Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Selling of Friendly Fire, Part One

In late 1975, Dad asked agent Carl D. Brandt to send manuscripts of Friendly Fire to more than 80 opinion makers. His fear --as he put it--was "that because it deals with Vietnam no one will want to read it.". He was hoping for a blurb or at least some word of mouth.

Among the names on that list are reporters, politicians, intellectuals,  writers, musicians, actors and editorial cartoonists.

 In no particular order they were:

William F Buckley, Jr.
William Fulbright
James Reston
Arthur Schlesinger
Tom Wicker
Marquis Childs
Theodore White
Peter Farb
Dan Rather

John Gardner
Howard K Smith
Anthony Lewis
Evans and Novak
Barbara Jordon
Walter Cronkite

Bella Abzug

Bernstein and Woodward
Samuel Eliot Morrison
James J Kilpatrick
Iowa Gov. Harold Hughes
Frances Fitzgerald
Ben Bradlee
Joan Didion

Hunter Thompson

Clark Moellenoff ( of the Des Moines Register)
Gloria Steinem
I.F. Stone
Norman Podhoretz
Paul Harvey

Truman Capote

Jack Anderson
Shana Alexander
Joe Pultizer
Meg Greenfield
Hodding Carter III
Barbara Howard

Gregory Peck

Director, ACLU
Director, Amnesty International
Daniel Boorstein
Elizabeth Drew
Editor, Atlanta Constitution
William Sloane Coffin

John Kerry, VVAW

Shirley MacLaine
Annie Dillard
The Berrigan Brothers
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr
Tom Hayden
Gary Trudeau
Bernadette Dorn
John Leonard
John Blum
Robert S McNamara

Judy Collins

Arthur Schlesinger
Bill Moyers
Calif Gov Brown
James Michener
Bill Mauldin
Bernadette Dorn
Ramsey Clark
Commander, VFW
Commander, American Legion
Clarence Kelley
Elizbeth Hotzman
Elizabeth Janeway

Richard Nixon

Spiro Agnew

Edward M Kennedy
John V Tunney
Seymour Hersch
David Brinkley
Buckminster Fuller
Jean Jacques Servan- Schreiber
Robert Audrey
Carlos Fuentes
George S McGovern
Hubert H Humphrey
All Presidential Candidates

Dad followed up some of these people with letters, most notably Vonnegut, Capote, Michener and Shirley MacLaine. More on that effort in a later post.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Boat Love, 1986

Illustration by Gary Kelley for New England Monthly

   For the May 1986 issue of New England Monthly, eight writers were asked to write about eight terrific places. Tracy Kidder wrote about The Cape. Geoffrey Wolf wrote about Block Island and Dad wrote about the Connecticut Coast, what little he saw of it from his 23 foot World War 2 era Acadia-powered lifeboat originally called Krenie L. Dad was first drawn to the boat by the sound of its engine's sweeping piston toop!-toop!-toop! Red Norton sold Dad the boat with two bits of advice about that engine: "First, never be pointing at anything expensive when you try (backing this engine). Second, it will never go into reverse when you want it to."

The Godspeed Manatee

   Dad hauled her, scraped her, sanded her, painted her and renamed her Godspeed Manatee "after the lazy, sweet-natured hibiscus munching, bottom-sleeping mammal that has seduced so many sailors before me." The boat was hardly sweet natured. As Dad wrote,  it would always quit on him just across from Jacobs Beach.

The Acadia Engine. 

There I'd be, amid the lazy cries of canvas-deck-chaired mothers, who called to children wading out of reach. There I'd be, priming and cranking, with the rudder beginning to mire in the bottom muck. My hands would blister. My blisters would blister. Wise crackers would wade out to taunt me. Weekend fishermen, crowded into little five-horsepower Johnson outboards, boat bottoms filled with empty beer cans, would call out asking if I wanted a tow.

Charlie Roy and Dad

  My family hated her, got seasick, couldn't tolerated the fumes, would get covered with oil. Only my friend Charlie Roy would go out with me; Charlie was crazy about boats. "All engines ahead," he would sing out as he steered us into the channel. Top speed even with the tide behind us was never more than six knots. Boat owners, hearing us return, would rush panicked to their slips to fend us off as we came thumping, swearing, crunching back to the dock.

The Manatee spent a winter shored up on dry land so engineers could could dredge Guilford's harbor. Her seams never closed as tightly again. Dad spent more time bailing than sailing and eventually sold the boat.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Basking in the Reflection of Genius, 1958

Harold Bloom

     Dad says he was never much of a scholar but in his senior year he was one of 15 Yale University seniors accepted by Harold Bloom for his honors seminar. Bloom, who received a MacArthur Fellowship in 1985, was already a well known scholar of immense insight and intelligence and it is safe to say the big man, "militantly out of shape , with a pale, pasty complexion and heavy, doughy jowls" intimidated every student in his classroom.

     Dad remembered his Bloom honors class in a 1997 contribution to The Yale Alumni Magazine:

      We had started off with Blake, and for two weeks Bloom had spoken to us, lectured us, cajoled us; he kept alluding to "Orc cycles" --something which, evidently, had great significance and which we needed to be well aware of if we were going to have any understanding of Blake at all. I was left with the feeling I had missed a critical class: the one in which he explained what an Orc cycle was. No one else seemed confused, so I didn't dare ask. 

    Finally, at the end of the second week of classes, he and another classmate took a poll and realized not one student had the faintest idea what Bloom has been talking about thus far that year. Dad was elected to break the news to Bloom at the next meeting.

"P-p-professor Bloom," I stammered. " The class has asked me ask you if you might tell us what, exactly, an 'Orc cycle' is." 
      Bloom's fingertips lifted to his face, his nails dug great creases in his jowls; and then like Star War's "Jabba the Hut, " he set about explaining. But even as he was telling us I knew I still didn't understand. That I would never understand!

    So instead, Dad did his senior thesis for Bloom on Wordsworth.

    ...something uninspiring about innocence as a literary device. But then, I had understood Wordsworth: all those lambs, daffodils, clouds, lakes, bridges without an Orc in view. My paper came back with a gentlemanly "C" and in Bloom's precise handwriting, his one simple straightforward declarative sentence: "Your style is frequently barbaric!"