Monday, November 8, 2010

Umnak Island, 14 September 1944


Allo my quaint little cabbage…

I think I have just found the tops in curt, concise, complete definitions, and it was in Funk and Wagnell rather than Time. Jack is reading Oscar Wilde, whose witticisms arouse in him an almost Jeanian enthusiasm. He wanted to know when Wilde died so we looked it up in the dictionary and besides the death date (1900) discovered this four word description: “Irish poet, playwright, pervert.”
I fail to hail most of the boy’s bon mots but am currently rather fond of a remark attributed to G. Shaw. “Marriage,” he is said to have said, “is a fine institution; if offers the maximum of temptation along with the maximum of opportunity.”

The last two days I have had a hard time sleeping. Tuesday the trouble was a newcomer in the hut. He is a slight, wiry Swede, and strange, too. He wears a wristwatch on each wrist, carries on an interesting conversation with himself or with the radio (“The hell you say…Well whatta you know, you were right. It is ‘I Walk Alone’”), and carries a brownie camera in a fancy leather case. He woke me up moving in, but even so my first impressions of him were favorable because (a) when I first looked at him he was studying his reflection in a ferrotype plate, and (b) he was bunking beside Gene Elliott just two days before. He reports that Gene is reasonably happy in his new location but that the rifle he has to carry about fits poorly with the exquisite Elliott profile.

After the mulling around that marked his unpacking, I was unable to go back to sleep, so I read. I picked up “Suwannee River,” one of the Rivers of America series. I’ve been carrying it around ever since APO 980, where I got it as a trade for a mystery. It is surprisingly good. The author, a gal botanist, writes with an almost Sanderson smoothness about animals and she is the only person I ever encountered who could handle hillbillie dialect and not make it sound stupid. Her treatment of somewhat the same characters as appear in “Where the Rivers Meet” reinforces my conviction that Ward Dorrance is the world’s worst writer. 

[excerpts from the book follow]

Today I had trouble sleeping too. I caught a quick nap in the morning, but when the fellows came in from lunch I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep. About three I got disgusted, unfolded from bed, dressed, and hiked over to the library. It was a nice walk, and very much what I needed after several days of staying inside. The sun came out for a little while, and the island was as green and glistening as a mallard’s neck.
At the library I took out “Siberia” by Emil Langyel, of Danube repute. I wanted to get a bit of background for an Adventure type short story that “30 Years in the Golden North” has started me on. Langyel, by the way, was in Siberia in the last war—as a Hungarian prisoner of the Russians. I have thought of Mr. Foldi often in the last few days, Nunny, with the communiqués announcing Russia’s arrival on the Czechoslovak border. The tow other books I borrowed were a Graham Greene mystery, “The Confidential Agent,” and a history of Secret Service which looks as though it is a companion volume to Platypus Pratt’s secret and urgent.
The walk back to camp was wet and I was too late for supper, but I had tea and crackers and cheese at the hut, listened to the Tschaikowsky Sixth as played by the Cleveland Symphony and caught three solid hours of slumber before traipsing off to work. 

And now I’m going to take on Morpheus for another two out of three to a decision. I’ll write again tonight. 

You are cherished, my bodacious one…
M

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