Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Umnak, 28 December 1944



Darling Darling…
Except for not getting a letter from you, or an answer to my Christmas telegram in which I asked you to wire me, this was a very nice day. What do I have to do to get you to write or to wire, little one? I’d like to come down there so that you wouldn’t have to bother, but really, I can’t.
"Future of the Falcon (early version 1), 1947, Gordon Onslow Ford. Weinstein Gallery
I really shouldn’t complain for the mail brought many nice things. There was a package from Mom [Rosa’s mother, Jessie Northcutt]; a book called The Feather Merchants and a box of Almond Roca. There was a stack of Oregonians, two New Republics, and a Harpers. In the letter line there was a nice one from Gordon, which I enclose. [Gordon Onslow-Ford was a Surrealist and Impressionist painter, friend of Andre Bretón and Gertrude Stein. He and his wife Jacqueline lived in Patzcuaro at the same time as Murray and Rosa in 1941: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Onslow_Ford]  But the high spot was the arrival of one of Bill’s [Bill Fett] Mexican watercolors, “The Blue Flower,” a really beautiful job. I’m still trying to figure out where to hang it. The painting reminds me a great deal of the New Year’s one he painted at the Patzcuaro Shangri-La. I so wish we could see it together, little darling, but it makes me feel close, just being kin to those we have on the houseboat walls.

Mexican watercolor, Bill Fett, c. 1944
And tonight, instead of the rather weak symphony we usually have in the middle of the week, there was Toscanini conducting Beethoven’s First and Eighth. To make matters perfect, there was some trouble in the operating room and the maintenance man who usually butts in on Brahms to tell me that there is going to be liver for lunch or Friday was off at work. I don’t remember being impressed by the first before, but today I found it wonderful, especially the third movement. 

Later there was a good comedy program on the radio, the first that I can remember in a very long time. It was a shortwave special for the services, and Danny Kaye did a one-man satire on soap opera …I laughed until I cried. No one else thought it very good, though.    …

I did not get in quite as much writing today as usual. I’m on KP this week, and since it is the midnight dish trick, I work alone. It takes a bit more time than usual. But I did finish a draft of the first three pages in “The Sea” section. I think this part will be of special interest to you. It branches off into a history of the Pribilof Group and a review of the big Bering Sea diplomatic controversy which at one time threatened to involve us in war with Britain. I find the material fascinating. (You’re fascinating, too.)
Did I tell you, in my rehash of the mess here Christmas Eve, that Art Wyle, our GI character with the sailor stride, was roaming around glassy-eyed assuring everyone he was Linda Darnell? 

The radio just announced there is fighting going on on an island in the Danube within the Budapest city limits. It makes the idea of a bull in a china shop seem socially meretricious.

After today three months, three weeks, three days,
M

from Phyllis Goldschmid, December 26, 1944








My mom took this picture of Phyllis (Gallup) Goldschmid, her dearest friend.









26 December 1944
Dear Murray,
The temperature is between 30° and 40° and we are out of oil and there is a bit of snow on the ground so I feel that the time is at last propitious to write to you. We have enjoyed your letters so much that we have felt that an ordinary note would not be a proper answer, but with this physical conditions in which I am typing to keep my blue fingers from becoming completely stiff…we feel very close to you and will try to write you a letter. Part of our delay too has been due to the fact that I have been caught in some divinity fudge for the last week and have hardly been able to get away. Every time I touch this sticky mass to coax it into some form it reaches out and grabs me so that it is difficult to free myself. Perhaps you should send a request for the stuff so that I can bottle it and sent it you and you can pour it out on some iceberg and let it harden.
We tried to call Rosa yesterday when we were in Seattle, but not one, as we had feared, was at home. We are trying to get her to Shelton for New Years, but we are not sure yet whether she may come. We wish you could prevail on her to move down to Shelton. It’s so much nicer than Seattle and we would enjoy her so much. …
We received an impressive card from Mr. Luce which we at first thought was his gracious way of telling us that our renewal to Time had been accepted. On further examination, however, we learned that it was a subscription to Fortune from our esteemed friend in Alaska. Otto was so impressed that he wanted to order the Journal of the American Chemical Society for you …. We were both of course delighted….
Manuel would indeed make a good hero for a book. He has no doubt written that his wife is coming to San Fran and that he is to open a shop for Gump’s at Carmel in conjunction with the Lanz dress shop. At the time of our visit with him he was a little disturbed at the attitude of the Lanz management toward him, as a Mexican, but we hope they got over it. No doubt you have also heard of the involved pottery situation which we attempted to explain to Rosa although neither Otto nor Phyllis could agree on the details for we had a slight difficulty understanding everything he said, and he was so nice we didn’t like to make it difficult for him to explain. We hope that everything turned out well though.
I don’t know whether we have written to you since the nice Mexican, Miguel Arce, visited in Shelton as a chemist from the rayon plant in Mexico. He was very charming and nice, but quite different in many respects from Carmen and Manuel in that he was about thirty years behind the times in his political philosophy. His family had apparently lost part of their land in the revolution and while he was eager for Mexican development he had a very paternalistic attitude toward the Indians. Otto found him much more like a European than almost anyone he had met on this continent.
Visiting her at the same time was a wonderful Frenchman who is the South American representative for Rayonier. He had been a French liaison officer with the British Army before Dunkirk and told marvelous stories of his experiences. As a point of great pride he pointed out that it had been the French Army which had made the evacuation possible. He was very much impressed by the British officers’ habit of maintaining full dress dinners during the entire retreat.
We may also not have written to your about our nice vacation to Berkeley to see Helen and Fred and their two nice children. Otto spent a lot of time at the University and came home and made some DDT. From what I can understand it is not difficult to make, but due to the war uses of Freon and the stuff that DDT is generally suspended in, he had to use ether. It is certainly effective, but Otto made just a bit…enough to line a glass and spent days catching mosquitoes in the glass to then watch them become paralyzed and die. From this example I am convinced that it is not a very efficient method to catch insects.
I have been reading one of your books … one of the best I have read since War and Peace… Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. I won’t rest until Otto takes me to Yugoslavia… it sounds marvelous and she writes so well with just the right mixture of ideas and activity in her material and structure and charm in her style. Otto has given me a book, Mr. Tompkins in Wonderland, written by a theoretical physicist, Ganow, in the hope that I may learn something about science. The book is dedicated to Lewis Carroll and follows somewhat in his patter with Alice and the writer is obviously trying to make quantum theory and the theory of relativity as simple as possible for people like me. The pictures are very pretty though.
Tonight James Thurber’s “Private Life of Walter Mitty” was done on the “This is My Best” show…I hope you heard it. Last week Corwin’s “The Plot to Get Santa Claus” was done on the same program with Orson Welles as Nero….
…..
Yours,
Otto and Phyllis

Umnak, 23 December 1944

My sweet slumber bunny…

It is four o’clock Saturday morning. I am just back from a long walk in the dark. The night is very clear. A half-moon went down behind the mountain while I was walking, and the stars came out with a Danube brightness. The Bering is black and mysterious, and the outline of the hills so intense they seem to give off black light. Just as a I started back a very thin light snow began to fall from the cloudless sky. It is still falling and somehow it reminds me of our seagull at the Heranger bar. I am very lonesome but somehow very near to you tonight. Your alarm is probably going off now.
I had one disappointment during the day (besides the war news, which I won’t discuss). One of the local lads who was sweating out transportation for his furlough had promised to take you the be-booted nightgown which that sad Sterns outfit misshipped to me here instead of to you. But his plane call came suddenly and he did not remember to take it. So now I know you won’t get it for Christmas. We can’t send Christmas wires. So I can’t even greet you, my sweet. I hope you got the other present from Rusek’s in time. Or the novel.
My writing on the new opus [Bridge to Russia]is progressing much faster than I had expected. Ted Godfrey, who read the first part today, claims to find it interesting and while I do not trust his candor I am pleased. I am enclosing the preliminary drafts of some more of the section on “The Land.” Give me the comments as soon as possible. And incidentally, send up my copy of Howard Handlemann’s Bridge to Victory, which I can use now. I think if you mark it book you can sent if first class mail quite cheaply and the first class mail usually comes air mail.

I had a letter from Tom Boland of Camp Adair today. He is still somewhere in Italy and says he envies me the security of the Aleutians. I’ll send along the letter as soon as I’ve answered it, but there is one quote I liked well enough to copy: 

“I walked down one of the streets of Florence and came upon the Duomo or chief church…Quite breathtaking the first time. I was drinking in the beauty of the church and the Italian atmosphere when one of our sound trucks rumbled into the center of the plaza and started to play Poinciana by Benny Goodman’s band."

Incidentally, he had gone to Florence to see Katherine Cornell and Brian Aherne give “The Barretts of Wimpole Street.”

Which reminds me that I forgot to tell you about our last movie. I wouldn’t bother, except that it was good. It was a British horror story, released the Paramount, and why they let it out I’ll never know because it again shows just how much Hollywood hasn’t learned. The story is in the Frankenstein-Dr. Jekyll tradition. A pair of scientists get an idea of a way to achieve eternal youth, the only difficulty being that it involves an operation which usually results in the death of the cooperating party. Instead of the usual hocus-pocus of laboratory and repeated quick changes, the director lets the horror be built up by the always impending threat of a change. Everything is understated. Which makes the sudden aging of the protagonist, when it does come, all the more horrible. Also, there is the very unHollywood touch that when the girl sees him at ninety she is still in love with him and does not bug her eyes, heave her breasts adroitly and get out half a lurch ahead of an octogenarian rapist. The title, in case it comes to Seattle when you have an hour and a half free, is “The Man on Half-Moon Street.”

I’ll write again tomorrow, my lovely. Now I get back to work on the new book. You are adored, always and always.
 M

Umnak Island, 19 December 1944

My Cherubic Chipmunk …
I am enclosing a carbon of a first draft of a part of a chapter on a possible book on the Aleutians [published in 1946 as Bridge to Russia]. The material is mostly gleaned from “The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes” written by Robert F. Griggs for the National Geographic Society. Let me know what you think of it, hasta pronto.

The general idea that I have now is for a highly popularized account of the life and the land up here. It could be divided into five sections: the land, the sea, the men, the animals, the war. Each section would be a series of sketches, more or less like the one enclosed. This would leave the way open for a more ambitious project if the Guggenheim people get generous.

The next sketch will be on Bogoslof, the disappearing island.

Today brought more mail, including one for me. It was from Bill Fett, who seems to have found a home on Orcas. He wrote on pink paper, had parenthetical statements enclosed within parenthetical statements and left me with a feeling of considerable confusion. Also anticipation, for he says he is sending up something called “The Blue Flower” to me. He mentioned it in a postscript and seemed to think he had described it earlier in the letter, but I’m damned if I can find any mention of it, at least by that name. He is un poco raro, all right. I’d like to hear from you sometime, too.

I have just finished reading “This Simian World” by Clarence Day, who I am told had a rather interesting life with his father. It is his first book and is dedicated to the rather obvious thesis that we are what we are because we descended from monkeys rather than from other animals. In the forepart of the book he imagines the world if men had descended from other types of animals, and why other types failed to gain mastery. Parts of it are charming  ....

And this is the quotation from the title page:
“How I hate the man who talks about ‘brute creation’ with an ugly emphasis on brute…as for me, I am proud of my close kinship with other animals. I take a jealous pride in my simian ancestry. I like to think that I was once a magnificent hairy fellow living in the trees, and that my frame has come down through geological time via sea jelly and worms and amphioxus, fish, dinosaurs, and apes. Who would exchange these for the pallid couple in the Garden of Eden.”   -- W.N.P. Barbellion
The news is on now, and the announcer has just told of “massive air blows” at Ulm and Bratislava [both Danube River towns that Rosa and Murray visited by kayak on their honeymoon in 1939]. I am very lonely and I need you very much….
M

Umnak Island, 9 December 1944

Hello Rumpus the Rabbit…
Today’s long-awaited mail delivery brought a nice letter from Myrtle [James] and a P-I clipping from my busy sweet. Myrtle, with myriad ejaculations reminiscent of Father Divine, told about the trip to the San Juans, and I expect a full report from you, sooner or later.
And do tell me more about your newspaper and picture work, little lover, for you must remember that you are the one now fully in the professional swim, and I want to know how we are getting along, stroke by stroke, as in the Aberdeen nator narrative that made me so envious. Yesterday I wrangled from one of our soon to depart comrades a copy of Shakespeare he had intended to read in enforced isolation. The first sonnet I tried expressed how I feel about my careerwoman’s frantic pleasures:

As a decrepit father takes delight
To see his active child do deeds of youth,
So I, made lame by fortune’s dearest spite,
Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth;
For whatever beauty, birth, or wealth, or wit,
Or any of these all, or all, or more,
Entitled in thy parts do crowned set,
I make my love engrafted to this store:
So then I am not lame, poor, nor despis’d,
Whilst that this shadow dost such substance give,
That I in thy abundance am suffic’d
And by a part of all thy glory live.
Look, what is best, that best I wish in thee;
This wish I have; then ten times happy me!

Going from the sublime to the Day of the Dead, I must report that the book is only one page longer today than yesterday. That page was done five times last night before giving up. In a few minutes I will tackle it again. But in the meantime, a report on a bull session.

After knocking off writing last night, I had a long talk with Tookie the Texan. I have told you before that he is a strange, moody youngster, intelligent, introspective and uneducated. His is always locked in dubious battle with melancholia, and consequently as unpredictable in his moods as the Aleutian weather. Last night, for the first time, I learned a lot of his story.

He is the youngest  of seven children, all but two of them boys. His family life was out of the ordinary. His father was a trapper in Louisiana, a skilled mechanic in the Texas oil fields. Tookie knows nothing about his paternal grandparents. His mother, from a conventionally poor, conventionally genteel family, was a school teacher. She was thirty when she met her man, and after a quick courtship married him. In the next ten years she had seven children and other disillusionment. For as Tookie puts it, “Daddy could earn money, but he was just damn no good, just a damn no-good.”

Daddy, it seems had a penchant for traipsing off with trollops. Whenever he met a particularly pleasing whore he went off to live with her awhile. He made good money. At one time, trapping muskrat, he was averaging a sturdy hundred dollars a day. But the family got little of it. In fact at the very period that the furs were flying thickest for Daddy, Mother had sold all the goods her family had given her, spent all the money in the bank, mortgaged what was left of the property and had to deposit four of Tookie’s brothers in an orphanage.

One of Tookie’s early memories is of his father threatening his mother with a knife. She had refused to give him a divorce so that he could legitimize a relationship that was strictly commercial. This incident ended with Daddy being beaten up by his two oldest sons and thrown on the lawn, along with his belongings. But he came back a few months later, temporarily reformed but unrepentant, and few months after that proudly told his wife of the birth of a bastard.

Tookie says, “There is only one thing I respect my Daddy for. He never was ashamed. When he was living with a whore, he told everyone, and if they didn’t like it, it wasn’t all he told them. And he was very polite. He came in the house one day with blood all over him. It wasn’t his blood. He said to Mother, ‘Really I am very sorry to bring blood into our house. I will try to see that it does not happen again.’”

You can, of course, hear the Oedipus overtones in all of this. But they are not as loud as might be imagined. For out of this strange family relationship came a kid with as nasty an attitude toward conventions as anything spawned outside of Sydney [reference is to Howard Daniel, from Sydney, Australia]. The only thing lacking to make Tookie a really interesting person is some sort of an education. I have been trying to interest him in reading, but early in the game I offended him regarding books and he stubbornly steers clear of any and all suggestions.

But his independence is wonderful and he has a definite personal integrity. Consequently he has the weirdest assortment of friends of any man here. I envy him his collection, although, I must admit, I detest most of them. There is Johannsen, the anti-Semitic Norwegian; Tookie is the only man who even speaks to him. Then there is Hoopes, our only stripe-conscious non-com, whom most shun but Tooke defends. I must include myself, for certainly my circle of popularity is limited. And now that everyone in the place is disgusted with the frenetic Pole, Tookie defends him, too.

He gives the local Babbitry a bad time, from Leedom down, for he barefacedly defends things he detests and relishes in their agreement. The worse the show, the more he praises it and the more he enjoys agreement. Our amiable Alvin [Al Hesse] he gives a particularly bad time, drawing him from agreement to agreement until Al finally realizes his leg has been pulled and disagrees on principal, only to find that he really is disagreeing with something he believes. I might mention that Martin was Tookie’s first friend here. Also, Tookie hates Texas.
Less than four and a half months now, Nunny,
M

Umnak Island, 8 December 1944

Hello My Wonderful Widget…
You are extremely loved, my pretty Piltzer. I am especially aware of what you mean to me because of the mail situation. A lot of the fellows have been getting wires and letters reporting that they have not been heard from in weeks. And today a rumor was rampant that there has been a long delay enroute in the letters written during the last couple of weeks. Since your letters mean everything to me up here, I work under the assumption that mine help you along down there and I am sad that you should have the worries that a long delay in deliveries brings. I hope you remembered that I promised to wire any time that circumstances should prevent my writing to you for three days. I am going to wire anyway tonight, to prevent you from worrying too much.

Ted got a letter from his wife today which advanced a hundred terrible theories about why she was not hearing from him. They ranged from absence of affection to the complete disappearance of this entire island in a volcanic eruption. And I remember the strange explanations I used to devise to account for missing mail at 980.
Other than the mail business there is nothing to report which is at all new. I am really sweating over the last chapter of the masterpiece [Day of the Dead]. It comes tough. As it stands now the novel seems to have the faults and virtues of my short stories—rather good background, continued action and plenty of verbs, but sketchy characterization and uncertain motivation. No matter what Ann [Ann Elmo, Murray’s agent] thinks of it when she sees it, it will have been worthwhile for I have learned a lot. And it is distinctly better than “Thunder” [“Thunder Down Under,” an unpublished murder mystery Murray wrote with his Australian friend Howard Daniel]. But, Mona, how I look forward to some factual writing after flailing around with the fiction.

Because of the pounding away on the book, I haven’t been doing as much reading the last week as I have averaged. I’m now going through some of Thomas Mann’s short stories—which, dammit, I still don’t see as great—and Steven’ Paul Bunyan stories [James Stevens], which are also disappointing. The main trouble with the Bunyan tales is that they are told with a rather conscious literary pretension and consequently lose virtually all the logging camp flavor that a more simple approach would have brought.

There is also a touch of literature in a new radio program we get over the local station these days. It comes on at 11:15 p.m. and is called “Words and Music” (which was the title of Corwin’s first show). The format is organ music intermixed with mood poems read by Hollywood starts. The music is really bad—an organ played to sound dreamy and consequently a piece that sounds nothing like the composer intended. But the poetry is quite good and the reading of it even better. Strangely, Merle Oberon was the best so far. She read Housman and Wordsworth with the quiet restraint of Chamberlain announcing the start of the war. Ingrid Bergman’s readings indicated how much her acting ability is visual, for they had little impact. Except her final selection. She read a translation of the Norwegian national anthem, a magnificent, ringing performance.
"Sunshine!": Cartoon by Oliver Pedigo

Our weather remains much milder than I had imagined an Aleutian winter, but the veterans say that things do not get really rough until January. The pattern now is a fair period followed by a cold snap, then snow which lasts a day or two, then a Chinook and several days of muck, then cold and much skidding over the icy ground and then fair weather again. But when I speak of a pattern it is like trying to talk of the meaning of a Surrealist picture—everyone has his own idea, if any. Tooke the Texan, for example, insists that we have only had a good day in the last two months, while I claim we have only had a couple of really bad ones. Above all else, the weather remains unpredictable. As I write the wind is blowing hard and the room is getting cold. But when I walk around the building to drop this in the mail box a few minutes from now, the day may be beautiful.
….
M


Umnak Island, 16 November 1944


My Nunny…
We had another movie in the rec hut last night: “Saratoga Trunk” with our Ingrid and Gary Cooper. You have to see it, of course, but it is really too bad to give her parts like that—the illegitimate daughter of a New Orleans creole who comes back to the old home town from Paris bent on humiliating her legitimate half-sister and, after doing it, falls in love with a Texan whom she spurns because he is not rich but finally marries after he gets a million. You’ve seen it all before with Ida Lupino, Luise Rainer and Bette Davis, and the idea seemed to be to show that Bergman could do anything they could and be healthier looking too. 

She did, too. The trouble was that with Gary Cooper in there it was like having a relay team with Jesse Owens running leadoff and Sidney Greenstreet second. Every time the camera shifted from Bergman to Cooper it was like going from Steinbeck to Kathleen Norris. And for a long time it disobeyed what George Jean Nathan says is the primary requirement for a movie: it should move.

In emphasis on realism and accurate background recent movies often run into trouble keeping the camera on the characters. There are times, of course, when the off-scene shot can point out the meaning of the whole show. But when the meaning is an obvious as it is in this one, or when as is more often the case there is no meaning at all, this extracurricular camera work simply serves to stretch an 80 minute movie into a two-hour epic.

One thing I have noticed about the audience reaction here. While the pattern of the regulation war picture (hero does not know what he is fighting for, sees someone killed, realizes war aims, then either dies or loses limb) is recognized  and laughed at as a stereotype, the boy meets girl, l.g., g.g, theme never raises any protest. On the other hand any strong variation in characterization often offends a large section of the audience. “People just don’t act like that.”

Bergman plays the part of a manic-depressive, a girl who spun from hysterical depression to calculated animation in her chase for a millionaire. Those who did not like the show objected that this was unnatural behavior or, granting that such aberrations were possible argued that “You don’t go to a movie to see nuts.”
One other rather strange thing was that several of the fellows commented about Bergman’s aristocratic manners, when actually she was doing a magnificent job of showing the overstrained grace of the adventuress…One screamed comment when Bergman first appeared on the screen: “Voted the woman we’d most like to commit adultery with.” 

About the USO show. I haven’t seen it, but yesterday when I came into the operations hut after dinner, I almost trampled a tall, nice-looking, unbeautiful girl who was sending a telegram. Another girl was in the hut watching the machinery in action. It was strange the effect of seeing women: one of the fellows’ hands shook so much he could not punch the teletype keys. Another later had to repeat a wireless message he was punching, at least that is what everyone now claims. My own reaction was one of uncomprehending acceptance followed by a strong desire to say something to them. (I did: I censored the wire and asked the sender something about the address.) and then a profound depression at being away from you. Every nice thing I see makes me miss you more. 

And every nice letter I get. There were two from you yesterday and they were surpassing sweet. The idea of you and Haj combining in the retraining of a spoiled dog appeals particularly. Haj, I suppose, gives instruction in all the things a spoiled dog must not do, like sleeping on the chenille spread, eating the windowsill, or proudly paddling into the lake after ducks. 

Yesterday I wrote to Phyllis and Otto, Jack Martin (from whom I had a first letter yesterday) and Howard Daniel. So while I did not get much done on the Day of the Dead, I feel very virtuous. Now I only owe letters to the Wirsigs, Howard Lewis, Vic [Murray’s half-brother, Victor Morgan, was a naval chaplain in the South Pacific], Bill and Carmen [Fett], Pederson, and Bill James. Oh yes, I also wrote Harri, who subscribed to the Portland Oregonian pony edition for me. 

The election results in your letter of the 10th were interesting and have been studied by most of the Washingtonians, but be sure to send up a clipping with the final count as those were for only about half the precincts.
M

Umnak Island, 13 November 1944


My little stalk of celery…
First, three requests:
a.     Send me a picture of myself as soon as possible. The Guggenheim people ask that a small, recent picture be sent with the request and I cannot trust local talent to make me look enough unlike myself.

b.      Please please please tell me whether you shipped up the Belgrade hat. That stuff Craig taught us about the wind is all too true and if my super earwarmer is not en route I will try to buy something up here. Please answer this right away and mail the letter the same day.

c.       Do you want me to put in that subscription for Otto and Phyllis or have you something else in mind for them for Christmas.  And have you found out yet whether kleine Goldschmids are on the way?

That covers the action part of the letter and now for whatever information there may be.

I am currently in the process of changing shifts, going from the graveyard trick, my favorite, to the swing shift which nobody likes. As this is a middle of the month change I don’t know if I will be going back to the old nocturnal regime in December or January.
On this shift I drew the “long break,” being off from 8 a.m. on Sunday morning until 4 p.m. today, Monday. I did not make very full use of my time. Sunday I stayed up and went to the library with Durtschi, a newcomer from Idaho with whom I have recently skirmished in several mild political bull sessions. He is a tall farmerish kid from back of beyond in Idaho, who interests me because he reads with a dictionary at hand, industriously looking up the many new words he encounters. No Martin, he is nevertheless a mildly interesting companion. He was exceptionally good yesterday for the weather was very bad and he liked to walk through it. I always wonder at the scarcity of people who appreciate walking in the rain.

At the library I picked out a couple of histories of Alaska. Since the Guggenheim people seem very anxious for a complete outline of the projected work, I want to be able to sound very authoritative in my outline, giving a rough idea of the geologic background of the chain and outlining several branches in which research could be profitably pursued. Frankly, my little lover, I doubt we have much of a chance of landing it. My background in creative writing is hardly what a bevy of bearded doctors would consider inspiring, and my background in the field is rather rudimentary. But it is worth giving it a whir. And, as real effort on my part has failed to unearth any book devoted entirely to this area, it seems to me that work would fill a need. In fact, if the Guggenheim business does not work out, it might be worth a few months to whip out one on our own hook.

But there is time enough to think of that when Angel gets done with his wandering around Lake Patscuaro. At present he and one of the Sinarquistas are in a stalled outboard in the middle of the lake, en route to the little island with the house on it. It occurs to me that if I don’t change a few place names I will be liable for libel before this book [Day of the Dead] is done. Which, I still think, will be very soon.

Since I started this the afternoon mail has come and in it was your Election Day letter, a thing of great shortness but great charm. The vote for Norman Thomas was only mildly extravagant, especially in the sound of the radio broadcast now on. Ely, the Federal Communications Commission head and about the last real New Dealer left in the government except for Ickes, has resigned and his resignation was accepted. FDR hinted he would keep him working on radio, probably as U.S. representative on an international commission. Which means merely that he will be kicked upstairs and out of the way at the very moment someone like him is most needed to see that a decent division is made of the Frequency Modulation channels. Now, I suppose, the soap opera purveyors will get all the channels and the idea of a national network, to be operated something like TVA—as a yardstick to show what is possible in educational and informative programs, will be doomed.
Last Saturday I closed my letter with the word that I had just heard there was mail waiting for me. There was a nice letter from Dad saying you had been in Tacoma and enthusing about the way Bill eats, although it seems a strange subject for anyone but a grocery to appreciate. There were the Guggenheim forms, and two letters from you. That Jack is now in Seattle and may be there for some time pleases me a great deal. Roger Shaw, whom you mention is much like Mastrude, we met before. He is the one who came in during one of our first days at Myrtle and Bill’s and, after spending the entire evening—hour after drunken hour—in a corner rubbing noses with Jean staggered over to me on his way out and mumbled about how much he had appreciated our conversation. Jack met him in Fairbanks, I believe, and was attracted by his resemblance to Rajah, who is his prime hero.

Mentioning Myrtle reminds me that you said she was planning to join Bill when she had the money saved. How does she expect to overcome the other (official) obstacles. Do tell.

Your second letter of Saturday was the sad sad story of all the things which can go wrong in make-up and final printing of a reasonably well-planned little paper. And, though it probably will seem unsympathetic, I read it with howls of laughter, because every one of those frustrating foul-ups was so superbly typical of the bitches I use to belabor you with that it seemed impossible the woe should flow upstream.

Well now. Quite I while back I started to tell you about my long break.  I got as far as the library and books on Alaska, then did a Morgan and meandered rather far afield. I took three books, Alaska Challenge, The Valley of 10,000 Smokes, and the History of Alaska Under U.S. Rule. The first is the incredible story of a couple who walked up to Alaska by way of the Liard Trail and Telegraph Trail, then built a boat and made it down the Yukon. Four years and two kids later they accepted a job teaching Eskimos at a settlement on the Bering Straits and put in a good eight months doing much for community before it was discovered they did not have the Civil Service qualifications for the job they were performing capably. I know all this because I read the book through in one sitting, which accounted for my hours this morning.

But before I made the mistake of picking it up to look at the excellent photographs, I had walked home from the library, eaten dinner, and listened to our Sunday symphony (Beethoven’s Seventh and Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto). After that it was seven. I had not been to bed for about 24 hours, but I was just a little sleepy. I thought I’d take and nap and get up at midnight and write for a while. I lay down on top of the bed and woke, my clothes still on, twelve hours later. That was when I reached out and picked up Alaska Challenge. Bingo! Another day out of the way and nothing done on Day of the Dead.

Ruth and Bill Albee, who walked to Alaska, really had a wonderful time  and again convinced me of our old theory that there is no point in ever doing work you consider uninteresting except as a means of doing something very interesting which is worth the sacrifice of a little time. Incidentally they had a rather nice story about the Eskimo attitude toward work. Albee had been in charge of the village and when a government bulkhead was put in he hired the laborers, shovelmen at fifty cents an hour and carpenters at seventy-five. When the checks came in a few months later the carpenters came to the schoolhouse to protest. Albee explained that he had given what he thought a fair price, whereupon their spokesman explained that “after all, a man was only a man. They demanded that I cut their wages to fifty cents an hour like the others.”

I have another Eskimo story to tell. I comes from Al Hesse. When he was coming up here there was a full-blooded Eskimo on the boat. He had been going to school in Spokane and when the war started he was drafted. Now on this boat full of groaning GIs on their way to duty in the Aleutians he alone was really happy. For he was on furlough and going to St. Paul Island to spend his vacation!

Have I told you about the master sergeant who is temporarily in our hut: a huge Irishman, bulky, granitefaced, who spends most of his time lying in his bunk and reading Ranchland Romances? Or about the chinook we had a while back after a snow storm, which left the area soggy and made every walk between huts like a canoe landing at Lom? Or that all our sparrows now have a winter coat of white? Or that I found one last yarrow in bloom after the first big snow melted? Or that Al, who has written a short story he intends to send the SatEvePost is worried lest they beat him out of the movie rights? (It will bounce back faster than a check by Meyer Rappaport.) Or that I love you? Very very much?
….
M