Thursday, June 7, 2012

Umnak, 12 January 1945

My Coot Charmant…
Trying to get sleep today was similar to attempting slumber in a bowling alley. Two of the boys, Fleek and LaRue, have received their orders to proceed to Seattle for furloughs, and they were not only exuberant but packing. They packed with an enthusiasm which I can understand, but which bothered me as I fought the pad for six hours trying to get a furlough myself via the dream route. And then, just after I gave up and got dressed, they went out.  …
The only other high point of the day was a discussion of writing with Al Hesse. Al’s short story has come back again, returned with phenomenal dispatch by “The American Magazine” I simply haven’t the heart to tell him it hasn’t a chance, so I suggested that he send it to August Leneger, the critic that Bill James had work on his story. I felt that he would get a straight from the shoulder summary of the story’s faults – which include, absence of plot, absence of characterization, banality of approach and complete incomprehensibility—and that if he can keep on writing after being told that, he may develop into a writer. He is such a good-hearted egg that I can’t bring myself to give his brainchild a going over.
However today he said that he had an idea for another story. It was, simply, a GI at a USO show who is embarrassed because a girls singer sings all her songs to him. He almost wants to walk out. But when he gets back to the hut he feels good about it. That is all there is to it. “But what,” I asked, “is the plot and where’s the action?” “Well,” said Al, “I thought I’d write this like the New Yorker. They don’t have plot or action and it ought to be easy to write like they do, don’t you think?” I was honest enough to say I did not think it easy. Then Al, who is as subtle as a sack of cement, said, “I don’t know about that. Being light and gay ought to be easy.”
As for my own writing I am not very pleased with the chapter I enclose, [from Bridge to Russia] which I feel does not move. But since I have been pounding along so steadily it may be that my critical faculties are dull instead of my writing ones. Be sure to make elaborate suggestions about this one in particular so that I can pace it better when I type out the final copy. The two quotations are, of course, for the start of the first and fifth sections. I have found a good one for the Aleuts in “The People” section but not for the Russians. As for “The War” and “The Bering” I have discovered nothing yet.
I did about as little reading as I did sleeping today, getting through only a few chapters in “My Native Land.” One of them contains the complete text of the poem, “Kosovo,” which is an interesting an epic as I have yet encountered. [Here is a link to one translation, and historical background, of this Serbian folk classic:]
The only thing the radio came up with today of any interest was a rebroadcast of that Corwin “This is Radio” broadcast which, I believe, was last heard with Phyllis and Otto, although perhaps it was with the Gene Elliotts. Anyway it is the one with the song “Take a Vacation from the World Situation Blues.” It was good to hear again.
Nunny, I’m too groggy for lack of sleep to feel up to much of a letter today. This one will just have to serve to sort of keep up the franchise. I’ll do better tomorrow.   ….

[Norman Corwin wrote, among other things, an alphabetical listing of satirical verses that he broadcast on CBS Radio.  Here are his entries for “H” and “O,” referenced above.]

"H Stands for Hays Office. What is the Hays Office? The Hays Office is the office that saves you from being corrupted by any and all sin in the cinema. . . . There is a pledge of honor. . . . This oath is usually sung by the novitiate with the assistance of a massed choir. Novit:
"The races must not mingle;
Entendre must be single.
Our fiber will be better
If no girl wears a sweater.
And if a kiss has too much mash,
"O Stands for Ostrich Studio. What is an ostrich studio? An ostrich studio is a studio which believes social problems should never be taken up by movies, and there's nothing like good old entertainment, is there? Refrain:
"Let nothing interfere with your enjoyment.
We'll waltz our way through war and unemployment.
We're specialists in joy
And Girl Meets Boy.
We manufacture syrup
To cheer up
Your blues—
Have you got those
Need -a -vacation -from -the world-situation
0, those blues! . . ."

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