Thursday, October 28, 2010

Umnak Island, 24 September 1944

Greetings my voluptuous violet…

Enrico Traina, the brainless, bawdy Baudelaire of the 971st Signal Service Company, this afternoon greeted your stolid classmate Al Hesse with the salutation “Voluptuous Character.” Al was reasonably sure that our queer Corsican was misapplying the term and on returning to the hut he woke me to ask the exact definition and the derivation. I said “sensually pleasant” but could not even guess at the derivation. So we looked it up in F&W and found, my voluptuous one: “Belonging to, producing, exciting, or yielding sensuous gratification; 2. Pertaining to the enjoyment of pleasures or luxuries; 3. Having fullness of beautiful form, as a woman.” It comes from the Latin voluptuosus, meaning pleasure. 

Once up and into the dictionary I kept to my feet/seat and heard the Sunday symphony, Toscanini conducting. The program began with P’s Classical Symphony and was climaxed—to misuse a verb—with the Nutcracker Suite. I have come to have a great affection for the Classical with its swift, light clarity and if I don’t hear something by S soon, I may lose an argument to Mrs. Elliott by default. By some quirk of Special Service fate I have heard the Classical five times in by five months up here. To hear of it is to think of that wonderful last Christmas together, a thought which arouses wildly mixed feelings, my ambivalent bivalve.

With a symphony, a few hours sleep, a covey of cups of tea inside me and four long letters from my adorable aardvark to re-read I could feel almost at peace with a warring world. Every letter from you fills me with wonder that I should be so lucky as to find the one person worth finding. How I love you, my nunny.

You are, of course, absolutely right both about the justification of the excess expenditures and the inadvisability in the future of bulldozing anyone into sharing our lives. Any depletion in our cash stockpile I can make up simply by getting back to work with my writing. With Jack going and bad weather setting in, it will be much easier to establish a routine of work, and I have enough ideas for several short stories now. I want to do a slick paper job about Patzcuaro (a story mingling Carmen’s schoolteaching troubles with Fernano’s famous chess game, the story twist being that by lacing the pompous visiting with the carved ivories, he costs the reactionary his dignity and his chance of ousting the teacher.) Then I want to do a New Yorker piece about a drunken soldier. And I am pretty well along in another Adventure yarn, this one about Siberia and the Arctic Ocean. And there is always the novel. Some of these are bound to sell, and so—no money worries. I am ashamed of having bothered you , my sweet sea-robin, and please don’t worry more in the future. 

Howard’s good luck makes me tremendously envious [Howard Daniel worked in the Balkans as part of the United Nations Economic Commission]. Imagine getting back to the Balkans, and taking part in shaping the new Balkans. I can think of nothing more wonderful. And his postwar plans for us, well, as Daisy Mae still says to Abner, “Sigh.”
Getting back to my writing for a moment. Although I have done comparatively little real work in the last few months I think that I have learned a lot from the intense reading I have done.  A lot about writing. Probably  the most important thing has been in regard to pace and the ways of building up a climax. And, somehow, I keep gaining confidence about my ability to handle sometime in the not too distant future a serious novel, probably the “And Shadows Fall” piece. But before I do that I want to do a few more good (i.e., “Change of Station”) short stories and character sketches.

The enforced isolation of this year has already produced in me a contemplativeness which I find rather surprising. While many things irritate me and I am sometimes savagely sarcastic to such well meaning simpletons as Took the Tex and Abe Wyll, the rearguard soldier whom Jack calls “The Boy with the Well Founded Inferiority Complex.” But more often I am at worst ironic, and often as I talk to them I seem to be standing somewhere else, watching the scene. In “Seven Pillars” Lawrence tells of a similar experience which led to his conception of the idea of guerrilla warfare the Arabs could best pursue against the Turks. While my own experience will scarcely have such far reaching repercussions, it gives me a sense of serenity and security against the crowdings and chaffings of our excessively communal life. My hope is that this increasing detachment will make it possible for me to write with more control, to make my kills with a single thrust instead of splattering the target with a tommygun burst.
And now, this being my second letter to you today, I am going to knock off for the nonce, catch a quick sleep, and dream of my strange shallot.
…M

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