Sunday, December 12, 2010

Umnak Island, 4 August 1944


My Darling…
There is nothing like a trip to the local library to bring one out of a bad mood. Even before you letters—plus one from Bos and another from Tom Boland—arrived this afternoon I was content. The library had come through again.

"Adventures in Contentment"
Today’s literary gems were again found in the unique filing system. You have undoubtedly heard Dad rave rapturously about David Grayson’s pseudo-philosophic “Adventures in Contentment.” I found it today on the “Travel and Adventure” shelf. And “Fish on Friday,” a gentle little apologia for U.S. Catholics, stood cheek to jowl with “Knapsack Hints” and “How to Cook Game” on the Sportsman’s shelf. “The Last Time I Saw Paris” is especially bountiful and put in an appearance on the shelves marked “Fiction,” “Essays and Memoirs,” “Current History,” “Travel,” and “Great Music.”

I took out three books: “Where the Rivers Meet,”  “The High Window,” and “Argentina, Story of a Nation.” The first is about canoeing on the Mississippi, Virginia, and Ohio; the second about the murder of someone, I suppose, as it is a Raymond Chandler (“Farewell My Lovely” and “Lady in the Lake”) mystery; and the third is what it appears. It was written by a CBS correspondent whom I onetime called “John Cook” on the morning round-up and, unfortunately, his wife Mrs. White, was listening in. 

Jack got a letter today with a clipping from the Seattle Times in it. The story told of an ACS man from Fairbanks who rented a place and dived it into the ground just below his sweetheart’s window at the University of Alaska dormitory. Jack had lived with him in Fairbanks and said that while he had been a bit eccentric he had never seemed that screwy. This got conversation going on the old reliable topic of Section Eights. Said I, “I wonder if I couldn’t work up a nice neurosis.” And Jack suggested, “Why not use the ones you have?”

One of the kids here has the most rapid manic-depressive cycle I have ever seen. He ranges from the peak to the bottom four or five times a day, and when he is high he is happier than the drummer at the Village Vanguard. When he is low, Dad’s moments of depression seem as elevated as the Alps.

He is our Southerner, a short, slight, greyfaced, sandyhaired, long-nosed, stubborn, intelligent, bigoted boy of 18. Before the war he worked for Western Union, which accounts for his presence in the ACS. He has been married a year and is terribly in love with his wife, a tall, serious postcard pretty girl who writes him daily telling him not to worry but that she is on the edge of a nervous breakdown.
Today Rebel got three letters from home. After reading the first he was ashen. He read the second and told us all some jokes. He read the third and spoke to no one for the rest of the evening. 

I am extremely sorry for him.

Bos’s letter was a minor masterpiece about life at Fort Lewis, but as you have undoubtedly heard him tell the same stories I won’t repeat them. Enough to say that in his writing Bos maintains the same last moment exuberant irony that marks his verbal accounts of movies. One missing are the gestures.

Tom Boland is “somewhere in Italy” and is “enjoying the unusualness of it all.” He has visited Civitavecchia and has heard from John Young—the tall, dour boy you met at the bus station on my one trip up from Adair. John is with the old outfit somewhere in Missouri. It is very hot and he is equally unhappy and is trying to get into OCS Quartermaster school. Tom says it is very hot in Italy and he is jealous of my climatic opportunities.
Tim Egon, whom you asked about, is a typically intelligent Irishman, gone to drink. He has been siwashed here—barred from the beer in the rec hall—which keeps him sober on the job. But he manages to find alcohol elsewhere enough to keep him either happily drunk or horribly hangoverish the rest of the day. 

The other afternoon Jack and I kept him awake with a bullsession about sea urchins and Steinbeck over our tea. Next morning, when he staggered in from God knows where at 7 a.m., Egon made it a point to wake me up and, sitting on the bed and flipping the knife I had just bought at the PX for eighty sense, talk long and softly and with drunken intelligence, about Saroyan and Sinclair Lewis—their views of small towns and their limitations. It was quite a talk and I enjoyed it. But Egon finally got griped because I wasn’t sore and told me the reason he woke me up was that we had kept him awake. “Shey sshay a mansh home ish hish cashul,” he quoted, “and szshis hish all tha cashul I got.” With that he staggered off to bed and I could have poured the afternoon tea on his navel and not bothered him.

I am sorry to hear what happened to Roger and Tarz. But, as one of the boys remarked about a similar occurrence, “That’s the chance you take."

One thing I forgot about the library listings today. One the shelf for the orientation lectures are books about post-war plans and foreign countries, etc. Among them are Lippmann’s “U.S. Foreign Policy” and Adamic’s “My Native Land.” And between those two, Dos Passos’s “U.S.A.”

M

No comments:

Post a Comment