E. B. White in the Paris Review

Found here, what a great interview:

INTERVIEWER

You have wondered at Kenneth Roberts’s working methods—his stamina and discipline. You said you often went to zoos rather than write. Can you say something of discipline and the writer?

WHITE

Kenneth Roberts wrote historical novels. He knew just what he wanted to do and where he was going. He rose in the morning and went to work, methodically and industriously. This has not been true of me. The things I have managed to write have been varied and spotty—a mishmash. Except for certain routine chores, I never knew in the morning how the day was going to develop. I was like a hunter, hoping to catch sight of a rabbit. There are two faces to discipline. If a man (who writes) feels like going to a zoo, he should by all means go to a zoo. He might even be lucky, as I once was when I paid a call at the Bronx Zoo and found myself attending the birth of twin fawns. It was a fine sight, and I lost no time writing a piece about it. The other face of discipline is that, zoo or no zoo, diversion or no diversion, in the end a man must sit down and get the words on paper, and against great odds. This takes stamina and resolution. Having got them on paper, he must still have the discipline to discard them if they fail to measure up; he must view them with a jaundiced eye and do the whole thing over as many times as is necessary to achieve excellence, or as close to excellence as he can get. This varies from one time to maybe twenty.

The whole thing is good.  White describes how he came to draw the above New Yorker cover, his only one.  And he talks about the diaries of Francis Kilbert, which sure do sound interesting.  (Jump to “4. Relations With Girls”)

 

 

 


Meanwhile, out in the desert

The top story in both the Hi-Desert Star and The Desert Trail is the removal of 1,100 desert tortoises from the Marine Corps base to safer lands.

Was Defense Secretary Mattis personally briefed on the operation?

It may seem silly but the story made me feel good.

find happy homes guys.


All I Gotta Do Is Act Naturally

When I first got to California a real curiosity was Bakersfield and the Bakersfield Sound.

from wiki’s article on the Kern River Oilfield. Photo by Antantrus

What the hell was going on up there in Bakersfield?  There were four Basque restaurants in town.

Buck Owens was the king of the Bakersfield sound, he had the Crystal Palace.  He died before I got to see him.  From Wiki:

The Los Angeles Times interviewed longtime Owens spokesman (and Buckaroos keyboard player) Jim Shaw, who said Owens “had come to the club early and had a chicken fried steak dinner and bragged that it’s his favorite meal.”

bragged?

Afterward, Owens told band members that he wasn’t feeling well and was going to skip that night’s performance. Shaw said a group of fans introduced themselves while Owens was preparing to drive home; when they told him that they had traveled from Oregon to hear him perform, Owens changed his mind and took the stage anyway.

Shaw recalled Owens telling the audience, “If somebody’s come all that way, I’m gonna do the show and give it my best shot. I might groan and squeak, but I’ll see what I can do.” Shaw added, “So, he had his favorite meal, played a show and died in his sleep. We thought, that’s not too bad.”

The alpha song of the Bakersfield sound has to be Act Naturally.  The Beatles had Ringo sing it:

I’ve probably listened to the Buck Owens version between 50 and 100 times.  It continues to reveal itself.  How about the the paradox of acting naturally.

Only very very good actors are capable of truly acting naturally.

Otani Oniji II as Yakko Edobei in the Play “Koinyabo Somewake Tazuna”
Saraku, Toshusai (worked 1794-1795)
Polychrome woodblock print with mica ground
h. 15 in. w. 9-7/8 in.
 from the Met.

Did Otani Onjii act naturally?

Whole acting schools are devoted to teaching people how to act naturally.

Why do people have so much trouble acting naturally?

If you’re in Bakersfield get an ice cream sundae at Dewar’s.

 


To My House Guest:

If you found a note on a scrap of paper in my house that said “Maybe I can stop masturbating” on it I promise it was related to an upcoming work of television comedy.

Enjoy VEEP on Sundays at 10:30pm and then on HBO Go forever!


Will and Ariel Durant

One of the local branches of the LA Public Library, the one on Sunset across from Wendy’s, is named after Will and Ariel Durant.

David Brooks grows wistful as he considers the Will and Ariel Durant project:

Between 1935 and 1975, Will and Ariel Durant published a series of volumes that together were known as “The Story of Civilization.” They basically told human history (mostly Western history) as an accumulation of great ideas and innovations, from the Egyptians, through Athens, Magna Carta, the Age of Faith, the Renaissance and the Declaration of the Rights of Man. The series was phenomenally successful, selling over two million copies.

I’ve taken a look at the first volume of the series,

and was astounded, amused, and delighted by what I found there.  Here’s an example.

When Will met Ariel Durant, her name was Ida, she was fourteen, and she was his student.

She was 15 at her marriage on Oct. 31, 1913, and came to the ceremony with her roller skates slung over her shoulder. Her husband was just about to turn 28. He called her Ariel, after the the imp in Shakespeare’s ”The Tempest,” and she later had her name legally changed.

(from Will’s NYT obituary).  In Our Oriental Civilization, Will makes the case for himself:

It’s pretty funny that we named the library after a pair of lovers whose romance would get the man arrested today.

On the other hand, that’s the kind of paradox of historical and civilizational change that Will Durant took so much joy in teaching about.

More from the NYT:

Dr. Durant consistently took a generally optimistic view of civilization, despite a growing belief that ”the world situation is all fouled up.”

”Civilization is a stream with banks,” he said in his precise voice. ”The stream is sometimes filled with blood from people killing, stealing, shouting and doing the things historians usually record, while on the banks, unnoticed, people build homes, make love, raise children, sing songs, write poetry and even whittle statues.

”The story of civilization is the story of what happened on the banks. Historians are pessimists because they ignore the banks for the river.”

Will and Ariel, from Wikipedia:


Tween Selfie

from


April 19. Patriots Day.

Worth remembering that the American Revolution started when the federal government sent troops to take away people’s guns and ammunition.

More men from Needham died on April 19, 1775, I believe, than from any other town except Lexington:

The detail in that footnote!  What she remembers, the old blind woman: how many of the soldiers had thrown away their coats!  It was under the will of this venerable lady that he first received a legacy!

History gets so much more interesting when you get into how do we know this?  what is the source?  who claims this?  who saw it happen?

The Needham Public Library.

Amos Doolittle wasn’t there but he showed up a few weeks later:

My favorite book on this topic is:

Tourtellot is really kind of funny when he rips into his least favorite patriot, vain old John Hancock:

that illustration up top from:

a British book – is there a pro-Redcoat bias?