Wednesday, December 1, 2010

to Phyllis and Otto Goldschmid, Umnak Island, 23 August 1944


Dear Two…

I can’t remember how long I have owed you this letter. Up here time seems to run in fits and starts, like our record changer. Sometimes it goes very fast and sometimes it does not go at all and there are times when I suspect it is running backward. The seven day week, the routine of the work, the same faces and the same entertainments, day after day after day, make it hard to remember according to ordinary sequence. So I don’t even know if I have written you since changing from the old station at APO 980 a couple of months ago. Anyway I am now at 948 and it is much better. 

The main thing is that I seem to have a little more time to myself. This is partly because our hut has only eight men instead of ten, the number at the old station. And the weather, while not up to Seattle or even a Grays Harbor winter (which it resembles), is better than at the old place. This means that we can be out of the hut some of the time and therefore do not get so sick of looking at each other. 

My main inside avocations remain reading and writing. I wrote a rather bitter short story [“Change of Station”] which is currently moving through the maze of censors which all literary efforts have to thread to get out of Alaska. And I am busy on the Mexican melodramatic novel [Day of the Dead], although my business seems to consist of rewriting the first three chapters timeandagain.

All the nice things you said about “A Job for Joe” were gratefully swallowed and only on the third reading did I admit to myself the possibility of polite exaggeration on your part.
As for my recent reading, it is fantastically varied. Before coming up here I subscribed to about half of the periodicals published in the U.S., and everytime we receive boatmail, I get a huge carton of New York Times, PMs, New Republics, Harpers, Time, New Yorker, Fortune, and miscellaneous periodicals that friends send. The “American Committee for Free Yugoslavia in Seattle, Washington” has been deluging me with brochures and pamphlets about the Balkans, and today they climaxed the assault by sending a first edition of Louis Adamic’s “My Native Land,” a sort of companion piece to our “Grey Lamb Black Falcon.”

I am reading, simultaneously, “Argentina” by John White (a CBS correspondent I knew indirectly while on Pomander Walk), “Harvest” (on which the movie we saw at the Thalia was based), “Men of Mexico” (a book to avoid), and “The Gladiators” by Koestler. Of recent books read I can recommend only Hemingway’s “Green Hills of Africa,” Mark Twain’s “Life on the Mississippi,” and a swell mystery by Raymond Chandler called “The High Window.” 

I suppose it seems silly to you that I write about everything but how we live up here. However I have written so often about episodes here to Rosa that I can never remember when I have told someone else and, though it sounds improbable, I don’t like to repeat myself.

Have I told you about chasing fox across the tundra? Or climbing our local cliffs? Or how the news of the invasion was received at the old post? If not, say so and I’ll try in my next letter.

By the way, if you hear of any good buys in waterfront property please do let Rosa know. We are definitely interested in getting a place on the Sound or the Canal, an island if possible but it is not essential, and if you can fix it up for us it will be just another of the million and one favors we are behind. 

I think Otto would like our library here. It has the most interesting cataloguing system I have ever encountered. I round “Puritan in Babylon,” the story of Coolidge, under Religion; Noel Coward’s “Present Indicative” and Ilka Chase’s “Past Imperfect” side by side on the grammar shelf; “How to Become an Officer” and “The Murderer’s Companion” under Useful Hobbies, and “The Last Time I Saw Paris” under music. There are other such listings, but it is six a.m. and I can’t recall them.

My best to you both. And do write. This is a great place to get letters.  …
Murray

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