberg. Her essay is called “They Hysterical Woman: Sex Roles and Role Conflict in Nineteenth-Century America”

“Hysteria as a chronic, dramatic, and socially accepted sick role could thus provide some alleviation of conflict and tension, but the hysteric purchased her escape from the emotional and –frequently–from the sexual demands of her life only at the cost of pain, disability, and an intensification of woman’s traditional passivity and dependence.”

II

“The effect of hysteria upon the family and traditional sex-role differentiation was disruptive in the extreme. The hysterical woman virtually ceased to function within the family. No longer did she devote herself to the needs of others, acting as self-sacrificing wife, mother, or daughter: through her hysteria she could and in fact did force others to assume those functions. Household activities were reoriented to answer the hysterical woman’s important needs. Children were hushed, rooms darkened, entertaining suspended, a devoted nurse recruited. Fortunes might be spent on medical bills or for drugs and operations. Worry and concern bowed the husband’s shoulders; his home had suddenly become a hospital and he a nurse. Through her illness, the bedridden woman came to dominate her family to an extent that would have been considered inappropriate–indeed, shrewish–in a healthy woman. Taking to one’s bed, especially when suffering from dramatic and ever-visible symptoms, might also have functioned as a mode of passive aggression, especially in a milieu in which weakness was rewarded and in which women had since childhood been taught not to express overt aggression. Consciously or unconsciously, they had thus opted out of their traditional role.”

I do remember reading that back in the day when some husbands became increasingly unsatisfied with their wives, they would begin to make a case that the wife was hysteric or was losing her mind. In this way, they could have their wives committed against their will. They would leave their wives in asylums while they married new, younger wives. Can you imagine having to resort to hysterics in order to rest? We’ve come a long way, baby.

Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage

I read this book in the hopes of learning why more young people do not enter college. The relevant information is shared below. In brackets, I have placed brainstorming ideas on how to ease or combat a prohibitor to college entrance.

By K. Edin and M. Kefalas

Introduction

“…children of single parents are still at greater risk” (3) [therefore, we need to target single parents and their children].

“While the poor women we interviewed saw marriage as a luxury, something they aspired to but feared they might never achieve, they judged children to be a necessity, an absolutely essential part of a young woman’s life, the chief source of identity and meaning.”

“…a baby born into such conditions represents an opportunity to prove one’s worth” (6).

“…an expectant mother uses pregnancy to test the strength of her bond with her man and take a measure of his moral worth” (7).

“But this insistence on economic independence also reflects a much deeper fear: no matter how strong the relationship, somehow the marriage will go bad. Women who rely on a man’s earnings, these mothers warn, are setting themselves up to be left with nothing if the relationship ends.”

“…it means lifelong commitment.”

“…poor young mothers seldom view an out-of-wedlock birth as a mark of personal failure but instead see it as an act of valor” (9).

“…central tenet of good mothering can be summed up in two words–being there.”

“Millie’s experiences show why the standards for prospective fathers appear to be so low. The answer is tangled up in the young women’s initial high hopes regarding the men in their lives, and the supreme confidence they have in their ability to rise to the challenge of motherhood. The key to the mystery lies not only in what mothers believe they can do for their children but in what they hope their children will do for them.”

“In some profound sense, these young women believe, a baby has the power to solve everything” (10).

“…mothering role, how it can become virtually the only source of identity and meaning in a young woman’s life.”

“…they manage to credit virtually every bit of good in their lives to the fact they have children…”

“…poor urban neighborhoods that have seen the most dramatic increases in single motherhood” (11). 

“Forty-five percent had no high school diploma, but 15 percent had earned a GED. A surprising number, nearly a third of the total, had participated in some kind of post-high school educational activities such as college, nurses- or teachers-aid training, or cosmetology school.

“…almost half were neither working nor in school when we met them. Forty percent held low-end service-sector jobs at the time, working as telemarketers, childcare workers, teacher’s aides, nurse’s aids, factory workers, cashiers, fast-food workers, waitresses, and the like” (25).

One: “Before We Had a Baby…”

Early pregnancy causing parents to abandon education and move directly into low paying jobs. 

“Yet expressing the desire to have a baby together is far from a promise of life-long commitment.”

“…the bond that shared children create may be the most significant and enduring tie available.”

“…extraordinarily high social value the poor place on children” (31).

“While middle-class teens and twenty-somethings anticipate completing college and embarking on careers, their lower-class counterparts can only dream of such glories. Though some do aspire to these goals, the practical steps necessary to reach them are often a mystery.” [We need to take the mystery out of this process.]

“A childhood embedded in a social network rich with children–…creates the illusion of a near Dr. Spock-like competence in childrearing.”

“As talk of shared children is part of the romantic dialogue poor young couples engage in from the earliest days of courtship…”

“Some youth decide to begin trying to get pregnant so they can escape a troubled home life” (33).

“Children…Young women also hunger for the love and intimacy they can provide.”

“…pregnancy offers the promise of relational intimacy at a time few other emotional resources are available.

“Trust among residents of poor communities is astonishingly low–so low that most mothers we spoke with said they have no close friends, and many even distrust close kin. The social isolation that is the common experience of those who live in poverty is heightened for adolescents, whose relationships with parents are strained by the developmental need to forge an independent identity. The ‘relational poverty’ that ensues can create a compelling desire to give and receive lobe. Who better to do so with, some figure, than a child they can call their own” (34). [The need to build supportive communities to thwart emotional isolation.]

“…many young women come to see parenthood as the point at which they can really start living” (35).

“…nearly universal agreement that all children ought to have a sibling or two to play with” (36).

“The potent mix of social shame, self-doubt, and compelling desire leads to accidents waiting to happen” (39).

“These young women often reject the idea that children–or at least the first child–will damage their future prospects much” (40).

“So though their neighborhoods and schools offer plenty of examples of young mothers who had to leave school and face extraordinarily hard times, they still provide an ample supply of counterexamples–young unmarried women who have succeeded in doing well by their children, ensuring that they’re clean, clothed, housed, fed, and loved. Armed with these role models, they insist that it doesn’t take a college education, a good job, a big house, matching furniture–or a marriage license–to be a good mother” (41). [Could women in this situation provide mentor duties for various programs?]

“Children, whether planned or not, are nearly always viewed as a gift, not a liability–a source of both joy and fulfillment whenever they happen upon the scene. They bring a new sense of hope and a chance to start fresh.

“…the way in which a young woman reacts in the face of a pregnancy is viewed as a mark of her worth as a person. And as motherhood is the most important social role she believes she will play, a failure to respond positively to the challenge is a blot on her sense of self” (43).

“…most still view the termination of a pregnancy as a tragedy…Virtually no woman we spoke with believed it was acceptable to have an abortion merely to advance an educational trajectory.” [So it would be unwise to focus on reducing young pregnancies. We have to focus on what comes next.]

“In absolute terms, the poor have more abortions than the middle class, but that is because they also have more pregnancies” (44).

“In choosing to bring a pregnancy to term, a young woman can capitalize on an important and rare opportunity to demonstrate her capabilities to her kin and community. Her willingness and ability to react to an unplanned pregnancy by rising to the challenge of the most serious and consequential of all adult roles is clear evidence that she is no longer a ‘trifling’ teenager” (45).

[Could we capitalize upon this can-do attitude to include education and job training?]

“…poor young women grab eagerly at the surest source of accomplishment within their reach: becoming a mother” (46).

“…for these disadvantaged youth, a pregnancy offers young women who say their lives are ‘going nowhere fast’ a chance to grasp at a better future. Choosing to end a pregnancy is thus like abandoning hope” (47).

Two: “When I Got Pregnant…”

“A child is one of the few things a young man can say he has created and one of the few ways he can make an early mark on the world.

“Unmarried fathers who ‘step off’ of their responsibility to their children–as they often do–are still the subject of contempt in these communities” (60).

“…the mother’s own mother is often an integral part of the parenting team as well” (66). [Could recruit mother/daughter teams to school or family combos?]

“Thus, the tiny row homes of these crowded urban neighborhoods often house a revolving cast of characters that spans three, sometimes four, generations. In fact, nearly half of our mothers live in such households” (67). [So, would living independently even be a benefit?]

Three: How Does the Dream Die?

The goal remains to marry and attain a stable relationship. [Couples counseling? Individual training to set up expectations, boundaries, and communication skills? What if there were a system set up that when one man left, the single mother would be paired with another single mother as a resource? They begin to work as a team.]

“Lack of money is certainly a contributing cause…”

“Job insecurity is endemic…” (75).

“Over time, however, a chronically unemployed father proves too much for most mothers to bear.” 

“Money usually becomes an issue because he seems unwilling to keep at a job for any length of time, usually because of issues related to respect. Some of the jobs he can get don’t pay enough to give him the self-respect he feels he needs, and others require him to get along with unpleasant customers and coworkers, and to maintain a submissive attitude toward the boss” (76). 

“Young mothers regularly rail against young fathers who squander too much of their earnings on alcohol, marijuana, new stereo components, computer accessories, expensive footwear, or new clothing, while the needs of the family are, in their view, not adequately met” (78).

“These disagreements over the father’s work effort and spending habits cut right to the heart of the couple’s relationship because, for the new mother, his behavior with regard to money is an emblem of his dedication to the family. Financial responsibility is often the yardstick by which she measures his love for and commitment to her and the child. For young and impoverished mothers working to establish a stable environment for their children, the making and spending of money is much more than a matter of income and expenses, of budgets and balance sheets: it is a morality play. Few women expect their baby’s fathers to be the sole breadwinners, but they believe that good fathers should at least try to stay employed, work at a legitimate trade, and turn over most of their earnings to the family” (79-80).

[Need to work on male level of responsibility.]

“…mother usually points to far more serious offenses as the prime forces that pull their young families apart. It is the drug and alcohol abuse…criminal behavior…incarceration…repeated infidelity…patterns of intimate violence…drug dealing…” (81).

“Young mothers reject drug dealing for both symbolic and practical reasons. On a symbolic level, residents of even the poorest communities believe that a good father must earn his living by respectable means. While drug money may substitute for legitimate pay at times, mothers agree that it ought to be a stop-gap measure during financial crises, not a long-term career. Practically speaking, dealing drugs is simply not a family-friendly activity. For starters, most mothers believe that life in the trade will land their baby’s father in a cell or a casket–not the ideal scenario for the man they are relying on the ‘be there for them and the child” (82-3).

“Though middle-class mothers are only rarely investigated for child abuse or neglect, the poor are much more likely to be under the scrutiny of Child Protective Services, whose workers are sometimes derisively called ‘baby snatchers’ by mothers in the communities we studied. Second, mothers also know that dealers often become ‘their own best customer,’ and ‘druggies’ make poor parents as well as poor partners. Mickey told us, ‘The drugs he was selling he started doing, which was cocaine.’ Finally, even those raising children in the worst of urban neighborhoods want desperately to teach the right values. Thus, the only thing worse than a baby’s father who is trying to make a living on the corner is a son or daughter who ends up doing the same” (84).

“…a prison record is an ongoing handicap for a man struggling to be a responsible father and support his children” (86). [Do we need to build in support for the formerly incarcerated through job partners that accept and know how to work with these men?]

“…heavy drinking and an addiction to drugs…It is impossible to overemphasize the devastating impact of drugs and alcohol on the lives of the men in the eight communities we studied. Outside observers often find it impossible to ignore the public displays of these addictions, the men with bloodshot eyes drinking ‘forties’ on the stoops, the strung-out addicts huddled in doorways or weaving down the sidewalks. But the destruction these toxins wreak inside of the family is equally profound. Drugs and alcohol can quickly transform men who are valued partners and fathers into villains who threaten the well-being of the family” (87).

“The first evidence of an addiction to alcohol or drugs is often a startling change of personality, a dramatic reshuffling of priorities that results in draining precious economic and emotional resources from the family as the addiction ‘takes him over’” (88).

“Physical abuse can be just as corrosive of trust as repeated infidelity, and though it occurs across class lines, it occurs more often among the poor” (94).

“Domestic violence, the chief culprit in most stories of relational ruin, is more common among our Puerto Ricans and whites than among the African Americans. Part of the reason may be that African American mothers are less likely to cohabit with a male partner, and the lack of common residence could serve as a protective factor. Infidelity was an equal opportunity relationship wrecker. The third most common problem, criminal behavior, was a more prominent feature in the breakup stories of our African American mothers. Given the restricted legal labor market for unskilled black men, this is not surprising. Similarly, incarceration figured in the accounts of more African American mothers. …drugs are more likely to bring trouble with the law” (98).

“Women seem to welcome the social closure that a birth brings… Very often, though, the father seems to catch cabin fever.

“Fathers also get fewer rewards from their peers in their new status as a parent than mothers do.”

“The transition to parenthood means that the demands on young men dramatically increase just as the rewards of the relationship are radically reduced” (100).

“Many men respond to these pressures by returning to their street-corner associations in a relatively short period of time” (101).

Four: What Marriage Means

“Unlike women of earlier generations, poor women today almost universally reject the idea that marriage means financial reliance on a male breadwinner.” Maybe why more women are in college? “…they believe their own earnings and assets are what buys them power” (112).

“These women believe that getting married to a man and living off of his earnings practically ensures an imbalance of power they’ll find intolerable” (113).

“Poor young women who put motherhood before marriage do not generally do so because they reject the institution of marriage itself, but because good, decent, trustworthy men are in short supply. Though they hope for marriage and often hold it as a central goal, most are at least somewhat skeptical that it can be achieved” (130).

“They hold marriage to a high economic standard, one requiring as much from themselves as from the men they hope to marry. Even more important are the relationship standards they hold for marriage. Though many do find men who are seemingly decent, the mistrust generated by painful past experiences means that even the most hopeful mothers approach marriage with extreme caution. Marriage, which should be for life, requires all the thought and care in the world. In the meantime, they get on with the business of creating a family” (131). 

“Some have argued that the decline of marriage, which is most pronounced among the poor, can be traced to declining male wages. Indeed, men with a high school education or less have seen large losses in hourly wages over the last thirty years, and far fewer are able to find full-time, year-round employment. But it is clear from these stories that even if the employment and wage rates in these neighborhoods returned to their 1950s levels, in the heyday of Philadelphia’s economy, the marriage rate probably wouldn’t increase much. Though male wages for unskilled workers were higher in those days and jobs more plentiful, unskilled male laborers were not paid that well, and the nature of Philadelphia’s system of small craft production meant that even jobholders in the 1950s still faced a highly unstable job market.

“Most studies suggest that at best, declining male employment and earnings can only account for about 20 percent of the sharp downturn in marriage. Our stories suggest that many of the men who would have been considered marriageable in the 1950s would not be so today, for few 1950s marriages waited on the acquisition of a home mortgage, a car, some furniture, and two solid jobs. Even fewer 1950s brides insisted on monitoring their mates’ behavior over four, five, or six years’ time before they believed they could trust them enough to wed” (135).

“This does not mean that marriage has lost its significance, either for the culture as a whole or for the poor. The most fundamental truth these stories reveal is that the meaning of marriage has changed. It is no longer primarily about childbearing and childrearing. Now, marriage is primarily about adult fulfillment, it is something poor women do for themselves, and their dreams about marriage are a guilty pleasure compared to the hard tasks of raising a family. Though women living in disadvantaged social contexts often wish they could indulge in a marriage at the same time that they’re raising their children, it is simply not practical for most. If a marriage is to be lasting, it must have a strong economic foundation that both partners help to build, in which the woman maintains some level of economic independence. The couple relationship must also be strong enough to overcome the problems that so frequently lead to divorce, because marriage, which most still say is sacred, involves making promises–promises to be faithful and stay together for a lifetime. And as Deena Vallas puts it, most are not willing to make promises they are not sure they can keep.”

“…unless poor women can improve their own positions through education and work, they have no choice but to abandon the dream of marriage altogether or attempt to change the available men” (136).

Five: Labor of Love

“Spending time with their children is one of the most powerful tools women like Dominique feel they can use to shield their children from the dangers of their neighborhood’s streets.”  [Bring older kids to class?]

“Modeling a commitment to education…” (139).

“…The neighborhood is often the greatest impediment to their aspirations for their children” (149). [Providing on or near-campus housing for families during the length of their education. Home placement after graduation.]

[Both learning in the same classroom?] “These mothers often admit that their own difficult experiences with school make them tentative and anxious when dealing with teachers about their child’s academic progress. For a mother who still struggles with reading, her seventh-grader’s language arts homework may contain vocabulary words she has never heard. Likewise, a fifth-grade math curriculum may be beyond the capacity of a parent who struggled in school herself, leaving her ill-equipped to help with homework. Even many middle-class parents we know complain that they barely understand some aspects of their fifth or sixth grader’s math homework. Jasmine, thirty-eight, a Puerto Rican mother of two adult children and a four-year-old, who dropped out of school in the eleventh grade, worries in particular about math. ‘I’m lousy with math, and that’s the one thing I’m afraid of. I’m thinking, Am I going to be able to help him out with math?’ She says that when she was in school, ‘I didn’t have no one to [help me]. That’s why I struggled…I would just sit there [in math class] terrified.’”

“A central problem among the mothers we spoke with was how to reinforce the value of school to their children when they themselves had often not listened to their own parents in this regard. Mothers with histories of academic failure often find themselves in the awkward position of preaching the message ‘Do as I say and not as I do’ while they threaten, bribe, and cajole their children not to ‘mess up,’ urging them to ‘do better than Mommy.’ Paula, a Puerto Rican forty-year-old who did not manage to realize her dream of completing college, tries to encourage her fifteen-year-old to take a different path by pointing to the consequences of her own missteps and failures. ‘I want her to be more educated…I used to go to school [and] clown around a lot…check out the boys. And I never really paid attention to reading and all the spelling.’ At the same time that she tells these cautionary tales, she attempts to instill the high aspirations that she believes will motivate her child to do well. ‘You want a real good job making $40,000 to $50,000 per year. You want to be a doctor? You have to know how to read real good, spell real good and know your math real good.’ ‘Nowadays,’ she reasons, ‘if you want a job [even]…flipping burgers, you need a high school diploma” (153)! 

“A woman’s boy is meant to have children! Your breasts, your ovaries were given to you by God to bear children, not just to give a man sexual pleasure. It is selfish and wrong to be childless” (165)!

Six: How Motherhood Changed My Life

“…many unmarried teens bear children that are conceived only after they’ve already experienced academic difficulties or dropped out of school.”

“Poor youth are driven by a logic that is profoundly counterintuitive to their middle-class critics, who sometimes assume that poor women have children in a twisted competition with their peers to gain status, because they have an insufficient knowledge of–or access to–birth control, or so they can ‘milk’ the welfare system. Yet our mothers almost never refer to these motivations. Rather, it is the perceived low costs of early childbearing and the high value that poor women place on children–and motherhood–that motivate their seemingly inexplicable inability to avoid pregnancy.

“These poor young women are not unusually altruistic, though parenthood certainly requires self-sacrifice. What outsiders do not understand is that early childbearing does not actually have much effect on a low-skilled young woman’s future prospects in the labor market. In fact, her life chances are so limited already that a child or two makes little difference, as we document in the next chapter. What is even less understood, though, are the rewards that poor women garner from becoming mothers. These women rely on their children to bring validation, purpose, companionship, and order to their often chaotic lives–things they find hard to come by in other ways. The absolute centrality of children in the lives of low-income mothers is the reason that so many poor women place motherhood before marriage, even in the face of harsh economic and personal circumstances. For women like Millie, marriage is a longed-for luxury; children are a necessity” (172).

“…many mothers tell us they cannot name one person they would consider a friend, and the turmoil of adolescence often breeds a sense of alienation from daily as well.” [The need for peers and friends.] 174

Conclusion

Making Sense of Single Motherhood

“Providing more access to stable, living-wage employment for both men and women should therefore be a key policy objective” (219).

Woolgathering/Just Kids

Woolgathering By Patti Smith

A New Directions Book  1992

The Woolgatherers

“And the image of the woolgatherers in that sleepy field drew me to sleep as well. And I wandered among them, through thistle and thorn, with no task more exceptional than to rescue a fleeting thought, as a tuft of wool, from the comb of the wind” (12).

Just Kids

By Patti Smith

HarperCollinsPublishers  2010  New York

I read this book in tandem with Patricia Morrisroe’s biography of Robert Mapplethorpe. I was interested to see if any of the stories collided. They were obviously different works with Patti writing from first person and Mapplethorpe being a biography. Patti focuses her work, Just Kids, on the friendship between Mapplethorpe and herself, mythologizing along the way about both of their personas. I often felt like Patti was working to appear stranger and more quirky than perhaps was actually her true self. Morrisroe’s Mapplethorpe biography did not focus on the friendship, for its target is Robert himself. Whereas the Mapplethorpe biography (to be summarized in a separate piece) does not shy away from the decadent details of sexual exploration pre-and-inside the AIDS epidemic, Smith engages in very little discussion of Mapplethorpe’s twisted sexual proclivities. It feels as if she wanted his focus to remain on her as muse rather than face the harsh reality that she was simply another stepping-stone to Mapplethorpe’s promotion of his outsized ego. 

Monday’s Children

“On one such day, limping back to the home front beneath the anvil of the su, I was accosted by my mother.

“‘Patricia,’ my mother scolded, ‘put a shirt one!’

“‘It’s too hot,’ I moaned. ‘No one else has one on.’

“‘Hot or not, it’s time you started wearing a shirt. You’re about to become a young lady.’ I protested vehemently and announced that I was never going to become anything but myself, that I was of the clan of Peter Pan and we did not grow up” (10).

“I’m certain, as we filed down the great staircase, that I appeared the same as ever, a moping twelve-year-old, all arms and legs. But secretly I knew I had been transformed, moved by the revelation that human beings create art, that to be an artist was to see what others could not” (11).

Of Mapplethorpe she writes: “The light fell upon the pages of his coloring book, across his child’s hands. Coloring excited him, not the act of filling in space, but choosing colors that no one else would select. In the green of the hills he saw red. Purple snow, green skin, silver sun. He liked the effect it had on others, that it distrurbed his siblings. He discovered he had a talent for sketching. He was a natural draftsman and secretly he twisted and abstracted his images, feeling his growing powers. He was an artist, and he knew it. It was not a childish notion. He merely acknowledged what was his” (13).

“No one expected me. Everything awaited me” (25).

“We piled the best leaves on the bread and happily ate.

“‘A real prison breakfast,’ I said.

“‘Yeah, but we are free.’

“And that summed it up” (28).

“When it got really rough, I would go back to Pratt, occasionally bumping into someone I knew who would let me shower and sleep a night. Or else I would sleep in the hall near a familiar door. That wasn’t much fun, but I had my mantra, ‘I’m free, I’m free.’ Although after several days, my other mantra, ‘I’m hungry, I’m hungry,’ seemed to be in the forefront. I wasn’t worried, though. I just needed a break and I wasn’t going to give up. I dragged my plaid suitcase from stoop to stoop, trying not to wear out my unwelcome.

“It was the summer Coltrane died. The summer of ‘Crystal Ship.’ Flower children raised their empty arms and China exploded the H-bomb. Jimi Hendrix set his guitar in flames in Monterey. AM radio played ‘Ode to Billie Joe.’ There were riots in Newark, Milwaukee, and Detroit. It was the summer of Elvira Madigan, the summer of love. And in this shifting, inhospitable atmosphere, a chance encounter changed the course of my life” (31).  She meets Robert Mapplethorpe.

Just Kids

“But Robert, wishing to shed his Catholic yoke, delved into another side of the spirit, reigned over by the Angel of Light. The image of Lucifer, the fallen angel, came to eclipse the saints he used in his collages and varnished onto boxes. On one small wooden box, he applied the face of Christ; inside, a Mother and Child with a tiny white rose; and in the inner lid, I was surprised to find the face of the Devil, with his extended tongue.

“I would return home to find Robert in brown monk’s cloth, a Jesuit robe he had found in a thrift store, poring over pamphlets on alchemy and magic. He asked me to bring him books slanted toward the occult. At first he didn’t read these books so much as utilize their pentagrams and satanic images, deconstructing and refiguring them. He was not evil, though as darker elements infused his work, he became more silent.

“He grew interested in creating visual spells, which might serve to call up Satan, like one would a genie. He imagined if he could make a pact that accessed Satan’s purest self, the self of the light, he would recognize a kindred soul, and that Satan would grant him fame and fortune. He did not have to ask for greatness, for the ability to be an artist, because he believed he already had that” (62-3).

“Robert was cutting out sideshow freaks from an oversized paperback on Tod Browning. Hermaphrodites, pinheads, and Siamese twins were scattered everywhere. It threw me, for I couldn’t see a connection between these images and Robert’s recent preoccupation with magic and religion” (67).

“It was in that spirit that we would go to Coney Island to visit the sideshows. We had looked for Hubert’s on Forty-second Street, which had featured Snake Princess Wago and a flea circus, but it had closed in 1965. We did find a small museum that had body parts and human embryos in specimen jars, and Robert got fixated on the idea to use something of that sort in an assemblage. He asked around where he might find something of that sort, and a friend told him about the ruins of the old City Hospital on Welfare (later Roosevelt) Island.”

“We went from room to room and saw shelves of medical specimens in their glass jars. Many were broken, vandalized by visiting rodents. Robert combed each room until he found what he was looking for, an embryo swimming in formaldehyde within a womb of glass.

“We all had to agree that Robert would most likely make great use of it. He clutched the precious find on the journey home. Even in his silence, I could feel his excitement and anticipation, imagining how he could make it work as art” (68).

“In early June, Valerie Solanas shot Andy Warhol” (69).

“In response I made a collage drawing for him called My Hustler, where I used one of his letters as a component. Even as he reassured me that I had nothing to worry about, he seemed to be moving deeper into the sexual underworld that he was portraying in his art. He seemed to be attracted to S&M imagery–’I’m not sure what that all means–just know it’s good’–and described to me works titled Tight Fucking Pants, and drawings in which he lacerated S&M characters with a matte knife. ‘I have a hook coming out of where his prick should be, where I’m gonna hang that chain with dice and skulls from it.’ He spoke of using bloody bandages and starred patches of gauze.

“He wasn’t merely jerking off. He was filtering this world through his own aesthetic, criticizing a movie called Male Magazine as ‘nothing more than an exploitation film using an all male cast.’ When he visited the Tool Box, and S&M bar, he felt it was ‘just a bunch of big chains and shit on the wall, nothing really exciting,’ and wished he could design a place like that.

“As the weeks went on, I worried that he wasn’t doing well. It wasn’t like him to complain about his physical condition. ‘My mouth is sick,’ he wrote, ‘my gums are white and achy.’ He sometimes didn’t have enough money to eat.

“His P.S. was still filled with Robert bravado. ‘I’ve been accused of dressing like a hustler, having the mind of a hustler and the body of one” (84). [Well…if it looks, sounds and walks like a duck…]

Hotel Chelsea

“I’m in Mike Hammer mode, puffing on Kools reading cheap detective novels sitting in the lobby waiting for William Burroughs. He comes in dressed to the nines in a dark gabardine overcoat, gray suit, and tie. I sit for a few hours at my post scribbling poems. He comes stumbling out of the El Quixote a bit drunk and disheveled. I straighten his tie and hail him a cab. It’s our unspoken routine.

“In between I clock the action. Eyeing the traffic circulating the lobby hung with bad art. Big invasive stuff unloaded on Stanley Bard in exchange for rent. The hotel is an energetic, desperate haven for scores of gifted hustling children from every rung of the ladder. Guitar bums and stoned-out beauties in Victorian dresses. Junkie poets, playwrights, broke-down filmmakers, and French actors. Everybody passing through here is somebody, if nobody in the outside world.

“The elevator is slowgoing. I get off at the seventh floor to see if Harry Smith is around. I place my hand on the doorknob, sensing nothing but silence. The yellow walls have an institutional feel like a middle school prison. I use the stairs and return to our room. I take a piss in the hall bathroom we share with unknown inmates. I unlock our door. No sign of Robert save a note on the mirror. Went to big 42nd street. Love you. Blue. I see he straightened his stuff. Men’s magazines neatly piled. The chicken wire rolled and tied and the spray cans lined in a row under the sink.

“I fire up the hot plate. Get some water from the tap. You got to let it run for a while as it comes out brown. It’s just minerals and rust, so Harry says. My stuff is in the bottom drawer. Tarot cards, silk ribbons, a jar of Nescafe, and my own cup–a childhood relic with the likeness of Uncle Wiggly, rabbit gentleman. I drag my Remington from under the bed, adjust the ribbon, and insert a fresh sheet of foolscap. There’s a lot to report” (91).

Stanley Bard is the hotel manager. They have Room 1017 for 55 dollars a week to live at the Chelsea Hotel.

“Twenty-third Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues still had a postwar feel” (96).

The Manson murders occur.

“A week or two later I waltzed into the El Quixote looking for Harry and Peggy. It was a bar-restaurant adjacent to the hotel, connected to the lobby by its own door, which made it feel like our bar, as it had been for decades. Dylan Thomas, Terry Southern, Eugene O’Neill, and Thomas Wolfe were among those who had raised one too many a glass there.

“I was wearing a long rayon navy dress with white polka dots and a straw hat, my East of Eden outfit. At the table to my left, Janis Joplin was holding court with her band. To my far right were Grace Slick and the Jefferson Airplane, along with members of Country Joe and the Fish. At the last table facing the door was Jimi Hendrix, his head lowered, eating with his hat on, across from a blonde. There were musicians everywhere, sitting before tables laid with mounds of shrimp with green sauce, paella, pitchers of sangria, and bottles of tequila” (105).

“The Chelsea was like a doll’s house in the Twilight Zone, with a hundred rooms, each a small universe. I wandered the halls seeking its spirits, dead or alive. My adventures were mildly mischievous, tapping open a door slightly ajar and getting a glimpse of Virgil Thomson’s grand piano, or loitering before the nameplate of Arthur C. Clarke, hoping he might suddenly emerge. Occasionally I would bump into Gert Schiff, the German scholar, armed with volumes on Picasso, or Viva in Eau Sauvage. Everyone had something to offer and nobody appeared to have much money. Even the successful seemed to have just enough to live like extravagant bums. 

“I loved this place, its shabby elegance, and the history it held so possessively. There were rumors of Oscar Wilde’s trunks languishing in the hull of the oft-flooded basement. Here Dylan Thomas, submerged in poetry and alcohol, spent his last hours. Thomas Wolfe plowed through hundreds of pages of manuscript that formed You Can’t Go Home Again. Bob Dylan composed ‘Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’ on our floor, and a speeding Edie Sedgwick was said to have set her room on fire while gluing on her thick false eyelashes by candlelight.

“So many had written, conversed, and convulsed in these Victorian dollhouse rooms. So many skirts had swished these worn marble stairs. So many transient souls had espoused, made a mark, and succumbed here. I sniffed out their spirits as I silently scurried from floor to floor, longing for discourse with a gone procession of smoking caterpillars” (112-3).

“This mission led us to the city’s Bermuda Triangle: Brownie’s, Max’s Kansas City, and the Factory had moved from its original location on Forty-seventh Street to 33 Union Square. Brownie’s was a health food restaurant around the corner where the Warhol people ate lunch, and Max’s where they spent their nights.”

“Max’s Kansas City was on Eighteenth Street and Park Avenue South. It was supposedly a restaurant, though few of us actually had the money to eat there. The owner, Mickey Ruskin, was notoriously artist-friendly, even offering a free cocktail-hour buffet for those with the price of a drink. It was said that this buffet, which included Buffalo wings, kept a lot of struggling artists and drag queens alive. I never frequented it as I was working and Robert, who didn’t drink, was too proud to go.

“There was a big black-and-white awning flanked by a bigger sign announcing that you were about to enter Max’s Kansas City. It was casual and sparse, adorned with large abstract pieces of art given to Mickey by artists who ran up supernatural bar tabs. Everything, save the white walls, was red: booths, tablecloths, napkins. Even their signature chickpeas were served in little red bowls. The big draw was surf and turf: steak and lobster. The back room, bathed in red light, was Robert’s objective, and the definitive target was the legendary round table that still harbored the rose-colored aura of the absent silver king.

“On our first visit we only made it as far as the front section. We sat in a booth and split a salad and ate the inedible chickpeas. Robert and Sandy ordered Cokes. I had a coffee.The place was fairly dead. Sandy had experienced Max’s at the time when it was the social hub of the subterranean universe, when Andy Warhol passively reigned over the round table with his charismatic ermine queen, Edie Sedgwick. The ladies-in-waiting were beautiful, and the circulating knights were the likes of Ondine, Donald Lyons, Rauschenberg, Dali, Billy Name, Lichtenstein, Gerard Malanga, and John Chamberlain. In recent memory the round table had seated such royalty as Bob Dylan, Bob Neuwirth, Nico, Tim Buckley, Janis Joplin, Viva, and the Velvet underground. It was as darkly glamorous as one could wish for. But running through the primary artery, the thing that ultimately accelerated their world and then took them down, was speed. Amphetamine magnified their paranoia, robbed some of their innate powers, drained their confidence, and ravaged their beauty” (116-7).

“We drew on everything from Butterfield 8 to the French New Wave. She shot the stills from our imagined movies. Although I didn’t smoke, I would pocket a few of Robert’s Kools to achieve a certain look. For our Blaise Cendrars shots we needed thick smoke, for our Jeanne Moreau a black slip and a cigarette.

“When I showed him Judy’s prints, Robert was amused by my personas. ‘Patti, you don’t smoke,’ he’d say, tickling me. ‘Are you stealing my cigarettes?’ I thought he would be annoyed, since cigarettes were expensive, but the next time I went to Judy’s, he surprised me with the last couple from his battered pack.

“‘I know I’m a fake smoker,’ I would say, ‘but I’m not hurting anybody and besides I gotta enhance my image.’ It was all for Jeanne Moreau” (125).

“I looked around at everyone bathed in the blood light of the back room. Dan Flavin had conceived his installation in response to the mounting death toll of the war in Vietnam. No one in the back room was slated to die in Vietnam, though few would survive the cruel plagues of a generation” (127).

Gregory made lists of books for me to read, told me the best dictionary to own, encouraged and challenged me. Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs were all my teachers, each one passing through the lobby of the Chelsea Hotel, my new university” (138).

“‘I don’t want to sing. I just want to write songs for him. I want to be a poet, not a singer’” (142).

“Memento mori. It means ‘Remember we are mortal’” (155).

I call my granddaughter LouLou, so this next passage stood out to me: “I liked Loulou, a charismatic redhead who was the celebrated muse of Yves Saint Laurent, the daughter of a Schiaparelli model and a French count. She wore a heavy African bracelet, and when she unclasped it, there was a red string tied around her tiny wrist, placed there, she said, by Brian Jones” (156).

“Michael Pollard was usually by her side. They were like adoring twins, both with the same speech patterns, punctuating each sentence with man. I sat on the floor as Kris Kristofferson sang her ‘Me and Bobby McGee,’ Janis joining in the chorus. I was there for these moments, but so young and preoccupied with my own thoughts that I hardly recognized them as moments” (159).

“It was an infamous address, having housed the Film Guild Cinema in the twenties, and a raucous country-western club hosted by Rudy Vallee in the thirties. The great abstract expressionist artist and teacher Hans Hoffman had a small school on the third floor through the forties and fifties, preaching to the likes of Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, and Willem de Kooning. In the sixties it housed the Generation Club, where Jimi Hendrix used to hang out, and when it closed he took over the space and built a state-of-the-art studio in the bowels of 52 Eighth Street” (168).

“I was excited to go. I put on my straw hat and walked downtown, but when I got there, I couldn’t bring myself to go in. By chance, Jimi Hendrix came up the stairs and found me sitting there like some hick wallflower and ginned. He had to catch a plane to London to do the Isle of Wight Festival. When I told him I was too chicken to go in, he laughed solely and said that contrary to what people might think, he was shy, and parties made him nervous. He spent a little time with me on the stairs and told me his vision of what he wanted to do with the studio. He dreamed of amassing musicians from all over the world in Woodstock and they would sit in a field in a circle and play and play. It didn’t matter what key or tempo or what melody, they would keep on playing through their discordance until they found a common language. Eventually they would record this abstract universal language of music in his new studio.

“‘The language of peace. You dig?’ I did.

“I can’t remember if I actually went into the studio, but Jimi never accomplished his dream. In September I went with my sister and Annie to Paris. Sandy Daley had an airline connection and helped us get cheap tickets. Paris had already changed ina year, as had I. It seemed as if the whole of the world was slowly being stripped of innocence. Or maybe I was seeing a little too clearly.

“As we walked down the boulevard Montparnasse I saw a headline that filled me with sorrow: Jimi Hendrix est mort. 27 ans. I knew what the words meant” (169).

“But the next night we would meet in Johnny’s room to console one another again. I wrote but two words in my diary: Janis Joplin. For she had died of an overdose in room 105 of the Landmark Hotel in Los Angeles, twenty-seven years old” (170).

Holy Modal Rounders

“It was like being at an Arabian hoedown with a band of psychedelic hillbillies. I fixed on the drummer, who seemed as if he was on the lam and had slid behind the drums while the cops looked elsewhere. Toward the end of their set he sang a song called ‘Blind Rage,’ and as he slammed the drums, I thought, This guy truly embodies the heart and soul of rock and roll. He had beauty, energy, animal magnetism” (171). That man turned out to be Sam Shepard “the biggest playwright off-Broadway. He had a play at Lincoln Center. He won five Obies!”

“I was also writing more pieces for rock magazines–Crawdaddy, Circus, Rolling Stone. This was a time when the vocation of a music journalist could be an elevated pursuit. Paul Williams, Nick Tosches, Richard Meltzer, and Sandy Pearlman were some of the writers I held in esteem. I modeled myself after Baudelaire, who wrote some of the great idiosyncratic critiques of nineteenth-century art and literature” (178).

“I wanted to infuse the written word with the immediacy and frontal attack of rock and roll” (180).

…”but then I remembered Lenny Kaye had said he played electric guitar. I went to see him.”

“With a nod to Brecht, I decided to open the reading singing ‘Mack the Knife.’ Lenny played along” (181).

“We finished with ‘Ballad of a Bad Boy’ accompanied by Lenny’s strong rhythmic chords and electric feedback. It was the first time an electric guitar had been played in St. Mark’s Church, provoking cheers and jeers. As this was hallowed ground for poetry, some objected, but Gregory was jubilant.”


“I was bombarded with offers stemming from my poetry reading. Creem magazine agreed to publish a suite of my poems; there were proposed readings in London and Philadelphia; a chapbook of poems for Middle Earth Books; and a possible record contract with Steve Paul’s Blue Sky Records. At first this was flattering, and then seemed embarrassing. It was a more extreme reaction than had greeted my haircut” (182).

“I thought of something I learned from reading Crazy Horse: The Strange Man of the Oglalas by Mari Sandoz. Crazy Horse believes that he will be victorious in battle, but if he stops to take spoils from the battlefield, he will be defeated. He tattoos lightning bolts on the ears of his horses so the sight of them will remind him of this as he rides. I tried to apply this lesson to the things at hand, careful not to take spoils that were not rightfully mine” (183).

“When we got to the part where we had to improvise an argument in a poetic language, I got cold feet. ‘I can’t do this,’ I said. ‘I don’t know what to say.’

“‘Say anything,’ he said. ‘You can’t make a mistake when you improvise.’

“‘What if I mess it up> What if I screw up the rhythm?’

“‘You can’t,’ he said. ‘It’s like drumming. If you miss a beat, you create another.’

“In this simple exchange, Sam taught me the secret of improvisation, one that I have accessed my whole life” (185).

“An important new presence entered Robert’s life. David had introduced Robert to the curator of photography at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. John McKendry was married to Maxime de la Falaise, a leading figure in New York’s high society. John and Maxime provided Robert with an entrance into a world that was as glamorous as he could have wished for. Maxime was an accomplished cook and hosted elaborate dinner parties where she served obscure dishes taken from her knowledge of centuries of English cooking. For every sophisticated course presented, there was equally well-spiced repartee served up by her guests. Those typically seated at her table: Bianca Jagger, Marisa and Berry Berenson, Tony Perkins, George Plimpton, Henry Geldzahler, Diane and Prince Egon von Furstenberg” (189).

“Being allowed to lift the tissues from these photographs, actually touch them and get a sense of the paper and the hand of the artist, made an enormous impact on Robert. He studied them intently–the paper, the process, the composition, and the intensity of the blacks. ‘It’s really all about light,’ he said” (190).

“I never anticipated Robert’s complete surrender to its powers. I had encouraged him to take photographs to integrate into his collages and installation, hoping to see him assume the mantle of Duchamp. But Robert had shifted his focus. The photograph was not a means to an end, but the object itself. Hovering over all of this was Warhol, who seemed to both excite and paralyze him.

“Robert was determined to do something Andy had not yet done. He had defaced Catholic images of the Madonna and Christ; he had introduced physical freaks and S&M imagery into his collages. But where Andy had seen himself as a passive observer, Robert would eventually insert himself into the action. He would participate in and document that which he had previously only been able to approximate through magazine imagery.

“He began to branch out, photographing those he met through his complex social life, the infamous and the famous, from Marianne Faithfull to a young tattooed hustler. But he always returned to his muse. I no longer felt that I was the right model for him, but he would wave my objections away. He saw in me more than I could see in myself. Whenever he peeled the image from the Polaroid negative, he would say, ‘With you I can’t miss’” (192).

Separate Ways Together

“It seemed like Allen was always on the road with Blue Oyster Cult…”(213).

Todd Rundgren and Bebe Buell  [We now know what this coupling produced]

Holding Hands With God

Pictures From an Institution

A Comedy

By Randall Jarrell

This book has been on my shelf for years. The paper cover is pretty battered and the colors are drab and boring. From the title and the cover, I assumed Jarrell had taken notes on various patients in a mental institution, perhaps in the 1950s or ‘60s. None of those things could be further from the hilarity that is this story. If I would have known it was about professors at a small girls college I would have read it a decade ago! The writing style is so lyrical and poetic that I had to look up Randall Jarrell. It all came to make sense when I found out he was a real-life poet! As you know, I like to share “the best bits” by transcribing the most beautiful, touching, joyous or heartbreaking lines, but the language in this book is so off-the-charts that I would have had to mark every line. I had to stop. If you are a professor, a lover of poetry, comedy or spot-on scathing character sketches, you must read this book!

Meridian Fiction  New York  1960

Randall Jarrell was born on May 6, 1914, in Nashville, Tennessee. He was educated at Vanderbilt University and has distinguished himself as poet, critic, novelist, and teacher. He has taught at various colleges, including Princeton, and has been poetry consultant to the Library of Congress. Jarrell has published five volumes of poetry; a book of criticism, and edited an anthology of short stories.

  1. The President Mrs., and Derik Robbins

It is Constance Morgan’s last day as assistant to the secretary. 

“…her features, as far as one could distinguish them, were undistinguished” (5).

Gertrude had been teaching at the college. Constance listens to Gertrude and President Robbins as they say goodbye.

“Gertrude and the President’s Friendship at First Sight had lasted only until they took a second look at each other. After this look Gertrude no longer felt as if she had just taken a drink, but felt as if she had a long time ago taken a great many: that look awoke both of them from their amicable slumbers.

“What a pity it was that that party had ever been given! –the party that brought with it their first terrible quarrel, a quarrel that ended their friendship after eleven days. Without the party, they both felt bitterly, it might have lasted for weeks. One could not help blaming Gertrude a little more than one blamed the President; the President, like most people, behaved in a different way after he had a great deal to drink, but Gertrude, knowing no other, behaved as she always behaved. But the drinks at the party, the almost unavoidable intimacies at the party, what they had said and what Mrs. Robbins had said and what people had said they all of them had said at the party–these, the memory of these, made Gertrude and the President look narrowly at each other, and their eyes widened at what they saw. George looked at the dragon and thought, Why, that woman’s a dragon; and the dragon looked at George and thought, That’s no man, that’s an institution” (7).

A very fun description of the novelist, Gertrude Johnson, who is leaving.

Who could explain President Robbin’s marriage?

“People did not like Mrs. Robbins, Mrs. Robbins did not like people; and neither was sorry.”

“Often, when you have met a true Englishwoman–the false ones are sometimes delightful–you feel that God himself could go no further, that way. Mrs. Robbins existed to show what he could do if he tried” (11).

“To hear her was to be beginning to despair” (13).

Mrs. Robbins’s horrid personality. Later in the book I began to realize that most of the text is description of character. Not much actually happens; therefore, chapter summaries became less and less frequent.

President Robbins has illusions about himself. There is the thought that only some people are very important. Derek is the president’s son and he is kind of odd.

President Benton is a slick orator, good at raising funds, and different than us.

“Not to have given him what he asked, they felt, would have been to mine the bridge that bears the train that carries the supply of this year’s Norman Rockwell Boy Scout Calendars. They felt this; it seems far-fetched to me” (27).

Did Gertrude go on to write lies about President Robbins in her next novel?

  1. The Whittakers and Gertrude

Couples attend a party at Gertrude’s house.

“People say that conversation is a lost art: how often I have wished it were” (41)!

“Gertrude didn’t want conversation, she wanted an audience” at the dinner party.

“…she was so thin you could have recognized her skeleton. Sometimes it seemed to you that she was not a person, not a thing, but an idea, and a mistaken one at that. A badly mistaken one: she always said not the wrong but the wrongest, the most wrongest thing–language won’t express it” (44).

“When well-dressed woman met Flo they looked at her as though they couldn’t believe it. She looked as if she had waked up and found herself dressed–as if her clothes had come together by chance and involved her, an innocent onlooker, in the accident. If a dress had made her look better than she really did, she would have felt guilty; but she had never had such a dress” (45).

“In the classroom, where Dr. Whittaker was almost as much at home as in his study, this would not have happened; there each sentence lived its appointed term, died mourned by its people, and was succeeded by a legitimate heir” (50).

There are hilarious descriptions of Flo and others and a dinner party at which no one ate. Gertrude disparages the South from which she still keeps an accent. How Gertrude feels about the music teacher. We meet Gertrude’s devoted husband, Sidney.

  1. Miss Batterson and Benton

Miss Batterson was an earlier creative writing teacher.

The teaching philosophy and life at Benton.

“Benton was, all in all, a surprisingly contented place. The people who weren’t contented got jobs elsewhere–as did, usually, any very exceptional people–and the others stayed. They didn’t need to be exceptional: they were at Benton. One felt that they felt that all they had to do was say, “I’m at Benton,’ and their hearer would say, raising his hand: ‘Enough!’” (105).

We learn why Benton is the subject of Gertrude’s novel. Miss Batterson got a better job but soon died. There is a funeral.

How the Rosenbaums live; very European. The narrator recalls a story told by Miss Batterson about her father.

  1. Constance and The Rosenbaums

Gertrude looks at life as fodder for her novels.

Dr. Rosenbaum’s wife and Constance’s friendship with the Rosenbaums.

“Old faces are forbidding or beautiful for what is expressed in them; in a face that is young enough almost everything but the youth is hidden, so that it is beautiful both for what is there and what cannot yet be there. Constance’s face was a question mark that you looked at and did not want to find an answer for” (146).

Constance and her music. Colleagues talking about home with the Rosenbaums. Irene singing. Constance is upset about the portrayal of the Rosenbaums in Gertrude’s story. The Rosenbaums’ personalities are described.

“…it is better to entertain an idea than to take it home to live with you for the rest of your life” (173).

How Americans are different from Europeans. Irene and her personality.

  1. Gertrude and Sidney

Gertrude was filled with anger she couldn’t understand. The narrator is dropping some work from a student at Gertrude’s. Gertrude takes care of her sick husband.

“But now that she saw she could not possibly get along without Sidney, her trust was shaken. When Sidney found out that she was in his power–if he found out, her heart substituted hastily–what would he do? How could you trust anyone with such power” (206)?

“…if Sidney had come home from work some evening and had said to her, ‘I’m not interested in you any more, Gertrude,’ she would have thought this a disastrous but perfectly reasonable, perfectly predictable thing for him to say–he would simply have come to his senses” (207).

“…she was like a magic sword that is content only as it comes shining from the scabbard” (209).

Gertrude can do without all others, except Sidney.

  1. Art Night

Gertrude is drunk as they head to Art Night.

“Mr. Daudier had a queer look on his face, as if he were a box of mixed nuts, but mostly peanuts…” (242).

  1. They All Go

If you are a teacher and/or love lines that run like crazy poetry, please read this book!

The Role of Fate in The House Behind the Cedars

Tiffany Akin

Dr. Menson-Furr

Engl 8328

27 Jan. 2010

 

Charles Chesnutt performs extraordinary feats within the story structure in The House Behind the Cedars: he creates deep and complicated characters, he grapples with social issues of race and prejudice, and he builds suspense throughout the story that propels the reader on to the next page.  One of the most interesting ideas that Chesnutt uses to create interest and drama within the story is the idea of Fate.  During the early part of the story the idea of Fate is more faint and abstract, but as the story deepens Chesnutt begins to use the word “Fate” at certain key moments in the story, leaving no doubt that Fate plays as strong a role as any human character in the story.  Due to the brevity of this format, we will only examine a few ways in which Fate twisted the love affair between George Tryon and Rena Walden in The House Behind the Cedars.

The relationship between Rena and George is the centerpiece of Chesnutt’s story.  The hand of Fate directs their relationship as early as their first encounter.  During the chapter entitled “The Tournament” the crowd is gathered to watch chivalrous men on horseback perform a series of skills of accuracy.  The crowd is going wild and the women are waving their handkerchiefs.  As Fate would have it, Rena’s handkerchief escapes her grip and it flies up into the air.  George spots the flying cloth and scoops it up with his lance before it even touches the ground.  The rider then returns the handkerchief to Rena which, unknowingly for the couple, binds the two of them together for life.  If George had not spotted the errant cloth or some other young man had made the same gesture, things would have evolved differently in both of their lives.

A second twist of Fate occurs at the end of the chapter entitled “Doubts and Fears.”  Rena has been discussing “coming out” with her brother and they decide to surreptitiously test the waters with Tryon by asking sideways questions regarding what he may feel about the black race.  Rena and Tryon are discussing marriage when she points at her nephew’s black nurse and asks, “Would you love me if I were Albert’s nurse yonder?”  Although Rena is referring to the color of the nurse, George receives the question in a totally different light; his answer in the positive refers to the nurse’s job, not her color.  While George feels it would be perfectly fine to marry a nurse and take her away from such drudgery, Rena thinks his affirmative answer means “it would make no difference with him…” (326).   This misunderstanding, or twist of Fate, prompts Rena to answer “yes” to George’s proposal and the next set of circumstances is set into motion.

A precursor to one of the most devastating twists of Fate occurs when Rena begins to have dreams that her dear mother is ill.  Rena has been preparing for her wedding to George, but at the same time she has a series of dreams in which her mother becomes more and more sick.  Due to these fateful dreams, Rena leaves on the eve of her wedding, headed to Patesville to nurse her mother back to health.  If she had not gone Molly may have died, yet Rena’s secret would have been safe… even more secure than when Molly was alive.  Later in the story Chesnutt refers back to the dreams:  “If she had not been sick, Rena would not have dreamed the fateful dream that had brought her to Patesville…” (398).

The most excruciating twist of Fate occurs when both George and Rena are in Patesville at the same time.  Both Judge Straight and Rena’s old friend Frank understand the relevance of having the two lovers running amok in the small town at the same time.  As the two men are busy trying to find and reign in Rena, she is fatefully running around town performing errands for her mother.  They cannot find her soon enough to save her.  Dr. Green and George are together in the doctor’s cart.  As the doctor hops down to perform some task he tells George that if he wants to see a good looking woman he should look inside the drugstore.  George does not even care that much but, just to pass the time, he takes a look.  The scene painted by Chesnutt when Rena steps out of the store is crushingly heartbreaking.  “She stood a moment as if turned to stone” (360).  If the hands of Fate had placed that young woman anywhere else that day she may have gotten away with marrying George and living happily ever after.  Yet would a life of hiding her heritage been carefree?  Perhaps that is to debate in another paper.

 

 

 

Ida B. Wells Project

English 8330

23 Mar 2011

        From her humble beginnings in Holly Springs, Mississippi, no one guesses that Ida B. Wells will grow up to be a revolutionary investigative journalist.  The circumstances of her childhood do not provide a solid platform upon which Wells can leap into a life of progressive thought and action. Her parents are both slaves and Wells is the oldest in a long line of eight siblings.  It is fortuitous that the young woman’s father sees fit to educate her because Wells spends the rest of her life educating others about the plight of the newly emancipated Negro. When her parents and younger brother die of yellow fever Wells is forced to quit school and take on a paying position as a teacher and in this way supports the entire family.  According to a timeline found on the Ida B. Wells Memorial Foundation website, in 1879 “[a]n aunt invites Ida to move to Memphis, Tennessee where she quickly finds and accepts a teaching position in the Shelby County school system.” As Wells works as a teacher she also begins editing small scale church newsletters which whet her appetite for the idea of disseminating information directly into black homes.

        One incident in particular not only provides an interesting first-person narrative for The Living Way newsletter, but also sparks Wells’ imagination to focus her writing on social change.  Wells has been a victim of the Jim Crow laws while riding the train. Wells writes about the fact that she “had sued the railroad company for attempting to expel her from the ladies’ car” (Gates & McKay, 676).  The topic is prescient, personal and interesting to her audience: it gives them a stake in the lawsuit’s outcome. (In 1887 the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned Wells’ former win against the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad.)  Using the pen name “Iola” (probably adopted from a Frances Harper novel entitled Iola Leroy) Wells’ train/court stories “were reprinted in newspapers throughout the country” (Gates, 676).  Given a public forum in which to tell these stories increased Wells’ appetite for publicly renouncing obvious wrongs that occur on an hourly basis to the newly emancipated black contingent of U.S. citizenry.  Her next topic of scrutiny is the one that will not only get her run out of her home base of Memphis but will forever connect her name to a cause: U.S. anti-lynching laws.

        In her preface to Southern Horrors Wells seems to take up the pen with a heavy heart and gives an overview of her purpose: “Somebody must show that the Afro-American race is more sinned against that sinning, and it seems to have fallen upon me to do so.  The awful death-roll that Judge Lynch is calling every week is appalling, not only because of the lives it takes, the rank cruelty and outrage to the victims, but because of the prejudice it fosters and the stain it places against the good name of a weak race” (25-6).  Writing about her experience with injustice on the train opens Wells’ eyes to an even more insidious and widespread injustice taking place around her; one that is sanctioned by law: the act of lynching. During these dark days mobs regularly gather to capture and hang someone from a tree whom they feel has committed an offense or broken a societal law.  When Wells learns of the lynching of people she actually knows she begins to turn her considerable writing skills toward activism against lynching. Little does Ida B. Wells recognize that her decision to use the press in service of protecting the rights of her race and pointing the finger directly at offenders will set a groundbreaking precedent that would carry on within the ink of newspaper print for generations to come.

        In order to understand the importance of Wells’ decision to make use of the press to bring to light social injustice, we must first get our footing in the rhetorical situation of her day.  When Wells begins writing the United States has just undergone a little more than a decade of reconstruction after the Civil War. Yet simply because the blacks are no longer enslaved does not mean our nation’s troubles instantaneously disappear.  “With slavery officially outlawed, the white south moved quickly to protect its interests by codifying the very white supremacist ideology that had undergirded the chattel slave system” (Gates, 543). Wells experiences the Jim Crow laws such as blacks and whites having to travel in separate train cars.  In 1883 the U.S. Supreme Court rules that congress can regulate only state action regarding racial discrimination, not private action. In the years 1888-9 one hundred and sixty-three Negroes are lynched along with one hundred and forty-four whites. Disenfranchisement begins with the “Mississippi Plan.”  According to information found in a timeline of African American history provided by the National Humanities center, in order “[t]o minimize the number of black voters, Mississippi institutes a literacy test, a poll tax, and the ‘grandfather clause’” and during the next two decades “most Southern states pass similar laws.”  

        Thirty-five years before Wells is born the first attempt to run a black newspaper is made by Samuel Cornish and John Russwurm.  They run Freedom’s Journal for two years which then becomes The Rights of All which only lasts two more years.  About forty-two years before Wells sets up shop, Frederick Douglass resolves to launch his own newspaper, The North Star.  “In part Douglass wanted to prove that a black run newspaper could succeed; in part he needed a forum from which to express himself freely, without consulting his former mentors…”(Gates, 386).  All of these shifting circumstances are morphing the social and political landscape in the day of Ida B. Wells. It was in 1889 that “Wells becomes part owner of the black-run Memphis newspaper, The Free Speech and Headlight and continues to write under the pen name Iola” (Ida B. Wells Memorial Foundation).  Wells runs and writes for the paper for three years before an incident occurs that will change not only Wells’ life, but her legacy forever.

        According to the Wells Foundation timeline, on March 9th, 1892, “three friends of Wells—Thomas Moss, Calvin McDowell, and William Steward—were lynched outside of Memphis.  The three men owned and operated a store called the People’s Grocery, a business the competed successfully with a white-owned store nearby.”  These incidents so shock and enrage Wells that she tears off an incendiary indictment, using her newspaper as a platform to strongly denounce the practice of lynching.  She recognizes that Southern people will often say lynching is used as a punishment against black men that rape white women when Wells knows this to be an outright lie. Her first anti-lynching editorial uses such sure and strong language that it sends (probably the same) white mob into frenzy and they burn the news office to the ground.  Ms. Wells is advised to never return to Memphis. A more direct form of censorship do not exist, yet the threat to life and limb do not dissuade Wells from her anti-lynching campaign. The timeline states: “Wells begins to investigate the lynching phenomenon from New York where she writes for the African-American newspaper, the New York Age.  Her findings are complied and published in the fall in a story titled Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases.

Some of the particulars of her findings written in the above book are as follows: 

  1.  That lynching may be claimed to be a punishment for rape, but many white women use the accusation of rape in order to cover up an affair or explain giving birth to a mulatto child.
  2. That though rape is often proffered as the reason for the lynching, any numbers of reasons (or none at all) have been given as sufficient to hang a person.  Wells is fond of using lists and lines up lynching statistics for any given year. Beside the number of those lynched there is a reason given for that particular hanging.  Some of the reasons on record are: no cause, unknown cause, mistaken identity, bad reputation, giving evidence, refusing to give evidence and unpopularity.
  3. That the white press is only making things worse.
  4. That “[t]here is little difference between the Antebellum South and the New South” (47).
  5. That “[t]he white man’s dollar is his god, and to stop this will be to stop outrages in many localities” (50).

        As mentioned earlier, Wells has consequences occur due to her truth-seeking.  Her business is burned to the ground and she cannot return to her adopted hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.  Yet Wells escapes with her life and from new posts up North she continues to write and rally against racism.  She protests the lack of African American participation in the Chicago World’s Fair. She helps found the National Association of Colored Women and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.  In information found in the Ida B. Wells Memorial Foundation timeline, in 1913 Wells “turn[s] her reformist energies towards winning the vote for all African-Americans; particularly women. She forms the first suffrage club for black women in the state of Illinois; the Alpha Suffrage Club.“  In 1931 Wells dies in Chicago, yet her creativity in using the medium of the newspaper as a tool for social reform sets the stage for decades of media pioneers to follow.

        The activism and writing of Wells carries the country well into the Harlem Renaissance which lasted roughly from 1919-1940.  “In particular, the second half of the decade witnessed an outpouring of publications by African Americans that was unprecedented in its variety and scope” (Gates 953).  Harlem, New York appears during these years as the African American artistic capital of the world. Blacks begin to be published by the “establishment” publishers, the housing conditions are better than in the south and there is an explosion in every form of art from the writing of plays to the expansion of jazz, the celebration of dance and the emergence of new cultural and political goals.  We can see Wells’ influence on men of the Renaissance who are eager to own and run their own African American newspapers. From Charles Johnson to Marcus Garvey, the new African fully exercises the power of the pen by disseminating information, collecting stories, poetry and artwork and relishing the power of creating their own propaganda. “Of these, the most important was almost certainly the Crisis, edited by the brilliant scholar…W.E.B. Du Bois…” (Gates, 955).  Du Bois and Wells are connected through the NAACP: Wells helps found the organization and Du Bois launches the Crisis as a mouthpiece for the group.  Just as Wells is forced to migrate northward in order to carry on her work, Du Bois also suffers negative consequences due to using printed media to further his leftist politics.  The repayment for speaking his mind is “his forced retirement from Atlanta University in 1944 and his firing in 1948 by the NAACP from his position as director of special research” (Gates, 688).  Wells’ anti-lynching campaign morphed into Du Bois’ anti-nukes campaign and the U.S. government tries to indict him as a “subversive agent.” Even though the charges do not stick, Du Bois kind of becomes a man alone on a desert island although this isolation does not deter him from speaking his truth.

        There is a link connecting the times and people of the Harlem Renaissance to the age of modern African American journalism and his name is Thomas Fleming.  Mr. Fleming is “the longtime executive editor of Reporter Publishing Company, Northern California’s leading chain of African American newspapers” (Millard).  While the Harlem Renaissance proper is winding down on the east coast Mr. Fleming is gearing up for a life-long vocation in journalism in San Francisco. He is founding editor for the Reporter newspaper and for years writes, on average, three articles a week and in the spirit of Ida B. Wells, he tends to focus on human rights.  Through his work with the newspaper Fleming has the opportunity to meet other men of letters that keep African American progress foremost in the writing of their day.  Martin Luther King Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes and others are the types of prolific movers and shakers that inspire and influence the journalism of Fleming. One of his articles entitled “Marcus Garvey Comes to Harlem” provides historians with a direct link from early twentieth century newspapermen to those of more recent times.  Yet our linking connections from Ida B. Wells to the Harlem Renaissance to Fleming would not be complete without one last backward glance to African American journalism during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s.

        As Fleming is writing in San Francisco, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is writing about his experience as a pastor in the south and how he becomes a vocal advocate for the idea and practice of nonviolent resistance.  Dr. King is influenced by Gandhi and shares his philosophy that “…no individual or group need submit to any wrong, nor need they use violence to right the wrong; there is the way of nonviolent resistance. This is ultimately the way of the strong man” (102).  King brings our story full circle back to Memphis, Tennessee where he, another African American activist and writer, is being “punished” for having the guts to confront social problems in America. As Martin Luther King Jr. is being shot down at the Lorraine Motel in 1968 a newspaperman by the name of Earl Caldwell stands by his side.  Just as Ida B. Wells has been witness to the lynching of her grocery store-owning neighbors, seventy-six years later Caldwell is a journalist witnessing the racial hatred and confusion that continues into the Age of Aquarius.  

        Civil Rights activists and journalists alike know that Caldwell covers the activities of the Black Panther party and is writing his pieces for the New York Times.  According to information found through the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, Caldwell is the center of a mighty struggle between himself as a journalist keeping his sources confidential, and the federal government’s attempts to confiscate Caldwell’s personal notes and research.  The case went all the way to the Supreme Court. As Tiffany Shepard learned in her personal interview with Caldwell during her stint at Hampton University, the Supreme Court ruling “resulted in a landmark First Amendment decision on reporter’s rights to protect confidential sources. ‘The ruling was unanimous.  The court ruled that the First Amendment protected a reporter’s information, notes and confidential sources, ‘said Caldwell, ‘and it protected the reporting process.’” Unlike all of the journalists examined previously in the paper, Earl Caldwell was never run out of town or out of business. It is some relief to see that with the passage of time and America’s tentative steps toward racial equality that Caldwell is still teaching and writing about civil rights.  Bringing media all the way into the digital age, we can see from Earl Caldwell’s’ Facebook page that he “is writer-in-residence at the Robert C. Maynard Institute” mentioned earlier in this piece.  

        A Facebook page is a long way from the days of a small Negro newspaper co-owned by Ida B. Wells in 1889.  By keeping her eyes open and her mind analyzing Wells is able to bring forth the discussion of race and rights and use journalism as a tool to bring these issues to the public.  Wells set the precedent, and set it with such a high bar that her shoes are quite difficult to fill. Yet we see people step forth, people such as W.E.B. Du Bois during the Harlem Renaissance, Thomas Fleming bridging the gap and Earl Caldwell bringing us into the age of Martin Luther King and the Black Panthers during the Civil Rights era and beyond.  Newspapers and in-the-moment journalism keep the world ever-present with the changing and prescient issues of our day. Thanks to Ida B. Wells, the tradition of truth-telling through journalism has been an exciting and often terrifying journey that all Americans are privileged to experience.
Works Cited

Gates, Henry and Nellie McKay.  Introduction. A Red Record. By Ida B. Wells-Barnett.  The Norton Anthology of African American Literature.  W. W. Norton and Company, New York: 676.

King, Martin Luther.  Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story.  Harper and Row Inc. 101-107.

Millard, Max.  “Thomas Fleming, ‘Good Soldier’ of San Francisco’s Black Press, Retires from Sun-Reporter at 89.” Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco.  28 July 1997.  www.sfmuseum.org/sunreporter/fleming.html.

Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. “The Caldwell Journals.” 2000. Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. Web. 23 Mar 2011. 

www.localcommunities.org

Shepard, Tiffany. Interview with Earl Caldwell. National Visionary Leadership Project. 2006.  http://www.visionaryproject.org/caldwellearl.

The Making of African American Identity. “Timeline: 1860-1920.” Volume II: 1865-1917. Jan 2006. National Humanities Center. 15 Mar 2011.

<nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/maai2/index.htm>.

Wells-Barnett, Ida B. Preface. Southern Horrors. By Ida Be. Wells-Barnett. On Lynchings. Humanity Books, New York: 25-6, 47, 50.

Wells, Ida B. (family). Ida B. Wells Memorial Foundation. 22 April 2010. Web. 21 Mar     2010. http://www.idabwells.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article.

 

W.E.B. Du Bois The Souls of Black Folk

Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk

Is the book a coherent whole or a set of disparate essays? Explain.

After examining the themes of each individual chapter of The Souls of Black Folk I feel that instead of the text hanging together as one entire body, it more reflects different viewing points on one particular topic. Obviously, the progress of the African American was the one unifying topic that ran throughout the finished book.   I understand that Mr. Du Bois wrote all of these pieces as essays and was later asked if he would allow his essays to be collected into a book.  I can easily see the differences of mindset between the chapters.

In chapter one Du Bois asks how the race should progress and in what directions now that they have been emancipated?  In chapter two the aim is to understand and criticize the freedman’s bureaus and other emancipation agencies that were formed during that time.  In the same way, Du Bois examines and criticizes Booker T. Washington’s views in chapter three.  Chapter four completely switches gears by discussing the meaning of African American progress.  Skipping ahead to chapter seven, Du Bois writes from a unique amalgam of cartographer and sociologist while discussing the various Cotton Kingdoms in Georgia. Chapter twelve examines a true human character in Alexander Crummel while in the very next chapter Du Bois creates two fictitious peripatetic young men both named John who are forever changed by their color and education.  I would venture to say, and this is only a guess, that the forethought and afterthought, along with the chapter-opening sorrow-songs, were added as a coalescing element to the final form of the book.

Let us look for some type of grouping of these chapter topics.  What we find is some observations, ideas and guidance in the form of chapters 1, 4 and 9.  There are geographical studies in chapters 5 and 7.  There are examinations of those living in chapters 3 and 12.  Du Bois  gives a directive in chapter 6.  There are informative chapters in 8, 10 and 14.  In my opinion the chapters that most fall from form are 11 and 13.  Chapter eleven takes us to an extremely personal space with Du Bois.  In this chapter we witness the birth and death of his child.  The only consolation Du Bois offers is that he feels death for his child would be preferable to his life behind the Veil.  “Better for this nameless void that stops my life than a sea of sorrow for you” (742).  Of the many difficult things Du Bois describes in vivid detail in his novel, “Of the Passing of the Firstborn,” in my opinion, is the most heart-wrenching.

The chapter that seems to fit the least, or makes its most awkward debut in the novel, is chapter 13, “The Coming of John.”  This, one supposes, is a fictional story of two young men, one black one white, both carrying the name of John.  Both go off to school, and upon returning home their lives are changed forever.  White John ends up raping black John’s sister, black John avenges his sister’s honor, killing White John, and in the end John Jones is hung for the murder.  Not only does the chapter stand out as a fictional piece, which does not play the role in any other parts of the novel, it is also a somewhat odd mixture of intellect and pathos that makes no one happy in the end (not that this is the goal).

 

Question two: discuss philosophical differences between Du Bois and Washington

I find the philosophical differences between W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington interesting because these two vantage points give the reader a window into the multi-faceted struggle of the emancipated black race.  Du Bois devotes Chapter Three in The Souls of Black Folk to discussing Washington’s “…programme of industrial education, conciliation of the South, and submission and silence as to civil and political rights…” (699).  As one can easily tell from the variety and depth of Du Bois’ writing, the man was highly educated and won a scholarship to Yale as well as a Ph.D. from the University of Berlin.  Perhaps because he well understood the intellectual levels that could be attained by an African American, he seemed to sneer at Washington because he felt Booker T. had allowed commercialism to kill his fire for higher education.  Further, Du Bois feels that Washington’s “…educational programme was unnecessarily narrow” (700).  Du Bois chafed against the idea that the freedmen should study mostly industrial arts and concentrate on the accumulation of wealth; he felt everyone should be able to acquire the type of education that would take a student as far as their abilities and desires would take him.  Du Bois solidly believed in college and university-level aspirations that were within the grasp of the new aged black man and he disagreed with anyone steering them away from such untapped possibility.

Du Bois also did not find value in Washington’s philosophy of submission to the white race.  In one way, Du Bois felt that this submission “overlooked certain elements of true manhood” (700).  Du Bois also felt that the idea of allowing the white man to believe he was still running the show was an outdated way of handling this new found freedom in America.  Not only that, by working within the former paradigm of one race being submissive to the other, Washington was by default admitting that his own race was inferior.  Naturally, if one believes they are equal to another they will not stand for any form of degradation or prejudice.  Du Bois resides on the other side of the coin by believing that a man who demands respect will earn respect.  This point is very poignant for Du Bois as he says that Booker T. Washington is to be especially criticized for his leniency on the white race.  “His doctrine has tended to make the whites, North and South, shift the burden of the Negro problem to the Negro’s shoulders…” (707) while white America stands back and analyze the scene from afar.  Du Bois did not condone violence but felt the black race must insist on the “rights which the world accords to men… (708).

 

WORK CITED

 

Du Bois, W. E. B. The Souls of Black Folk.  The Norton Anthology of African American       Literature. Henry Gates, Jr. ed. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2004.

The Pulitzer Prize

The Pulitzer Prizes: A History of the Awards in Books, Drama, Music, and Journalism, Based on the Private Files over Six Decades
By
John Hohenberg

1974
Columbia University Press
New York

1: The Grand Scheme 1902-1916
1: The Germ of an Idea
2: “To The Prizes I Am Much Attached”
3: The Will
4: The Board Takes Over
5: The Administration

2: Prizes for a Brave New World 1917-1923
1: The Beginning
2: Warriors and Peacemakers
“There’s lots to talk about and still a bit of sugar in the bottom of the glass.” –Henry Watterson of the Louisville Courier-Journal
“…the New York World set the example with a resolute attack on wrongdoing and that the mainspring of its campaigns was an aggressive and domineering journalist who already had won one Pulitzer Prize, Herbert Bayard Swope” (39).
“All this was preparation for the World’s major crusades after Swope became executive editor in 1920…During the next year, by following the World’s lead, the Memphis Commercial Appeal also won the public service gold medal for an expose of the Klan. What these two prizes did was to recognize and stimulate the investigative function of the press in reporting on the threat to civil liberties that the Klan represented” (40).
Walter Lippmann was editor of the World’s editorial page. Swope saw that with him, it was the story that counted. “He caused the World to cover so many lynchings that the paper acquired a reputation for being pro-Negro at a time when such an attitude was unpopular with advertisers.
“White’s defiance became national news. If labor was enthusiastic, many of the middle-class readers of the Gazette were not. He received numerous protests and, in response to one of them, wrote his classic editorial, ‘To An Anxious Friend,’ which he published on Page 1 on July 27, 1922. He opened with the theme: ‘You say that freedom of utterance is not for time of stress and I reply with the sad truth that only in time of stress is freedom of utterance in danger.’ And he closed with this assurance:
‘So, dear friend, put fear out of your heart. This nation will survive, this state will prosper, the orderly business of life will go forward if only men can speak in whatever way given them to utter what their hearts hold–by voice, by posted card, by letter, of by press. Reason has never failed men. Only force and repression have made wrecks in this world.’
“The governor’s suit against White was dismissed. The strike was settled. And, by recommendation of a jury and the Advisory Board, William Allen White was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing in 1923” (42).
3: The Emergence of Eugene O’Neill
“He signed with a flourish, including his middle initial, G. For Gladstone, which he soon dropped. It was the beginning of a long and profitable relationship between O’Neill and the university, for he was to win two more Pulitzer Prizes in his lifetime and one posthumously for his bitter and tragic evocation of his family’s life, Long Day’s Journey into Night. The Nobel Prize came to him in 1936, eight years after his third Pulitzer Prize, making him the first American dramatist to be honored with such international recognition” (49).
On page 50 there is a key to good writing:
“…the merit of a tense, driving, emotional sincerity, imparting to the spectator–when he withdraws a little from the spell of the tragedy–the sense that the dramatist has been imaginatively at the mercy of his people; not manipulating them so much as being manipulated by them.”
O’Neill “had even acquired his own bootlegger, an sign of prestige in the swinging New York of his middle years” (52).
4: The Novel: Whole or Wholesome?
“The issue posed by Sherman finally broke into the open with the publication of Sinclair Lewis’ Main Street, the most controversial book of 1920, which attacked the mores of Middle America and tore apart the hitherto sacred values of the people of its small towns” (58).
“In retrospect, The Age of Innocence has outlasted the vogue of Main Street. Mrs. Wharton’s book is still recognized as a classic…” (60).
5: History: The Aristocrats
“The swift growth of the American university system may have stimulated the development of the professional, but it was years before he was able to overcome criticism of his tendency toward empty pedantry and dreary prose” (62).
6: Two Poets from Maine
Joseph Pulitzer “had omitted any mention of poetry from his will” (69).
Page 70 discusses the interesting personality differences between the first two poetry winners.
It sounds like I may want to explore the poetry of Millay.

3: Changing Times, Changing Awards 1924-1933
1: Journalism: The Public Interest
2: The Embattled Novelists
3: Drama: Winners and Losers
4: History’s Progressives
5: Poetry: From Frost to MacLeish

4: The Laureates Face the Storm 1934-1942
1: The Press During the New Deal
1941…”Basically, the Supreme Court held that there can be no restriction upon freedom of speech or the press unless there is substantial proof of a ‘clear and present danger’ to the conduct of government” (128).
2: Fiction: The Mid-Victoria Cross
3: Drama: The Battle of Broadway
“W. Somerset Maugham, the British novelist and playwright, joined Mrs. Colum and Professor Phelps on the Pulitzer Drama Jury for the war year of 1942, but they found nothing that pleased them…Maugham added his own estimate: ‘It is with great regret that I have to state my opinion that no play has been produced during the last year that deserves the honour that it is in the power of Columbia University to confer. If, as I understand, the purpose of the Pulitzer Prize is to reward definite achievement, I cannot but think that to confer the prize on a poor play because it is the least poor of a poor lot would be to lessen its value. It would be no encouragement to the art of the drama’” (155-6).
4: History: The Professionals Take Over
5: Poets Pleasant and Unpleasant
“Poetry magazine called [Van Doren] ‘solidly entrenched in the tradition of definite purpose framed in strict patterns….he has never been a slave to a vogue and never having been in fashion will never be out of it’” (167).
6: The Prizes After Twenty-five Years

5: The Prizes in War and Peace 1943-1954
1: The Era of the Reporter
“Of the winners, by all odds the greatest was Ernie Pyle. Ernest Taylor Pyle was just an old-fashioned reporter in the pre-television age. Sometimes, he couldn’t read his own notes and he never did look like much. His baggy, and usually dirty, correspondent’s uniform hung on him like a used potato sack because his was scarcely an Olympian figure; he was small, scrawny, and unashamedly bald. His enunciation was poor, his language worse, for he loved the ‘Goddamned infantry’ and he expressed himself in vigorous and earthy terms that would send a sensitive television vice president into screaming tantrums.
“When Pyle began his wartime service in Europe in 1942 at the age of 42, he was among the oldest of all the correspondents and he was deplorably subject to colds. Never for a moment did he glory in the false and brassy romance of war. He hated war with a convulsive, impassioned hatred. And yet, in World War II, he became the best-loved and most influential of all American war correspondents and he brought the war into the American home with mere words on paper as no one had been able to do it before” (178-9).
“Columbia journalism faculty members of the Correspondence Jury, proposed him for the Pulitzer Prize in Correspondence. When it was announced on May 1, it was greeted with popular acclaim everywhere. For of the five hundred correspondents who were preparing at the time to cover D-Day, Ernie Pyle was No. 1.
“Soon after the first troops landed in Normandy on June 6, he was on the beach with them. On July 25, 1944, when he reported the breakthrough that sent American arms racing into the heart of France, he was under fire and narrowly escaped death. And on August 25, 1944, when he rode into Paris in a jeep with the victorious French and
Americans, he wrote: ‘I had thought that for me there could never again be any elation in war. But I had reckoned without the liberation of Paris…’ After that, he had enough and came home for a rest, but not for long. On April 12, 1945, when he was with the American 77th Division in the Pacific, he learned of President Roosevelt’s death that day. And on tiny Ie Shima six days later, when he hit the bach with the GIs of the 77th, a Japanese sniper got him in the right temple.
“Everywhere on the war fronts, the correspondents mourned him. And in the United States, the outpouring of national grief came from the White House and the humblest homes alike. For the Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Ernie Pyle had shared the trust and the love of a war-beleaguered people and he would not soon be forgotten” (180).
2: The Troublesome Novel
“The emotional, crusading fervor against the enemies of America that bulked so large in the nation’s consciousness during World War II had a predictable impact on the American novel. Not since the Civil War had so many writers of consequence felt it to be their destiny to write about war in fictional form for the benefit of their countrymen, if not entirely for themselves. Perhaps the patriotic spirit was greater in World War I, but it didn’t last as long. In World War II, the ideological commitment of the intellectuals was made years before the Nazis struck at Poland in 1939. Thus, the novelists had a long time to mull over their feelings and the books they produced about the conflict continued to reach the public years after World War II ended” (197).
The 1947 winner was All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren. Warren’s “teaching career began at Southwestern College in Memphis in 1931” (199).
Tales of the South Pacific, 1947, Michener. (Sounds like a fun read.)
3: The Theater Looks Up
4: History–The Broader View
The John Muir story, Son of the Wilderness, by Linnie Marsh Wolfe, in 1946.
5: Poets–Modern and Not So Modern
1950 “recognize Gwendolyn Brooks, the first black person to win a Pulitzer Prize. She received the award for her poetic work, Annie Allen. The report said:
‘Some years ago, Gwendolyn Brooks, a Negro writer of unusual ability, published A Street in Bronzeville, which made a great impression on all its readers and had what is unusual for poetry today–a wide sale. In 1949 she published Annie Allen, a much better book, and indeed, in our opinion, the outstanding volume of the year if you exclude Robert Frost. No other Negro poet has written such poetry of her own race, of her own experiences, subjective and objective, and with no grievance or racial criticism as the purpose of her poetry. It is highly skillful and strong poetry, come out of the heart, but rich with racial experience.’
“Gwendolyn Brooks was born in Topeka in 1917 but grew up in Chicago, attended school there and was graduated from Wilson Jr. College. Her Annie Allen was born out of her own experiences on Chicago’s South Side, from childhood to womanhood, and included characters she knew there. The varied lyrics and ballads in the book, modestly called notes, were developed into a single short narrative called ‘The Anniad.’ Alfred Kreymborg called it ‘not only brilliant but profound in its tragic and tragi-comic implications.’
“Miss Brooks’s ability as a poet had been recognized before she won her Pulitzer, for she was the recipient in her earlier years of two Guggenheim Fellowships and a grant from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Thereafter, in 1969, she became the Poet Laureate of Illinois and a poet of the first rank in America. But she did not stand aside from the struggle of her people when it reached a violent pitch in the 1960s; like the younger black artists, writers, and poets, she became a part of the black revolution. It did not bother her that some of the black activists regarded her new activities with puzzlement in view of her status as a Pulitzer Prize winner.
“‘For me,’ she wrote in 1972, ‘the award had the effect of a doctorate, enabling me to teach in universities and colleges. It has been a ‘open sesame’ to much in this country. It has also–formerly–abashed and puzzled certain young people, who considered it ‘establishmentarian’!”
“In her autobiography, Report from Part One, she thought deeply of her old life style and the changes that time and circumstance had made in it. These were her reflections:
“‘I–who have ‘gone the gamut’ from an almost angry rejection of my dark skin by some of my brainwashed brothers and sisters to a surprised queenhood in the new black sun–am qualified to enter at least the kindergarten of new consciousness now. New consciousness and trudge-toward-progress. I have hopes for myself’” (221-2).
Seek out the works of Marianne Moore.
6: The First Music Prizes
7: The Old Order Passes

6: A Change in Direction for the Prizes 1955-1965
1: The New Board
2: The Press as Leader
“‘One of these days it will be Monday,’ Ralph McGill wrote in the Atlanta Constitution during 1953. And on May 17, 1954, Monday finally came–the Monday that a segregated South had dreaded for so many years, the Monday on which the United States Supreme Court handed down its decision desegregating the schools. McGill was ready for it, but not many others were; certainly, not the schools in the South nor their administrators, not even the bench and bar and the governors of the states that were directly affected.
“The great Georgian sometimes despaired even of his own profession because so few were willing to provide the leadership that this time of peril and change in American society so desperately required. And yet, between 1955 and 1965, no fewer than ten Pulitzer Prizes were granted for distinguished journalism dealing with the nation’s massive racial crisis–one for public service, two for reporting, six for editorial writing, and there was a special citation as well. This was more than all the prizes that had been given between 1917 and 1954 for crusades against the Ku Klux Klan and ruthless lynch law.
“One of the first to stand up against the social pressure to nullify desegregation in the South was Buford Boone, editor of the Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News. When student rioters on February 6, 1956, forced the withdrawal of the first black student at the University of Alabama, Boone rebuked the community in these harsh terms:
‘We have had a breakdown of law and order, and abject surrender to what is expedient rather than a courageous stand for what is right. Yes, there’s peace on the university campus this morning. But what a price has been paid for it!’
“That editorial, ‘What a Price for Peace,’ brought Boone the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing in 1957. What happened in Tuscaloosa, however, was only the beginning of a shameful campaign in some of the finest and loveliest cities of the South. What it finally came down to, in the fall of 1957, was the use of Federal troops by President Eisenhower to restore order in Little Rock, Ark.
“Governor Orval Eugene Faubus of Arkansas had forced the issue by leading the opposition to the enrollment of nine Negro children at Central High School in Little Rock. Early in September, he even called out the National Guard to surround the then empty school on the pretext that violence was threatened. The White Citizens Councils, the lineal descendants of the Ku Klux Klan, were jubilant. But the 85-year-old publisher of the Arkansas Gazette, John Netherland Heiskell, was not. He chose to stand with his editor, Harry S. Ashmore, in a campaign for decency in Little Rock. The issue, as Ashmore saw it in an editorial on September 9, 1957, was basic:
‘Somehow, some time, every Arkansan is going to have to be counted. We are going to have to decide what kind of people we are–whether we obey the law only when we approve of it, or whether we obey it no matter how distasteful we may find it. An this, finally, is the only issue before the people of Arkansas.’
“On a turbulent morning two weeks later, Relman (Pat) Morin of the Associated Press was outside Central High School in a glass-enclosed telephone booth when a shrieking mob forced its first black students to leave their classes. What Morin did in that epic report of September 23 won him the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting, his second Pulitzer award. But even more important, his first-hand description of the riot almost certainly played a part in President Eisenhower’s decision to move Federal troops into Little Rock that day.
“Order was finally restored in the city. But the segregationists turned venomously on the Arkansas Gazette, their main enemy, and cut its revenue by $2 million through advertising and circulation boycotts. Eventually, Ashmore left his post in order to relieve the newspaper of some of the pressure. But before he did so, he and the Gazette shared a rare honor–a double Pulitzer Prize; in 1958, he won the editorial writing award and the paper was given the public service gold medal.
“Throughout the years of turmoil in Dixie, Ralph McGill had been thundering defiance in the columns of the Atlanta Constitution against the violent segregationists. In return, he was threatened. His wife, chronically ill, was abused. Their home was the target for all manner of senseless outrages. But McGill resolutely maintained his position. It wasn’t in him to quit.
“Despite his crusading fervor, Ralph McGill neither looked nor acted like a champion of social reform. He was a generous and kindly man, a lively companion, and an incomparable storyteller. But he was also, for all his days, an inveterate defender of the weak and the helpless. He had been born in Tennessee in 1898, attended Vanderbilt, served in World War I, and begun newspaper work as a sports writer for the Nashville Banner in 1922. It was only when he came to the Atlanta Constitution in 1931 that he lifted his sights beyond the starry-eyed world of sports to the realities of life and experienced the first Ku Klux Klan demonstration against him. Nevertheless, in 1942, he became the Constitution’s editor and its featured columnist.
“Once the Supreme Court ordered the desegregation of the schools, McGill followed the course of events in Dixie with mounting anger–from Tuscaloosa to Little Rock and beyond, from bombings and burnings in Florida, Alabama, and South Carolina to his native Tennessee where a fine new high school at Clinton was destroyed. In mid-October 1958 when he came home, his wife told him that The Temple, home of Atlanta’s largest Jewish congregation, had been ripped apart by a bomb. McGill was appalled and outraged. He went to his typewriter and in twenty minutes produced an editorial, ‘One Church…One School,’ that ran in the Constitution on October 15, 1958. He wrote:
“‘This is a harvest. It is a crop of things sown. It is the harvest of defiance of courts and the encouragement of citizens to defy the law on the part of many Southern politicians.
“‘It is not possible to preach lawlessness and restrict it. When leadership in high places fails to support constituted authority, it opens the gates to all those who wish to take law into their hands. The extremists of the citizens’ councils, the political leaders who in terms violent and inflammatory have repudiated their oaths and stood against due process of law, have helped unloose this flood of hate.’
“The editorial brough Ralph McGill the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing in 1959. Although he was the recognized leader of liberal opinion in the South, it was characteristic of him to say, when he heard the news, ‘I never thought I’d make it.’ Two years later, he was invited to join the Advisory Board on the Pulitzer Prizes.
“The conflict over segregation in Virginia brought Pulitzer Prizes to Mary Lou Werner of the Washington Evening Star for her year-long reporting of the conflict and to Lenoir Chambers, editor of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, for his editorial writing. Miss Werner won in 1959, Chambers in 1960.
“When the focus of the struggle shifted to Mississippi in 1962, with rioters demonstrating against the admission to the University of Mississippi of its first black student, James Meredith, a small-town editor defied both the mob and the State government. The editor, Ira B. Harkey Jr., won the 1963 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing, but with it came a bullet through the front door, the violent opposition of the segregationists, and such pitiless financial pressure that he had to sell his paper, the Pascagoula Chronicle, and leave the South.
“Another small-town publisher in Mississippi, Hazel Brannon Smith, was no less vigorous in her opposition to the White Citizens’ Councils but she managed to ride out the storm that almost destroyed her best property, the Lexington (Miss.) Advertiser. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing in 1964 and the plaudits of her neighbor, Hodding Carter of Greenville, who called her ‘The Fighting Lady.’
“It remained for the Gannett Newspapers to round out the decade following the Supreme Court’s historic decision by combining their efforts to produce a series, ‘The Road to Integration,’ which cited the positive accomplishments that had been achieved even though it did not gloss over the failures. The special citations, awarded to Gannett by recommendation of the Advisory Board in 1964, was the first ever given to any newspaper group.
“If the first decade of the massive American racial crisis did nothing else, it placed a heavy–perhaps too heavy–burden of leadership on the press, a responsibility that even the best and the bravest newspapers were not designed to discharge. But even more difficult times lay ahead, when the flames of burning cities in the latter 1960s threatened to spread all over the land in an outbreak of fierce and intractable civil strife” (240-243).
3: New Novelists, New Arguments
The Reivers, Faulkner “As it happened, 1962 was also the year which saw the publication of William Faulkner’s The Reivers, his last novel and also one of his most appealing. A genial comedy of three Mississippi innocents on a visit to Memphis, it contains a minimum of the rhetoric and moralising which characterized Faulkner’s later writing. The Reivers, is, in fact, a sunny interlude (the last, alas) in the shaping of the vast Yoknapatawpha saga, in which Faulkner for once sounds relaxed, as though he were yarning to a circle of friends in that soft, elliptical drawl of his. The Reivers has been described as ‘a perfect book for that last goodnight,’ and we agree” (259-60).
4: The Drama’s Time of Troubles
“Tennessee Williams’ outspoken play about a Southern plantation family, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, involved the reconstituted Advisory Board in a lively argument in 1955 at the outset of the chairmanship of Joseph Pulitzer Jr. At issue were all the old prejudices against gamey language and displays of immorality on the stage which had animated President Butler and the Board members of his day. To be sure, they had considered themselves more as guardians of the purity of the American novel, and had been relatively liberal within their lights in accepting the more venturesome reports of their drama juries. But they hadn’t come up against anything quite like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof which, even to jaded Broadway critics, was something special in free-wheeling dramaturgy. To quote Jack Gaver of United Press International: ‘There is more and rougher dialogue of a sexual nature–a lot more and a lot rougher–than in any other American play ever produced on Broadway. Much of it is completely unnecessary.’
“That was not the only objection in terms of an older Pulitzer view of the stage as a place of inspiration and uplift. The play itself was the main issue. The self-described ‘cat on a hot tin roof,’ Maggie, a childless wife with an alcoholic husband, is sexually frustrated and worried about a former homosexual incident in her husband’s life. She also is concerned because her father-in-law, ‘Big Daddy,’ a cancer victim although he doesn’t know it, is likely to leave his estate to an older son rather than her husband. In the struggle that ensures, the characters taunt, insult, and lie to each other with Maggie still hoping at the end for pregnancy and fulfillment” (260).
“Pulitzer, the new chairman, had seen Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and thought it worthy of the drama prize. He had little patience with the arguments against its extravagant language and unpleasant sexual themes, but based himself entirely on its effectiveness as a piece of realistic theater. The reconstituted Board, after considerable discussion, went along with him and voted for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. This time, there was no Nicholas Murray Butler to threaten to invoke the veto power of the university Trustees, so Williams won his second drama award. It was the first and last time that the third Pulitzer took the lead in any discussion of the drama prize, although he often expressed his views with vigor and conviction as a member of the Board’s consultative committee on the drama” (261).
“The Advisory Board consists of a very distinguished group of representative Americans whose judgment as non-professional theatergoers has an interest and value of its own. If they are understandably tired of disagreeable plays and want something light, pleasant, and wholesome instead, they are certainly within their rights to choose the latter. But critics have to judge by different standards than their own pleasure–I mean in the ordinary sense of being entertained or cheered. Though, God willing, they don’t take themselves seriously, critics have to take the theater seriously and believe in its importance. Hence, they cannot pass over the painful merely because it is painful, and must think as professional observers in terms of careers, craftsmanship, language, ideas, etc. This is where the conflict is bound, at times, to arise between the Board and the Jurors” (265).
5: The Importance of Biography
6: Poetry and Music: Rewards of Fame

7: The Prizes: Present and Future 1966-1974
1: After Fifty Years
Editors Vermont Connecticut Royster and Virginius Dabney (what names!)
2: Press versus Government
“The publication of the Pentagon Papers was the issue that led to the first direct test of strength between paress and government in modern times–a conflict that had the strongest repercussions in the judging of the Pulitzer Prizes for 1972. Most of the documents, which consisted of forty-seven book-length volumes totaling more than 2.5 million words, had been obtained by the New York Times through the efforts of Neil Sheehan, who had become its Pentagon correspondent after leaving UPI. The top secret project, commissioned in mid-1967 by the then Secretary of Defense, Robert Strange McNamara, was a detailed record of American involvement in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from the end of World War II until May, 1968” (307).
“In the government’s view, further publication would have done immediate and irreparable harm’ to national security.
“It was not until June 30, when the United States Supreme Court rejected the government’s position, that publication was resumed. The high court, in an unsigned ruling, voted 6-3 in favor of the New York Times and the Washington Post, which had begun its own publication of the documents on June 19. It held that ‘any system of prior restraints of expression comes to this court bearing a heavy presumption against its constitutionality,’ that the government had to show justification for such suppression, and that it had failed to do so.
“The Times, alone among the newspapers that had published the Pentagon Papers in whole or in part, entered two exhibits in the judging of the Pulitzer Prizes for 1972. One consisted of more than fifty full-size pages, the text of its nine articles plus supporting materials, which was nominated in the public service category. Another was the basis for the nomination of Neil Sheehan in both the National and International Reporting categories.
“When the Pulitzer Prize Journalism Juries met at Columbia University on March 7-8-9, 1972, the chairmen held a preliminary session, as was customary, to pass on matters of classification. Without the participation of Miss Charlotte Curtis of the New York Times, who headed the Cartooning Jury, the chairmen consolidated the Time’s Pentagon exhibits in the Public Service category. After examining eighty exhibits for two days, the Public Service Jury, under the chairmanship of Stuart Awbrey, editor and publisher of the Hutchinson (Kansas) News, unanimously reached the following verdict on March 9:
“‘A gold medal is recommended for the New York Times and for Neil Sheehan for the remarkable journalistic feat which has come to be known as the Pentagon Papers….It is fortuitous that the Pulitzer Prizes can recognize the accomplishments of both the newspaper an of a persistent, courageous reporter, and thus can reaffirm to the American people that the press continues its devotion to their right to know, a basic bulwark in our democratic society’” (308).
3: Modern Fiction and Its Problems
4: The Tough Theater
5: Historians, Biographers, and Journalists
“In a lighthearted reflection on the downbeat trends of the modern age, James Reston once observed that things were getting a little mixed up in the writing business. ‘The journalists,’ he said, ‘have been winning Pulitzer Prizes for history, and the historians have been winning prizes for journalism, and it has even been suggested occasionally that we [the journalists] have been winning prizes for what was really fiction’ He could have added, as well, that novelists of the first rank were masquerading as reporters by presenting books of non-fiction in fictional guise.
“This blurring of the lines was almost a regular feature of the Pulitzer Prizes in History, Biography, and General Non-Fiction from 1966 on. With a few major exceptions, scholars and statesmen joined the journalists in the development of subjects that were deemed relevant, an academic code word of the period, to the topsy-turvy nature of the times. And the journalists, without so much as a by-your-leave, draped themselves in the trappings of scholarship on occasion and presented consequential biographies and current histories. The Advisory Board became so accustomed to this continual switching of literary chairs that relatively few jury verdicts were overturned, and then only for what seemed to be compelling reasons” (331).
“Perhaps the most excitement of all came to Professor Williams, who had given up hope that his Huey Long would win the prize on the day of the announcement in 1970 and had gone to his doctor’s office to have his ears washed out. When he returned to his office at Louisiana State University, people were shouting and a colleague breathlessly informed him, ‘Your book won the Pulitzer Prize. The News services have been trying to get you.’ There was a deluge of messages and phone calls, but Professor Williams managed somehow to inform his wife, taught part of a night class, then celebrated” (334).
7: Facing the Future
“The Pulitzer Prizes have survived two World Wars, a great Depression, the bitterness of racial conflict, a tragic national schism over the Vietnam War, and the natural tensions between press and government. Many an award has created rejoicing but others have caused both controversy and criticism–all perfectly understandable reactions that are bound to continue. Barring some monstrous catastrophe, therefore, the thousandth winner of a Pulitzer Prize is likely to be selected shortly before the end of this century if the current rate of award-giving continues.
“It is tempting to speculate on the manner in which that symbolic winner will be chosen, and the nature and character of the work that will be rewarded. But, as experience has demonstrated, it is difficult enough to deal with the awards of a current year without trying to peer into the murky dawn of a new century. Juries are unpredictable. And when the Advisory Board meets, none can say what will happen. The one basic certainty is that the strong-minded people who take part in the prize-giving process will maintain their independence, come what may.
“As long as there is genius in America, with workable guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of the press, there will be prizes to encourage and reward it. Given continued strong direction and support, the Pulitzer Prizes assuredly will remain among them” (354).

Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas

Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas

By Rebecca Solnit and Rebecca Snedeker

University of California Press  2013

 

The authors write their own introduction and here it states:

“The problem with these technologies is that though they generally help get you where you’re going, that’s all they do. With a paper map, you take charge; with these other means, you take orders and don’t learn your way around, any more than you learn math by using a calculator. A map shows countless possible routes; a computer-generated itinerary shows one. Using the new navigational aids, you remain dependent, and your trajectory requires obedience to the technology–some GPS devices literally dictate voice commands you are meant to obey. When you navigate with a paper map, tracing your own route rather than having it issued as a line, a list, or a set of commands, you incrementally learn the lay of the land.

“The map becomes obsolete as you become oriented. The map is then no longer on paper in front of you but inside you; many maps are, as you contain knowledge of many kinds of history and community in one place. You no longer need help navigating but can offer it. You become a map, an atlas, a guide, a person who has absorbed maps, or who needs no map intermediaries because you know the place and the many ways to get here from there. You know where you are, which may become an increasingly rare thing in an era of digital intervention.

“As Unfathomable City’s editor-at-large, Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, put it in his Harper’s essay on cartography in the contemporary world, these new technologies of navigation don’t do ‘what maps are best at: providing context. Beyond simply getting us from one appointment to another, old-fashioned maps express what the geographer…Yi-Fu Tuan calls topophilia, our innate love of place, often shaped by sense and by memories.’ Jelly-Schapiro quotes the German scholar Julia Frankenstein, who concludes that ‘the more we rely on technology to find our way, the less we build up our cognitive maps.’ In other words, when you use the old-fashioned technology of paper maps, you build up the even more ancient resources of memory, mind, and spatial imagination–and you do it without monthly payments to a large corporation to gain access, or electricity, or a screen on which to read directions.

“Another aspect of the old maps to consider is beauty: many online maps have a cheerfully ugly aesthetic, one unlikely to provoke the wonder or craving of the handsome maps of yore; and what appears on screens may not inspire contemplation the way an atlas can. People do study the aerial photographs that function as online maps, and digital mapping has valuable roles to play in environmental defense, community mapping, and countermapping–the making of maps as acts of resistance to the powers that be. They have also extended some kinds of access to geographical information. But paper maps offer other strengths and glories–and beauties.

“Curiously, too, though the ephemerality of paper is often noted, there are hosts of maps and atlases half a millennium old; most digital maps are intended to be ephemeral, called up for a particular purpose, their pixels consigned to the past as soon as the use is over. So paper maps can offer beauty; they can also provide an edge on immortality; they never go blank; and the well-made ones are reliable in ways that aren’t always true of digital maps. One stormy summer evening when Jelly-Schapiro and this atlas’s two principal editors wer on a paddleboat on the Mississippi, one of us glanced at our location via smartphone. The device was not programmed to admit the possibility that we were boating rather than driving, so the dot showing where we were remained adamantly onshore. But we knew where we were, and we could’ve found it on a paper map.

“Modern road maps, like online maps, show highways, roads, and streets and generally don’t show cemeteries, bird migrations, histories, economies, ethnic groups, parade routes, and the thousand other things that can be mapped and have been mapped in old atlases and are, to some extent, in Unfathomable City. President Obama’s old map, issued by a gas station or an auto association, likely as not, was made to get you around but not to tell you where you are and who lives there. There are things that cannot be mapped, but much of what moves through and stays put in this world can be. And should be. A great map should stir up wonder and curiosity, prompt revelation, and deepen orientation. It should make the strange familiar and the familiar strange” (5-6).

 

I think this somehow captures the mystery of why I am drawn to maps. My husband and I had been to New Orleans more than once and it was capturing our hearts as one of our favorite cities. On a stormy afternoon we were flitting from store to store and in a bookstore I almost immediately found Unfathomable City and held it tightly to my breast in a statement of ownership. It is a collection of two things I love: maps and essays. I hear Solnit has done the same with San Francisco. I love the thought of seeing one city in dozens of ways and hearing people who actually live there discuss the meaning of the map. Brilliant concept.

From further in the introduction subtitled Lakeside, Riverside, Upriver, downriver, they write,

“(Before Katrina, we had the highest rate of nativity–the percentage of residents living in the same town where they were born–in the United States.)”

“Solnit came back and back again, which we locals call ‘the rubber-band effect’” (9).

Chapter 1: A City in Time

Map: A City in Time: La Nouvelle-Orleans Over 300 Years by Richard Campanella and Shizue Seigel

Essay How New Orleans Happened by Richard Campanella

The authors call Campanella “New Orleans’s preeminent geographer/cartographer. This map was created by Campanella and Shizue Seigel and shows the urbanization of the city from 1722 to 2000 buy using a color code.

“The city was conceived in 1717 by John Law’s Company of the West (later the Company of the Indies), a speculative venture granted a monopoly by the Crown to develop the problematic Louisiana claim with tobacco plantations and other risky projects.

“…designated La Nouvelle-Orleans to flatter Law’s royal patron, the Duc d’Orleans.

“France ceded the colony to Sapin in the 1760s.”

 

Here is a comment on how urban development can separate the haves from the have nots:

“One final criterion sorted spaces for urbanization. Areas closer to risky, noisy, smelly, unsightly, or otherwise offensive nuisances and hazards–flood zones, railroads, canals, dumps, wharves, industry–tended to be developed for lower-income residences and commercial or industrial land uses, while areas farther from such sites attracted higher-end development for a more moneyed crowd. Housing for the city’s poorest residents, usually African American, was such a low priority for developers that other urbanization ‘rules,’ particularly for drainage and accessibility, carried little weight. This left the poor and the disenfranchised to settle in social and geographical isolation in the low-amenity, high-risk back-of-town or along the high-nuisance wharves along the immediate riverfront” (18).

 

Chapter 2: Ebb and Flow

Map called Ebb and Flow: Migrations of the Houma, Erosions of the Coast by Shizue Seigel

Essay called Southward Into the Vanishing Lands by Monique Verdin

“Upriver, the Algonquian speakers identified it as ‘Missi sippi’ (large flowing water).

 

Chapter 3: People Who

Map by Molly Roy which, in a fun way, shows where different types of people live

Essay Here They Come, There They Go by Lolis Eric Elie

“Do not think of a South of railroad tracks and barbecue shacks and others who live at a predictably prescribed remove from us. Do not think of an America of ethnic enclaves and inviolable spaces, of hard immigrated boundaries. Even after you have formed your vision of our borders, do not cling to it, for every division awarits revision, which new history will reverse” (25).

 

Chapter 4: Moves, Remains

A map of Hiding and Seeking the Dead by Molly Roy

Essay called Bodies by Nathaniel Rich

“As a body decomposes, it fills with gases–cadaverine and putrescine–that cause it to bloat.

“…burying their dead in aboveground mausoleums. These are known colloquially as ‘ovens’ because the white stone chambers, heated by the merciless Louisiana sun, bake the corpses” (35).

 

Chapter 5: Stationary Revelations

Intro states:

“If you walk a city, if you love a city, if you put in your miles and years with open heart and mind, the city will reveal itself to you. Maybe it won’t become yours, but you will become its–its chronicler, its pilgrim, its ardent lover, its nonnative son or native daughter or defender. Billy Sothern trod these streets over the years, both defending the most desperate of this city, the people on Death Row, and pushing a baby carriage (and then, later, walking with his daughter) up and down the avenues, to Carnival parades and secret spots. This list of his own treasures is a testament to his conscience and his wanderings and an invitation to everyone, of this city or any city, to count up the stations of their own journeys home, the dusty miracles of the backstreets, and the stories to be told. Where are your treasures and your milestones, what mud is on your shoes, toward what shrines are you traveling on your pilgrimage?

Map by Shizue Seigel called Stationary Revelations: Sites of Contemplation and Delight

Essay On A Strange Island by Billy Sothern

“Who cares that the city is slowly falling into the Gulf of Mexico, that you know that the gunshots you hear at night are not fireworks because they are followed by sirens, that you no longer bother calling the city about the sinkhole that is consuming your street because it is clear that no one will fix it? Such concerns fade when you can sit on your porch and watch the world’s most amazing eheater of people talking, yelling, dancing, and eating, set against our amazing vernacular buildings and among our magnolias, crepe myrtles, swamp lilies, and Louisiana irises. You are part of that theater, and you talk to people as they pass, smell the jasmine and sweet olive in the air, and hear trains and boats from the river. You do not need to leave your porch to find treasures here” (37).

 

Chapter 6: Oil and Water

Map called Oil and Water: Extracting Petroleum, Exterminating Nature by Jakob Rosenzweig

Essay called When They Set the Sea of Fire by Antonia Juhasz

 

Chapter 7: Of Levees and Prisons

Intro

“Most incarcerated city…Louisiana…founded as a place to dump convicts…single largest prison in the United States, the Louisiana State Penitentiary, known as Angola, is situated on the lush land of a plantation of that same name founded by a slave trader.

Map called Of Levees and Prisons: Failures of Containment, Surges of Freedom by Shizue Seigel

Essay Lockdown Louisiana by Lydia Pelot-Hobbs

 

Chapter 8: Civil Rights and Lemon Ice

Map called Civil Rights and Lemon Ice: Three Lives in the Old City by Shizue Seigel

Essay The Presence of the Past by Dana Logsdon and Dawn Logsdon

Mentions an “anarchist geographer” by the name of Elisee Reclus.

 

I didn’t know there was such a thing, but now I want to know more.

 

Chapter 9: Sugar Heaven and Sugar Hell

Map called Sugar Heaven and Sugar Hell: Pleasures and Brutalities of a Commodity by Shizue Seigel

Essay No Sweetness is Light by Shirley Thompson

 

Chapter 10: Bananas!

Map of the same name by Shizue Seigel

Essay Fruits’ Fortunes at the Gate of the Tropics by Joshua Jelly-Schapiro

 

Chapter 11: Hot and Steamy

Map called Hot and Steamy: Selling Seafood, Selling Sex by Molly Roy

Essay Salacious and Crustaceous by Evan Casper-Futterman

“From Southern Decadence to Sissy Bounce, the Fruit Loop to Club Vibe, to Burlesque and Moulin Vieux, New Orleans proudly pushes the boundaries of ‘proper’ sexaul conduct and provides sanctuary (also the name of a lesbian bar) from a nightmarish value system of decency, chastity, and temperance” (84).

 

Chapter 12: The Mississippi is (Not) the Nile

Map called The Mississippi Is (Not) the Nile: Arab New Orleans, Real and Imagined by Shizue Seigel

Essay The Ibis-Headed God of New Orleans by Khaled Hegazzi and Andy Young

 

Chapter 13: The Line-Up

Map: The Line-Up: Live Oak Corridors and Carnival Parade Routes by Shizue Seigel

Essay Sentinels and Celebrants by Eve Abrams

“…the oldest, McDonogh Oak, resides in City Park. McDonogh Oak is more than eight hundred years old, and its girth exceeds 24 feet. The president of the Live Oak Society, Seven Sisters Oak, lives two blocks from Lake Pontchartrain’s North Shore. It’s approximately twelve hundred years old and has a waistline of more than 38 feet” (96).

 

Chapter 14: Repercussions

Map called Repercussions: Rhythm and Resistance Across the Atlantic by Shizue Seigel

Essay It Enriches My Spirit to be Linked to Such a Deep and Far-Reaching Piece of What This Universe Is: A Conversation with Herreast Harrison and Donald Harrison Jr.

Under the subtitle “They walked with this elegant air” Herreast Harrison says

“…some of them were not acutely aware of their own suffering, because they had accepted what was supposed to be the ‘norm.’ You grow up with all this inferiority implanted in you; you never feel like you’re worthy. But I always knew one thing–I can talk! [laughs] That hasn’t been taken away from me. So I can say what I want. And I had to get to the place where I was gonna say it, whether anyone appreciated it or not. So now, at seventy-five, I try to be congnizant of people’s feelings and all of that, but if it’s something I need to say–wow!–you better harness yourself because I’ll put it on trial” (102).

 

Chapter 15: Thirty-Nine Sundays

Map called Thirty-Nine Sundays: Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs Take It to the Streets by Benjamin Pease

Essay (my favorite of the bunch) called Rollin’ Wid It by Joel Dinerstein

Here is the essay in its entirety which I easily found on Joel Dinerstein’s website:

http://www.joeldinerstein.com/archive/2014/12/10/39sundays

The day starts at 10 am at Spring Hill Missionary, a white stucco four-square Uptown Baptist church crowned with an all-watching steeple. Inside, we spread our tropical peach sleeves across the double rows of wooden pews, dark olive alligator shoes sticking out in the aisle. The pastor wears a pink power suit and reads from Corinthians about how Jesus might be anywhere, might even be on today’s second line (so I guess we should watch for him). We’re all mostly bored until one of our own, 72-year-old Sidney “Lil Bruh” Morris, stands up to act as a deacon and brings the message home with quiet dignity, asking the Lord for a good parade and a peaceful day of celebration and we all say Amen.

 

In New Orleans, the second Sunday of each October belongs to the Prince of Wales Social Aid and Pleasure Club and has for a very long time. Founded in 1928 by dockworkers and railroad men, there is some disagreement about the origin of the club name. Most members believed it was named for the love of the club ancestors for J&B scotch (it says “dedicated to the Prince of Wales” on the label) while a few believe it was named for the actual Prince of Wales, a renowned jazz hound who made his first visit that year to the source of the cultural river. Mostly in our 40s and 50s, many Walers are second- and third-generation paraders who recall watching second-lines as kids or remember when clubs sewed their own colorful suits every year. On our day, by police permit and with police escort, all traffic is stopped and cleared out a quarter-mile section at a time as the Prince of Wales and Lady Walers — and more than a thousand second-liners from all around — funk up four miles of bad New Orleans road.

 

After church, we drive over to take the annual club photo on the neutral ground across from Tipitina’s, the famous club and shrine to Professor Longhair on Napoleon and Tchoupitoulas. We line up all in the unity of our finery half-facing the photographer. Standing proud in the year’s colors — peach suits, dark olive accessories — we hold aloft two oval so-called “fans” upon which the club’s lion symbol roars from a field of velvet. Then we move on up the street a quarter-mile to our home base where there’s an hour until we launch ourselves onto the streets.

 

The Rockbottom Lounge is the staging ground for coming out the door, the parade’s kick-off at 1 pm. The core of the current club met here in the 1990s, many of them friends or relatives of Alonzo Landry, the President for most of that decade, while “White Boy Joe” Stern, our most veteran member, was adopted into Landry’s extended family. Here we start getting the spirit, talk to former members, watch mothers dress their kids, take pride in being told by past generations that this year’s peach three-piece with matching dark-olive hat and alligator shoes, has again made the grade: “Y’all look clean, ya look pretty,” the men tell us. We each pin up a long streamer that flows across our torsos and down to our knees, full of bows and ribbons with a nickname on the shoulder-strap. All the while we’re spiking our Sunday-go-to-second-line spirit with Heineken, Seagram’s 7, weed, Grey Goose — don’t forget the wine coolers for Phyllis — except for Miss Betty, a church-going woman soberly surviving with style at 65. Coming out in single file, we each by each hit the threshold, strike a pose and present this year’s model of our selves. It is a serious celebratory matter. As Betty says, “All I know is when I come out I want to look like the baddest motherfucker there is.”

 

We come out rocking Soul-Train style between the ropes held by our prop men and descend onto Tchoupitoulas Street powered by The Stooges brass band: kids first, girls skipping and mugging with their green hats, boys next, a twelve-year-old already with a quick hip-dip and touch of the hat, then the Lady Walers saunter out, cool and low-flowin’, Terina’s star-time smile followed by Phyllis’ slow boogie and Desiree crossdressed in a Prince’s suit working the glory of a threshold till its hers. Then the gents: Noland comes out lean and mean, a cool hustler as if with money to burn, White Boy Joe faces West and side-steps, sporting a matching dark olive bandanna under his olive Stetson, Bruce waves his booty round and round and covers the most ground, switching back through the ropes and up Peniston, Alvin does his gangster strut and runs his hand along his hat brim. Then Lil Bruh comes out holding his fans high and kicks his knees up higher than you’d imagine a 72-year-old man can, the very incarnation of the original “Grand Marshal,” the strutting dancer who led the second-lines back when Black New Orleanians first “made up the parades just for the pleasure of it,” as recalled by jazz legend Sidney Bechet from his childhood.

 

After only two blocks we slow the parade roll to honor the dead. The band downshifts into a dirge in front of the late Jimmy Parker’s house on Annunciation and The Walers fall into a halting step with a syncopated slip: we strut in two lines with a slight diagonal step, shaping the air into chords of ancestor worship. Maybe we pick up his spirit, maybe he’s satisfied we’re all still dancing for him. Once past, the tuba and snare drum pick up the groove and down the block we pick up the Queen and her Court. Elected from outside the club, she rides with her maids and throws a few beads, honorary royal figureheads in the ritual. While waiting, Paul and I buckjump together, his thrashing kicks set off my deep-knee corkscrewing, and the Walers gather around, throw their fans down and get busy with The Stooges. The tuba-man slows his beat and a pride of princesses and their children dance down the steps and ascend a half-sawn off Mardi Gras float with their children. Then the Queen comes down the steps in white taffeta approaching a vehicle that has to be seen to be believed: an open-air bare-bones stagecoach woven of wire and drawn by two stallion-sized white mules. The Queen steps in as if she’s a relief pitcher from Heaven. The driver flicks his switch and she is driven half a block to the awaiting float for a day of regal waves and champagne riding.

 

We set in to serious second-lining through the 12th Ward, a seamless sunny brassy carpet-ride of strolling, drinking, talking, and strutting, tuba-&-drum call and community response, until the parade turns onto Magazine Street and the Walers hit this commercial strip like a holiday: Alvin throws down his fans and we make a circle around him as he zigs back and forth with zip starts and stops, Desiree turns her palms up and damn near limbos, and everyone digs making the rich white folks wait and wonder as they stare from their cars with culture shock-and-awe. Second-lines run four hours over five-mile routes almost entirely through African-American neighborhoods — Treme, Central City, Carrollton — so many locals have never seen one due to residential segregation. Until recently, New Orleans culture was racially coded for locals: white and black Mardi Gras, white Krewes and Black Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs, white touristy second-lines and these black-cultural rolling block parties.

 

The Prince of Wales is a rare Uptown second-line and this ain’t no First Friday: it’s a community getting its collective freak on, working off the weekly tension so at some point everybody is a star (to riff on Sly Stone). The parade belongs as much to the second liners as to the first line: that’s why it’s named for them. As Louis Armstrong testified about his childhood: “The Second Line is a bunch of Guys who follows the parade. They’re not the members of the … Club. Anybody can be a Second Liner, whether they are Raggedy or dressed up. They seemed to have more fun than anybody.” This weekly ritual is named for the celebrants and not the sponsors, and at this point we all swing together onto the broad expanse of Louisiana Avenue and head up to The Sandpiper, a bar whose ’50s neon martini sign is a beacon in the late unholy NOLA night. This is the first scheduled ten-minute stop of the parade: we rest for a drink and momentarily de-compress.

 

Once we re-emerge we’re in the thick of it, between the dancers and the deep heat and the strolling crowd. Sometimes you look up from getting down and don’t even know where you’re at even in your own neighborhood. The music shapes the air, the band torques up our internal gyroscopes, the tuba syncs our bodies together. We’re getting the street into our system and putting our energy into the street. Like any good ritual, second-lines suspend everyday industrial time. And then it’s out LaSalle to Washington and on around to the stop at Charley Wright’s place, and we’re lettin’ the good times roll on, Walers out front.

 

On your club’s parade day, the suit is your club uniform and the band is your motorcade. “Shut that street down… I’m coming through here. That’s what it feel like,” Noland once said, having driven a cab and a truck and run assorted hustles as well as a home-repair business in his fifty-odd years. “You feel like, [there’s] nothing they can do [to stop you]… Eleven months they [we] slave, for one day out of the year.” Miss Betty distills this feeling: “That’s my day. I feel like a star. Everything’s got to stop for me.” On this day, the second-liners bask in refracted glory off our colorful shoulders and bad-ass shoes: our tropical blaze of body and soul lights up the community. “It’s your day, you the one shining,” Betty says.

 

If a city is a circulatory system of its residents’ energy — with streets like arteries and airwaves — then New Orleans is the city as dancing body, a place whose spirit is stomped into existence every Sunday. Every day musicians inhale the city and on Sundays, they exhale it through valves and pistons and put the music on the wind for dancers to make the city’s rhythms visible. There’s a third line, too — the platoon of photographers and tourists who think the main action is the first line when it’s more along the sidewalks, where two people lock eyes and drop into a dance-off full of fluid shimmies, spins, and pelvic pops, where an impromptu drum unit rings time on cowbells and pint bottles, where every surface becomes a platform of celebration — church steps, flatbeds, low rooftops, billboards — and I watch seven young men from the community pace the Prince of Wales single-file each with his own move (leap, hurdle, split, cartwheel) while a few women lean forward on a parked car and booty-pop their pleasure since it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive.

 

“There’s no place like this place,” Stan smiles at me as we swing onto St. Charles and hold up a streetcar, tourists’ eyes popping wide as their camera lenses. The Stooges shift into “Billie Jean” and pump up the volume, honoring the recently deceased Michael Jackson and blowing up the prized quiet real estate with brassy antagonism. “The tourists … be trying to see what’s going on, they taking pictures,” Phyllis says with pride, “but we own the streets that day.” Stan is originally from San Antonio and joined the club post-Katrina for one reason: “It became imperative [for me] to step up because they were trying to take the culture away.” In the immediate aftermath of “the Storm” (as it’s called here), the city doubled the cost of a police permit and spread the lie that violence was endemic to second-lines. The clubs sued to rescind the increase and the Walers’ own Joe Stern testified to the lack of parade violence over a generation. “They don’t help us at all,” Phyllis once said about the city, “if it was up to them, we wouldn’t even be second lining… That’s why we have the [Second-Line] Task Force…because we’re trying to fight for our culture… Any kind of commercial dealing with New Orleans, the first thing you see is a second line. But they don’t support us.”

 

We have looped back around into the Garden District and arrive at our last stop, Commander’s Palace, the city’s #1 restaurant as rated by Zagat’s: this was a prestigious coup engineered by Bruce and Noland and represents very recent attempts by local businesses to embrace local Black culture for its spectacle value. Five feet from the door, Adrian, the youngest Waler, throws her hat to the ground and she dip-bam-double-skips and spins into a quick routine that The Stooges support with sustained, escalating riffs, and Adrian does a stutter-kick, a half-split and then a slight backbend from which she rolls her head back in to place, gives the band an appreciative side-eye, then bends gracefully to pick up her hat and sashays on in. It is her way of claiming this new terrain and honoring its prestige. We swirl into the restaurant, human birds of paradise swooping low past shocked faces in the midst of quiet mid-afternoon lunches. I toss back a gimlet with Alvin and Terina’s goldened smile spurs us back on out to Tchoupitoulas and the wide-open homestretch along the river that takes us home to the Rockbottom.

 

A second-line parade is an annual house party that moves lightly like the feathers on our fans yet inexorably like a tank through the streets. Gotta roll wid it or get the hell on outta the way.

 

Chapter 16: Bass Lines

Intro:

“…whose name–funk–is perhaps derived from its Kongo slaves’ word for ‘strong body odor,’ lufuki…” (116).

Map called Bass Lines: Deep Sounds and Soils by Jakob Rosenzweig

Essay The Floating Cushion by George Porter Jr. on the City’s Low End

Chapter 17: Where Dey At

Map: Where Dey At: Bounce Calls Up A Vanished City by Molly Roy

Essay A Home In Song by Garnette Cadogan

 

Chapter 18: Snakes and Ladders

Map: Snakes and Ladders: What Rose Up, What Fell Down During Hurricane Katrina by Shizue Seigel

Essay Nothing was Foreordained by Rebecca Solnit

 

Chapter 19: St. Claude Avenue

Map: St. Claude Avenue: Loss and Recovery on an Inner-City Artery by Shizue Seigel

Essay The Beginning of This Road by Maurice Carlos Ruffin

 

Chapter 20: Juju and Cuckoo

Map Juju and Cuckoo: Taking Care of Crazy by Shizue Seigel

Essay Holding It Together, Falling Apart by Rebecca Snedeker

Mentions the “King and Queen Emporium International on Bayou Road” as well as “the F&F Botanica and Candle Shop on North Broad” (144).

 

Chapter 21: Lead and Lies

Map Lead and Lies: Mouths Full of Poison by Molly Roy

Essay Charting the Territories of Untruth by Rebecca Solnit

 

Chapter 22: Waterland

Map by the same name by Jakob Rosenzweig

Essay The Cement Lily Pad by Rebecca Snedeker

 

 

Anne Bradstreet: 1612-1672

More educated than most women of the day. When she first came to the new world she was resistant to change. She joined the Boston church feeling it was the way of God. Bodily weak, she still had eight children. Was prone to exploring her conscience. She struggled with supposed truths found in the scriptures; didn’t believe in miracles. Her belief in God came from seeing the world with her own eyes.
She wrote poems to please her father. Her brother-in-law, John Woodbridge, brought with him to London a collection of her poetry and it was printed in 1650. The Tenth Muse was the first published volume of poems written by a resident of the New World and was widely read. The themes she explored were the ages of humankind and the seasons, concern for family and home, and the pleasures of everyday life.

The Prologue
I’m not well-versed enough to write of kings and wars. I do get jealous of not having more talent. I am simple. You cannot fix up my writing–it is irreparable. I will not get better at writing poetry given time. If I do write well they will think I must have stolen it. Yes, men are the best, but give us women credit where credit is due. Your works are awesome, but perhaps when you read mine both of our works could shine more brightly.

In Honor of That High and Mighty Princess Queen Elizabeth of Happy Memory
This poem is an ode: originally, a poem to be sung. In modern use, a lyrical poem, rhymed or unrhymed, typically addressed to some person or thing and usually characterized by lofty feeling, elaborate form, and dignified style.
The Proem [prelude]
Even though you are dead you are still famous. Your glory was so great that everyone could feel it. You’ve had exceptional gifts and sacrifices made in your name: “Mine bleating stands before thy royal hearse.” You did not disdain the poor, so I know you will also listen to me; I still sing your praises.
The Poem
Nothing can compare to your actions. She showed everyone that women can be smart. She showed up the men on many counts; she kicked butt! I literally do not have enough time to tell you all the cool things she did. She was better than Semiramis, better than Tomris. Better than Dido. Better than Cleopatra. Better than Zonobya. What does our Queen’s accomplishments say about the women’s race? You can no longer say we cannot reason. If we are the same in heaven then she will be ruling from a thrown. She is dead now–and there will never be another like her. “Here lies the pride of queens, pattern of kings, So blaze it, Fame, here’s feathers for thy wings.”
Her Epitaph Another

 

To the Memory of My Dear and Ever Honored Father Thomas Dudley Esq. Who Deceased, July 31, 1653, and of His Age 77
I have a duty to lament through verse; he taught me everything. His daughter knows best how to praise him. “Who heard or saw, observed or knew him better? Or who alive than I a greater debtor?” Everyone who knew him could also give him praise. He helped found this land and made it easier for those thereafter. He did not brag because he put worth into the afterlife in heaven. He did not show off–his thoughts and actions were more important. He served us well here and now he is at peace. I will see him again in heaven.
The last section entitled “His Epitaph” sums up the thought in truncated form.

To Her Father with Some Verses
I honor you by being honorable myself–like you taught me. I’ll try to live right in your memory–pay it forward.

Contemplations
Long days; thinking of summer. If there are so many wonders on earth, imagine how awesome God must be. Our world is so wonderful it seems like a heaven. A tall leafy tree; how long have you been growing? You have lived over many years–a reflection on the concept of eternity. What is glory to the Sun? No wonder people made the sun a god; if I hadn’t known better I would have too. The sun bursts upon the land; you wake up every living thing. We all know of the path and power of the sun. You make the seasons. Are you so powerful that we cannot look upon you? Are you so far away we cannot reach or imitate you? Think how powerful a god would have to be to make a sun. I walked alone and began to sing. Nature shows me my God, but I am not worthy. The grasshopper and cricket seem to sing better to the Lord than I. Looking back in time–God can see the farthest back. The fall of Adam. Cain is born and has no idea of his fate. Eve reflects back on a paradise lost and that she gave it all away for knowledge. Both Cain and Abel brought offerings, but Cain’s was rejected. Cain begins to plot against his brother. Abel suspects nothing before being killed. First blood was spilled–much more to come. Cain thought others would help in his quest, but none would. Cain falls into despair, guilt, worry and builds a big wall around his city. The elders hope the best for their young and teach them, but sometimes they go astray. The old ones seemed to accomplish so much yet the younger generation has hardly done anything. We eat, drink, and be merry until our end draws near. The earth rejuvenates itself with every spring, but when man grows old he must lie in a grave. We are born above all creatures but are cursed and cannot return to our innocence. Who will outlive: man or nature? Sitting outside. Nothing keeps the river from moving to its destination. Little streams mix with you, the river. I want to lead my children on their hoped-for path. Fish go wherever they may go in happiness. As I was contemplating fish, a bird began to sing–so I turned more toward hearing and wished for wings. Oh, to be a bird without care. The bird is zen. The birds all sing in the summer mornings then go to warmer places in the winter. Man is the opposite–full of woe and frustration, but no matter how much pain we endure we do not concentrate on there being a heaven. When the sea is smooth the captain thinks he is in charge, but when a storm comes he realizes his boundaries. When life is good you think you live in heaven, but when bad times come you realize you are a mere mortal. Time brings death. Life passes into the forgotten. All except the Lord will pass to dust.

 

The Flesh and the Spirit
In a secret place of crying (?) I heard two sisters discussing the past and the future. Flesh wanted money and looks. Spirit thought of the other world. Flesh asked if spirit could live solely on meditation–how could spirit live without all the worldly pleasures? If you desire it, you can see it. Set up monuments in your name. Have silver, pearls and gold. Take what you want–the world can supply more. Keep what you obtain. Spirit says “Enough!” I will fight you all the way on this. You were born of Adam, but I of God. You flatter, but that does not gain my trust. When I followed your ways my life was miserable! I look for higher things. I spend my time better than you. I value things you cannot see. My robes will one day outshine the sun. There is a description of heaven btw. lines 85-95. Heaven will not take you. I’ll live there and you can have the earth.

The Author to Her Book
What she would say to the second edition of her book:
This book was not strong; it was stolen. They didn’t spruce you up at the printer’s. You should have never been published. I would like to fix you up, but the more I try, the more mistakes I see. I couldn’t even come up with ways to make you better. Tell them you have no father and your mother is so poor that she sent you away.

Before the Birth of One of Her Children
Everything ends. We have joys and sorrow. No bond is strong enough to stave off death. How soon may I die? I hope you live longer than me. Let my faults die with me. Remember my good traits. Protect those who live on with you. If I am gone with you read this, kiss this page and remember me.

To My Dear and Loving Husband
This is a love poem.

A Letter to Her Husband, Absent upon Public Employment
How can you stand to be apart? I have so sun without you. I need your warmth. I’ll take the children to tide me over–for I see you in them. I will welcome you home and I want you to stay so we will be one again.