Friday, June 15, 2012

from Rosa Morgan, 8 May 1945, Seward, Alaska


First Day of Peace, 1945

Dearest Mother,
It was on a day something like this that you first heard from me, wasn’t it? [Rosa was born on Nov. 9, the “False Armistice” just before the end of World War I. Her mother said people were cheering in the streets at her birth.] So we think it an appropriate time for you to hear again from your long-silent daughter. I have more to say on the occasion of this war’s ending than the last. 

THIS IS A HAPPY DAY!

The sentiment is far from unique but, Mother, it comes from the heart and it is about the only coherent thought I can produce today, what with four or five night and days of hanging over the radio trying to coax the right words out of the rising and fading roar of the short wave, followed by a period of celebrations shared with other peace-happy GIs. We didn’t beat the dishpan out of shape or derail any trolleys (Seward hasn’t got ‘em), or stampede the reindeer, but four happy people talked away the hours until morning in the bare (except for radio and army cot) living room of the ACS house, building dream castles we hadn’t dared to think about even two weeks ago. One of the two who shared our watch was a former newspaperman from Iowa assigned for some obscure army reason to the Medics. Besides a wife at home, Dave has a small daughter and a son he has never seen.  Mac, a mess sergeant, has a 2 ½ year old girl back in New York left in her aunt’s care. Her mother died when she was born and Mac cherishes nothing else in the world but this tiny Jessica whom he hasn’t seen since she was a year old. 

Compared to the long of these two to have the war over and to be allowed to go home and back care of their families, our own enthusiasm for release to a peaceful world must seem insignificant. But it isn’t. We just add their desire to ours and all the others around us, and the collective total of wishes for a post-war world beginning right quick is staggering, even in this small post.  … Talking about the new feeling of lightness—probably no more than the forgotten pre-war normal sensation of freedom from the dead weight of absolute army authority that sits on an enlisted man’s chest and interferes with every breath--we all agreed that today, if we wanted to try, we could fly.

...
All our love,
R&M                                                                                     

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A home in the islands






Murray's Quonset hut on Adak (I think) in early 1945.  
Soldiers got bonus pay for isolation. 




The ACS work station on Adak, 40 years later, in the summer. 

Attu, 25 February 1945


O Rare Rosita…


The weather is inclement today, which, in our Aleut dialect, means that it is damn near deadly. The debates on whether or not to go to chow, which involves fifteen minutes of struggling into special clothes and half an hour of battling the blizzard, are really intense. Whether you get more energy eating than you lose making the trip is a matter for serious, unscientific argument. With our hotplate we are in a better position than most huts, and my own solution is one trip a day to the mess hall. 


The Quonset hut and its entrance
The weather has an effect on everyone’s nerves. I believe that if effects Gene [Elliott] more than most. He is always depressed when it is storming. I hate to go out in the stuff, but once having made the trip I feel good, like after running white water (except Box Canyon) or making a good climb. But Gene, who seems to be able to venture out without a preliminary mental struggle, comes in irritated and depressed.


Last night, however, he slid down into the hut just as the tea was being poured and decided that hereafter before leaving anywhere he would phone and tell the people at the place where he was going to put on the pot to boil. He is amusing irritated with his own irritation and last night was wearing a mental hair shirt because , when one of the other censors kidded him at chow, he stood up and was all set to brain him a crockery coffee cup. Fortunately the intended victim found the whole thing funny. 


There is a lot of the irrational in our life up here. My reaction to no mail is that way, darling. Your letter, explaining the difficulties in getting time to write, came in a couple of days ago and it makes me feel the bastard complet to have made you unhappy. And the worst of it is that even when I wrote I knew there was good reason for the lack of mail. I am truly sad, my sweet, for the thing I want most is for you to be happy. Just the thought of you fills me with a tenderness and longing which always threatens t overflow into tears. It makes me understand the Pathetique, even. And tonight when the radio had the second half of Fidelio with Mr. T doing right by Mr. B, I lay on the cot and looked at your picture and watched your expression change with the mood of the music. 


In talking to Gene last night I mentioned that I longed so much to be home that, for the first time in my life, I worry about the plane trip. He said he felt the same way, and also that other he had talked to had worried. It is a completely baseless worry, but the safety record of the air service out here is incredible; it is simply a manifestation of the dread that something might delay or prevent homecoming. In the same way I fear a freeze of furloughs, which there is no reason to expect. One of the fellows in our hut, Smitty, has been due out of here for more than a week now and so far his orders have not showed up. He takes the delay very well, but the rest of us—Gill, who is due to leave in 17 days; Hart, in 43, and I in 63—are sweating out his departure in earnest, nightmaring about similar snafus in our own cases.
I saw in a recent copy of the Saturday Review of Literature that Edmund Wilson is being given a polite sacking by the New Yorker as a literary critic. He is t go to Europe as some sort of special correspondent. This is too bad, for he had replaced John-Boy as my favorite critic. For instance in the February 3rd edition he has a marvelous mauling of Lin Yutang. He echoes our complaints about the unheathen Chinee, which, of course, makes him deeply perceptive in my opinion. He says:
                Lin Yutang is a professional Chinese. I don’t suppose that he began by being one. I did not read “My Country and My People,” which many people seemed to find interesting, so that I cannot trace the stages of his progress. But it is certain that at the present time he is hardly any longer what he may once have been: a comparative critic of civilizations. He is a Chinese for women’s club discussions, for book-of-the-month choices, for big publishers’ advertisements. One of the most depressing features of American culture is its capacity for attracting the most banal elements of the cultures of other nations and rendering them more banal by applauding and paying them on a scale they could hardly have hoped for at home. The English sent us Hugh Walpole and, later on, Somerset Maugham; the French sent us Andre Maurois and Bernard Fey. Now China has given us Lin Yutang…the first chapters of “The Vigil of a Nation” are made up of a loose tissue of platitudes which is at moments almost unbelievable…

I have just finished reading “Kabloona” by a French vicomte who spent 18 months living with the most primitive Eskimoes in Northern Canada. It has a lot of crap in it, but most of it is good and there are parts which are both excellent and charming. One passage I liked particularly told of his visit to a missionary serving in an incredibly remote village, where he lived in a cave which had an average winter temperature of 58 below. The missionary had taught a few of the Eskimos to write, and he wrote a note to one asking him to guide his visitor back to the post. The reply, which de Poncins includes as an illustration of the bashfulness of the Eskimos, was:

Since the white man has no companion for this journey, I shall go with him. I greet the white man. I go now to hunt seal for the journey. What shall I do? I will be so shy with the white man. Write to me. Encourage me. Ittimangnerk greets the priest.
There was also a bit of philosophical writing which was interesting but with which, of course, I did not agree:
If  war comes tomorrow, I shall not know it. If a sidereal cataclysm destroys half the surface of the globe, I shall not hear of it. Man’s pride lies in feeling himself one with his kind, in the knowledge that he is a member of human society; we, at Gjoa Haven, have not this honor. We are the tail of the lizard, cut off from the body and continuing to wriggle.
In my present mood I can think of nothing more delightful than t be cut off from society, or all but a very small segment of it. And I have recently decided that it would be a disadvantage to learn Spanish fluently. My idea of a perfect life consists of being somewhere with you where we cannot understand enough of what is being said to be disturbed by it. Just as I like folk music as long as I don’t know the words, I like people as long as I have no idea what they think.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Glimpses of Eugene Elliott, Attu Island, 1945


Murray's first post, on Attu, was shared with his good friend from Seattle, Eugene Elliott, later an English professor at the University of Washington. Both were writing novels during the abundant indoor downtime provided by winter weather in the Aleutians.

29 January 1945
[During a bull session about religion] Gene said there was mention of life in the Aleutians in the Bible. He quoted the passage, the number of which I forget, but the words are: “Jesus Christ: the same yesterday today and forever.”
22 February 1945
The weather today was really rough. When I went to go out of the hut once I knocked myself out, quite literally, by running into a board. I hadn’t realized that snow had sifted through onto the floor of our tunnel and raised it so much that I no longer had clearance for my head. Then, later, after I had been out of the hut for about an hour, I could not find the entrance. The trap door was drifted over. I had to dig to find it, dig some more before I could burrow my way in. I had a bad claustrophobic moment when I was stuck in the elbow of the tunnel but finally made it. .. It is a queer feeling to walk in a high wind when there is much loose snow about. The snow blows up from the ground and you can’t see your feet. A flashlight is no help. You just walk slowly, trying to test the drift with each step before trusting your weight. Other men move past, dim, shapeless, truncated in the drifts. They look like shadows without their accompanying objects.
Tonight I read some more of Gene’s symphonic book. God, but he writes well. From a purely commercial standpoint, I am not sure whether there is enough movement and continuity in the book. But from the point of satisfaction to the author, of saying what he has to say in the form he wants to say it, I envy him very much. ..
3 April 1945
Gene is in the room with me, working on his novel. He really suffers. In fact he is about the closest thing to Larry Abbott I have seen when it comes to the agony of composition. While he doesn’t have Larry’s habit of banging his head on the desk in an effort to start the flow of inspiration, he does groan, swear with expected softness, and hold his forehead as though his temples were likely to shake loose. Like me, Gene will take any chance to keep from writing when the work is not going well – he will read anything (even the Readers Digest), cut his nails, go for a beer, sweep the floor, put tape on the crack in his eyeshade or trim his already too neat mustache. Currently he is cleaning the keys of his typewriter with a jackknife. A few moments ago he was trying to work out a chess problem in the London Sunday Times.

from Bill Fett, 22 January 1945

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: http://balkania.tripod.com/resources/history/battle_of_kosovo.html]
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.   ….
M


[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,
IT SHALL—NOT—PASH!
"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
Blues?
0, those blues! . . ."


Umnak, 11 January 1945


My Pretty Plikka,
Last night we had an experience which could be conceived only by the master minds of the United States Army. Here on this womanforsaken island, miles and months from anywhere, we had inflicted upon us the semi-annual showing of the sex hygiene movie with detailed instructions of how to protect our health after sexual intercourse. It’s regulations and attendance was mandatory.
After the compulsory part of the movie was over, I ducked out and raced back to the hut, for tonight was symphony night and our Arturo was doing his best by Beethoven. I missed the first movement of the Fifth, but  because our station has the curious habit of filling up any spare time in the symphony hour by replaying the start of the program again, I managed to hear fate getting in his four knocks. Everyone else from the hut was at the movie, so I had the music all to myself.
Later I found another symphony program but just as the first movement of the Jupiter was well underway the boys came back from the show. Al Hesse left the program on but LaRue with loud wails turned it off and got a mystery drama with an odor of Roquefort. I couldn’t object because the hut agreement is that anyone has the privilege of tuning out mainland stations in favor of the programs over our local Army station. And though the program was bad it was followed by the poetry program which LaRue, in turn, could not dial away, though he wanted to. Which was lucky, for Ingrid Bergman was reading a group of love poems and a couple of humorous ones were marvelous.
And just a little while ago one of our shortwave foreign language (in the main Filipino Tagalog dialect, I believe) programs put on a program of American folksongs: Robeson, Marion Anderson, Tibbett, and Richard Dyer-Bennet, who did that wonderful one about the haunted house in the English field.
So you can see it has been a rather successful day. It may also have brought us winter, although I’ve been fooled often enough before so that I’m ready to hedge. One swallow does not a summer make, nor one snowfall…..
The January 8 edition of Time came today and it has one exceptionally good item, a reprint from the London Observer, which sheds more light on the Greek situation than do most commentators in fifteen minutes. The item, written by Stephen King-Hall, simply supposes that Britain had been invaded in 1940 and that the Americans had now liberated it and restored the Chamberlain government intact. The implication is that the British would welcome the Americans bearing gifts of former appeasers as their rulers in the same way that the Greeks welcomed the British when they brought back the old “manipulators of evil and referees of futility.”
I picked up that last phrase in “My Native Land.” Adamic quotes it from the conversation of a sixteen year old girl about the prewar European politicians. Until I’ve finished the book I’m not going to go into detail about it. Instead I’m going to talk about a book I read in New York and whose title I’ve forgotten. John-Boy told me to read it; insisted, in fact.  The author is G. Ferraro, a living Italian, and the subject was the reconstruction of Europe after the Napoleonic Wars and why the peace was kept for almost a century afterwards.
Ferraro is a royalist. He does not believe in the divine right of kings or any such nonsense, but what he does believe in is the legitimacy of kings. He feels that the post-Napoleon peace was kept mainly because the governments of Europe were legitimate and stable. In essence his theory is as simple as this: An agreement with either a military dictator or a pure democracy is not guaranteed. A dictatorship, being at most a temporary thing, can afford expediency, can afford to break the agreement. A democracy is bound only by the will of the people, and they can and do change their minds. But an agreement with a monarchy binds the monarchy and as long as the monarch or his legitimate successors are on the throne the country must feel itself bound.
This, it seems to me, is the crux of the British position in liberated Europe. The Foreign Office is composed of disciples of Ferraro who want to deal with government s they feel will abide by their agreements. It explains how the British with a figurehead king whom few can respect can wish to impose either monarchs or regencies on Italy and the Balkans, and it explains, I believe, the failure of our Allied propaganda to attack the emperor of Japan.
Personally, I find the Ferraro position a little silly. It is easy to point to monarchs who tacked with the wind—Alexander, Carol, Boris—and I cannot see the benefits of legitimacy, say, in the case of the House of Savoy which though definitely entitled to the throne has so smirched the reputation of the monarchy that the people have no respect for it.
But it does seem the only legitimate grounds on which intelligent men could support the theory of kingship in the twentieth century. And although they may have social astigmatism, the British foreign officials are intelligent.
On the same track, I think that you will find Ed Murrow’s interview, enclosed, another impressive proof that he is the best man in radio today. (And speaking of the radio there is now playing a Javanese song which makes me think of our long-mustached, long-missing Geoff.)
I’m sending along two more sections of the Aleutian work, the first of which I like a lot. [This was published in 1946 as Bridge to Russia: Those Amazing Aleutians, Murray’s second book, and republished in 1981 as Islands of the Smokey Sea.] The Baranof bit is going to be the longest in the book, I believe, and I’m not quite sure of how much detail I want to use. I must work it out as I go along. When I finish with him I have a nice piece in mind about Rezanov, who planted a colony of Aleuts in California, and then a bit about a couple of the Russian priests. That will wrap up the Russian history and American story of Aleutian occupation, up to the war, shouldn’t take a lot of telling. This is the most fun of anything I’ve written, Nunny, and I hope you like it. I’ve sent you seventy-four pages so far, which should be pretty close to half the total. Be sure to let Dad see these.
   ….
M

Umnak, 8 January 1945

Rosita Conchita…

The boys were playing football in the area today, several of them felt a vernal urge and blossomed out in crew haircuts, and I went for a pair of long walks. The first walk was not really long. On my way to bed, I realized that with no assurance out current improbable weather will last it was a near crime not to take advantage of it. So I climbed the ridge.

It was quite beautiful. The sky overhead was clear except for a high burst of cirrus clouds. But over our neighboring island cumulus were massing and the sun, which was still low at tem am, slanted through holes in the cloud to make glittering patches on the brooding Bering. From the water to the snowline everything was brown: brown grass, brown rock, brown road, brown fox, khaki clad men. There are no flowers in bloom now, but there are occasional bursts of a hundred or more sparrows.

On the ridge I saw three caribou. There were a long way off, apparently working their way down from the hills with the snow. I did not try to get near them. The caribou, I believe, prefer tundra to grass and stay high as long as they are able to kick down through the snow to the creeping evergreen.

When I came back I started back to the hut to go to bed, but I ran into Godfrey, who was sunning himself and feeling good that his wife remembered his birthday with a telegram. We got to talking and pretty soon along came Brady Tookie Choate, whom I talked into going for another walk. Tookie had never seen the spring, so we walked there. ….

One the way back we cut across the field and came to several small pools which had frozen into thin sheets of ice which stood suspended across the dip of the pond. As the ice contracted it had shivered into broken patterns. Each pond looked like some magnified snowflake, or a blown-up section of window frost. I have never seen anything quite like it.

A while back I told you I have been trying to lead Tookie into the literary pastures by the back gate. I have been successful to a degree, at least. He has just finished Cain’s [James Cain: Career In C Major; The Embezzler; Double Endemnity ]three big ones and likes them, partially for the pornography of course as who doesn’t? Then I got him interested in Thurber by starting him on “Hell Only Breaks Loose Once” in The Middle Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze. It is a superb satire on the Cain style (“So I clipped her with a left hook. She went down like a two year old. It was like dying and going to heaven.” Or “I crossed with my right, but it hit her high and she didn’t go down.”) Now he has out of the library “Tortilla Flat” (He didn’t like the movie) and “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” They will be the real test.

As I told you the thing I like best about Tookie is his complete and antisocial candor. We were talking about one of the fellows today, and I maintained that he was “the most completely average individual I ever met—believing in all the Sunday School platitudes, honoring all the clay-footed idols of our society, and placidly believing wealth makes for unhappiness and that everyone’s social duty is to work hard and get rich.” Tookie said “exceedingly average.” And then a hundred yards farther across the field he started to laugh. “We both say ‘average’” he said, “and we both know he’s a goddam idiot.”

Oh my darling, how I wish it had been you on the walk with me this afternoon. I felt very close to you as I roamed along the ridge in the morning. It was our sort of a day—cool and clear, with the grass snapping underfoot and just enough wind to carry the cool evergreen scent of the tundra.

M

Umnak, 7 January 1945

My bonnie ambivalent bivalve…
I have finished reading Balkan Journey, the book you sent me quite a while ago after Howard [Daniel] had mentioned a new SE European opus he liked. This, I am sure, is not the one Howard had in mind, for the author’s prime objection to Mataxas [Greek Prime Minister Gen. Ioannis Metaxas]is not his being a dictator but his attempt to gain popular support by currying favor with labor. The Minister of Labor in the Metaxas cabinet was unpopular with American businessmen: Socony-Vacuum, General Electric, American Express.
[A recap of the book’s take on Greek governmental troubles in the late 1930s follows]

That in the background against which Archer’s book is written. He was, as I mentioned before, the director of the Near East Foundation, a goodwill outfit which trained agricultural specialists in the Balkans. But his whole attitude was that of the American businessman abroad, rather than the professor. He was smug, conscious of representing a great country, and had that curious American businessman’s super-respect of royalty—the royalty of the Russian past and the Greek present thrilled him by speaking to him. He even referred to England’s George as “very smart,” which is an unEnglish overstatement, I believe.
The early parts of the story are very disconnected and the political dope is second-hand hearsay. But it is this hearsay that makes the last half interesting, for while I do not believe Archer gives the inside picture of what was going on during the last days of Greece, he certainly gives a fine impression of what the foreign colony was talking about. And there are a fine set of anecdotes, both funny and heroic, which deal with the way each defeat was explained and made swallowable if not palatable.
I would like to know how much of the book was written after the fact. Once thing which makes me suspect it is an item in May 1941, which speaks of German troops leaving Greece for Russia. It wasn’t until six weeks later that we put out the Special Special Extra Wuxtra of the Washie [Grays Harbor Washingtonian, which Murray edited and Rosa made up another quarter of the news staff in 1941; Murray described the other two staffers as an 18 year old and a drunk]announcing the end of the world, the freeing of Finland and similar absurdities.
But whatever its merits or demerits, the book has made me long for another look at the Balkans—and for a first look at Ragusa on the Dalmation coast. I hope Howard makes it over there. He may be able to help us some way or another.
I was at the library yesterday to pick up some more dope about Alaska and in looking around fund Graham Greene’s book of mystery in Mexico, “The Labyrinth Ways,” which seems to have as its hero a lay priest. Since Greene’s “Ministry of Fear” was shown at the Rec Hall the other day I was talking to Ted about him tonight over a cup of tea. Mostly I remembered Gracene, but I also recalled Greene’s semi-priestly status, which has long confused us. I said I didn’t understand how he could be a priest half the year and a layman the other half. Ted said, “We’ll have to ask Leedom.” I bit and said, “Is he a Catholic?” “No. He just knows everything.”
Leedom is the character I told you about who informed me how CBS writes its news broadcasts. He has developed a great reputation for blowing hard and long. One of his roomies gave a remarkable description of how he came in and found everyone talking about architecture. That was about nine o’clock. Leedom started telling them all—including one architect—about the ways houses are built in Seattle. At ten thirty the first fellows started going to bed. Leedom was still talking. At eleven everyone else was in the sack and the lights were out. Leedom was still talking. And, Ted swears, at one a.m. he awoke after a nice nap and the exposition on architecture went on uninterrupted.
My only incident to toss into the pot took place a week or so ago when I was at the library looking up some dope on sealing. Leedom volunteered that I could get better information from an old priest at Sitka and when I inferred that I doubted the CO would give me a pass to drop down to Sitka for a few weeks he thought perhaps I ought to write about a doctor in Anchorage instead of sealing. Fortunately we are not on the same shifts. One of the day-shift idealists had a very rough time the other day trying the convince the omniscient sergeant that countries like Holland and Yugoslavia deserved their independence after the war. “If they’re so good what did they let themselves get licked by the Germans for?”
The reminds me. Al [Hesse] has a new reason for pessimism about the post-war peace. “Everything seems to come in threes so I suppose we have to have another war.”
The other day I wrote at length about the Noel Coward business. Even so I forgot to quote a quote that the critic I was quoting quoted. Here it is with the critic’s very own introduction and explanation:

Certainly he cannot expect Americans, who never thought of defending the globe-trotting Senate group before, to be pleased when he complains of how these senators interrupted a party he was enjoying one evening in Cairo. “It wasn’t that they were rude,” Mr. Coward writes, “or even controversial; they conversed without distinction but quite amiably, in fact their behavior was above reproach, but oh my god , were they dull.” That is, until these “aggressively homespun figure” took their leave. (Local editors, please note but do not copy the insufferable charm of “homespun,” as here used.

Remembering that Buncombe Bob Reynolds of North Carolina was among the Senate group, I find the only possible criticism to Coward’s reaction was that he was able to find them only dull. Judging by Reynolds’s recent showing in the North Carolina primary, his constituents found him more boring than did Coward.  [for a brief bio on Buncombe Bob: http://uncpress.unc.edu/browse/book_detail?title_id=213]
And now, my cherished coatimundi, I will get back to work on the Aleutian stuff. I can’t believe it, but I have nearly a third of the material finished—first draft—and see nothing that will slow me up very much on the rest of the stuff. It would be nice to complete a second book up here. I’m very very anxious to hear what you have to say about the parts you have seen so far—and for a fuller reaction to Day of the Dead. So far you’ve said you liked it, but not what parts you like and, really, what parts you didn’t.
There’s a soldier here in love with a girl in a Seattle houseboat, the unblushing varmint…
M