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Sunday, July 16, 2017

(6) JACK HASTILY AND BOW-LEGGEDLY CHECKED THE STATE OF HIS TROUSERS..

From Ed Brecher
September 12, 1988
West Cornwall                                          
Dear Barbara,
     I have now begun editing Great White Eagle.
     In addition to making marks on the face of your manuscript, my editing will include a series of comments, queries, explanations, and annoyances of various kinds, each one numbered to match a number in the edited manuscript.  Ordinarily each memo will be accompanied by the relevant batch of edited manuscript.  This memo, however, is concerned with some preliminary issues.  If you and I can agree on these matters in advance, it will help.
     1) Great White Eagle is going to need a foreword explaining what lies ahead.  This is particularly true because the chapters on yachting and flying with which it will begin are atypical of the remainder, which will consider such heady matters as premarital pregnancy, divorce, and so on.  My theory, as you know, is that the later chapters will take on depth if the reader is already in empathy with you and Ed through the yachting and flying chapters.  Conversely, however, I've now discovered that the yachting and flying chapters will take on added depth if the reader knows in advance that they are reading about a marvelously happy couple who are about to get divorced.  A foreword is the obvious place to supply this perspective.
     The foreword must also establish you as an inveterate, nay an obsessive-compulsive letter writer.   It should be as brief as possible‑‑hopefully two or three typed pages.
     I'd like to start with a brief reference to the letter you wrote Leslie H. Farber, M.D., and the copy you sent Ruth and  Edward Brecher‑‑accompanied by an equally brief reference to my two or three meetings with you, the first while you were still living with Ed and the most recent not long after your separation.
     This will establish your custom of corresponding with strangers, explain my remote role in the story, and put the reader on notice that the first two chapters are an idyll on the verge of a precipice.  The foreword will then note the ten year (12? 13?) hiatus in our correspondence, followed by my receipt of that atypically formal Barbara letter last January, my query‑‑and my receipt of the whole entrancing manuscript. 
     My problem in drafting this foreword is that my memory is shot to hell--not just since the July attack but since about 1984 or 1985.  I remember you as clearly as I did in 1967 or 1968; but dates and  sequences are dim.  It would be helpful if you could supply me in a few paragraphs with some pertinent details.  When did I first write you?  Did I first meet you and Ed when I called at your home?  (I remember a copy of Playboy on the coffee table, perhaps for my benefit as a writer on sex?)  I seem to remember seeing you when I lectured at the Community Sex Information Hotline.)  Don't make a research project of this; your off‑the‑top recollection is all I need.
     2)  Please take everything in these memos, and all the marks on the manuscript, as proposals or suggestions rather than decisions.  This editing process will work best if it is a dialogue.  If you disagree or have an alternative idea, please say so.  Don't be afraid I'll lose interest if you disagree; the dialogue is what will keep me plugging along.
     3)  I now have a confession.  Last weekend I had a yachtswoman visitor, Joan, and I couldn't resist showing her the yachting chapter.  She chuckled repeatedly as she read it, of course.  Being the woman she is, Joan limited her subsequent comments to negatives.  She thought it was too long (agreed).  And she said she didn't believe these were really letters to a stranger named Darrell.  This, you will recall, was also my initial reaction.
     My tentative solution is to make Darrell even more shadowy than he now is, cut his wife and her illness from these early chapters, and let him function solely as a wall against which you bounce your letters.  If it later becomes advisable to bring him to life, we can do it when that time comes.
     4) My oldest son Earl and his wife Virginia have just bought their first plane and are delightedly flying it around together.   Unless you forbid it, I am going to let them read the flying chapter‑‑partly because they'll enjoy it and partly for their comments.  I agree not to show subsequent chapters to anyone without your advance (and uncoerced) consent.
     5) I note that you have thoroughly deadjectiveized the text; and I agree that adjectives were too freely used initially.  But my feeling is that you've gone too far; I may restore a few unless you feel very strongly.
     As you will readily perceive, these notes are being written to me as well as to you.
September 26, 1988
Weymouth
Dearest Breck:
     If you have no objection, I shall adopt Ruth M's nickname for you and call you "Breck" from now on.  It will keep me from getting mixed up over which Ed I'm writing to about what.  It got confusing when you had simultaneous heart attacks and hospitalizations in July.  It's a wonder you didn't receive a get‑well card addressing you as "Dearest Ex."  You might have jumped to the conclusion you were no longer my beloved Ed‑itor.
     I'm so happy to know you are feeling much better.  You must be or I wouldn't be receiving memos about Great White Eagle.   That's exciting, but please be assured that your health is far more important than a project that must surely seem overwhelming.  Any time you want to back off, permanently or temporarily, I'll understand. 
     As I went through my files trying to pin down Brecher‑Malley dates, I found an instant replay of the 1960's.  Along with the two letters I wrote you in 1968, I extracted several others to my children and my mom that illuminate what life was like before The Letter.   
      I regard records like these as "emissaries from a former self."  This phrase was in a 1960 Reader's Digest article that advocated capturing past experiences by saving carbons of letters; they would thus serve as an improvised diary.
     Some of the enclosed photocopies were written to family members; others, as per my brash but often rewarding habit, to strangers.  They are all skimmable and discardable.  The only page I would like returned someday is the one from my photo album.  The very candid snapshot of Jack examining his crotch gave me a laugh I wanted to share with you.  I had noticed an unusual plant growing by the wayside when we made a stop on the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia.  Jack found a tin can, filled it with water, and clutched the plant between his legs as we continued on our drive. Feeling a moist discomfort in his lap, he realized the can was leaking muddy water onto his trousers.  "That's all right," he said in his easy‑going way.  "They'll dry out."
     At our next picture taking stop, Jack saw my camera pointed in his direction, and hastily and bowleggedly, checked the state of his trousers.  Recognizing "the decisive moment" described by photographer Cartier‑ Bresson, I snapped the shutter.
       That's one of the advantages of being a letter‑ and picture saver.  You can laugh again at things you'd forgotten for years.       
     To refresh my memory on Farber, I looked him up in the library. I learned that "I'm Sorry, Dear" was a chapter in a book published in 1966, the chapter with which you concluded your An Analysis of Human Sexual Response.  Rereading the piece, I was annoyed all over again by Farber's smug and derisive attitude toward the Masters and Johnson research and his ignorance concerning the female orgasm.  "Did sexologists discover or invent it?  Or both?" he asks.  His conclusion was so stupid I can see why I felt compelled to enlighten him.
     It must have been in 1966, therefore, that I sent you and Ruth the copy of my Farber letter.  We exchanged a couple of letters; then I think you visited Ed and me one night when you were in Boston.  This was probably 1967.  You and I had lunch together at a later date.  It must have been on this occasion that I presented the wrong book for your autograph ‑‑ Human  Sexual Response instead of your analysis of same.  You've always had to be patient with me, I'm afraid. Then there's a gap of several years in my memory and records. The next meeting could  have been the fall of 1972.  Ed and I weren't living together but we were "dating."  I was a volunteer at Community Sex Information‑‑and yes, Ed and I drove you to the hall where you gave a lecture on sexuality.  I remember talking in the car about a pot smoking experience with Jack that was followed by love‑making of an almost electrical quality.  Was I right in sensing that you flinched at my remarks out of sympathy for Ed?
     Memo 2 regarding your showing Joan the yachting chapter:  I'm all for your getting reactions from anyone remotely interested in boating or flying or any other chapters.  Ed felt as you do that Darrell's wife and her illness should be omitted.  It's okay with me for you to make him as shadowy as you like, as long as he doesn't disappear altogether.  He was a vital part of my life.
     A description of the Matthews is on the first page of the enclosed article, "My Unbalanced Budget ‑‑and Husband."  I'd love to have Earl and Virginia read the flying chapter.  I can imagine what fun they're having with their new hobby.
     Do re-adgectivize wherever you see fit.  I'm sure the poor rejected things will be glad someone wants them.  Alas, I loved them too well.
     Prepare to be magnificently impressed by the enclosed letter to Kathie from President Silber.  She was dazed by the news that she had won Boston University's Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award.  The enclosed picture shows her in our Fort Lauderdale living room, taking a break from a hefty textbook.
     Goodbye for now, luv.  Take good care of you.
September 29, 1988
West Cornwall
Barbara,                                   
     I've now at long last buckled down to the actual editing‑‑ and I'm horrified to discover that cutting your prose is as painful as editing my own.  "Boating" is now down from 54 to about 30 pages; but I'm determined to get it down to 20, which means deleting passages that made me chortle when I first read them.
     Your letter has just come and provides a welcome respite.
     I am returning herewith the fascinating photo of Jack and the charming one of Kathie.  I've also instructed my son Jeremy  (my reliable and conscientious literary executor) that one of his  first chores in the event of my death is to return to you the box  in which all Malley materials are kept.
     Maybe, when you told me about making love with Jack after a pot smoking experiment, I was flinching for Ed‑‑but I doubt it.   I suspect I was remembering Konny (now Rainbow).  When I was introduced to her on July 4, 1968, as a man writing a book on illicit drugs, she asked, with her thick Dutch accent, "Oh, do you have any of that marijuana?  I've always wanted to try marijuana."  So I invited her to dinner July 5, and we smoked pot (I rarely do) and made love‑‑and she thereupon assured me it was the first time she had ever had an orgasm.  A few months later I met a woman writing a book subsequently published as The Sexual Power of Marijuana.   She told me she had six stories of women who had had a similar first following marijuana; so I gave her Konny's phone number; and the book ended up with seven such cases.  Konny and I, if I remember rightly, are on page 36 or 37.  All that must have been very fresh in my memory when I reacted to your story of you and Jack and pot.
     Congratulate Kathie for me.
     I only wrote once for Playboy.  They phoned and asked if I'd write a piece called ""Sex Is Good for Your Health."
     "Sure," I said.  "What do you want in it?"
     "That's your problem," the editor said.
     So I asked my son Jeremy, "How'd you like to go 50‑50 on a Playboy article called `Sex Is Good for Your Health'?"
     "Sure; what do you want in it?"
     "That's your problem," I told him.
     A couple of months later. Playboy located me in San Francisco and told me to go to their office there and have my picture taken for the author column.  I felt pretty silly in their glamour studio, and the photographer was annoyed.
     "Can't you put some life in your face?" he asked.
     My friend Jan, who was with me, knew just what to do.  She raised her skirt up over her hips; I cracked up‑‑and the photographer said, "Thank you very much."
     You were right about Virginia Johnson in your 1968 letter; she's an attractive and articulate woman.  Ruth Brecher and I got to know her and Bill well while we were writing our book about  them; and I was especially touched that they were able to react to Ruth as a writer and human being rather than as a terminal cancer patient.  The first time I saw Ginny after Ruth's death was at 9 a.m. in a medical school amphitheater with 200 M.D.'s surrounding us.  Affection welled up and I gave her a great big public hug and kiss ‑‑ then pulled back in horror at my gaffe. 
     Next time we met in a similar audience, Ginny hurried over to give me a great big public hug and kiss, clearly to assure me that my gaffe wasn't really a gaffe.
     People used to ask Ruth and me whether Bill and Ginny were lovers.  We developed the perfect answer:  "We don't know, but we hope so."
     The enclosed photo of you in your kitchen is so exactly the way I remember you that I hate to return it.  I would like a photo of you, any photo, if you have one to spare. 
     By now you will have realized that I'm not going to be done with Great White Eagle by September 30, as projected in our agreement.  On the other hand, I've done enough to be sure I want to continue.  So I plan to just plug along without making any more predictions about completing dates.  I have nothing else scheduled ahead except trips to Washington, D.C. September 28‑29 and October 20‑24.
     I'll finish reading your "emissaries" enclosure tonight. 

[Emissaries fron a former self]
February 5, 1967
Westwood, Massachusetts
To Mother
     My mind is bursting with a nice, long, maybe even funny letter for you, but darn it, I haven't yet had a minute to do anything but take a few notes.  Yesterday, the so called day of rest for most people, I drove Ed to Logan Airport so he could fly to Hartford, pick up his airplane, which had had its bent propeller repaired, then drove to Framingham to swap cars with Dick (mine had conked out the evening before a few blocks from Kathie's house).  Dick followed me home to be sure the battery didn't drop dead on me again, I washed some stockings and did some sewing for Kathie for the next half hour, then drove to Norwood Airport to meet Ed and fly Mrs. White to the Vineyard to see our house.  At this point, it was only noon!
     By supper time we were both tired.  Ed has an ulcer, a barely started one that should be all healed in a month if he watches his diet.  The doctor said his bad eating habits had finally caught up with him, but fortunately the trouble was diagnosed early enough to save him later grief.  Anyway, I said to him, wondering what he'd like for dinner, "What can I get for you, and when?"
     "My lost youth," he said mournfully," . . . now."
     Would that I could, and collect my own along the way.  Not that I mind being middle aged as  much as Ed does; I just wish we had more time to relax together.
     Yes, Sears can go ahead and fix the washing machine.  There will be people visiting the Fort Lauderdale house pretty constantly from now on, so I'm glad you have a friend nearby to stay with.
     I'll try to write one of my old style letters later this week.  Quite a few amusing things happened to me lately as I rushed from one chore to another.                                            
Tues. Feb. 7, 1967
Westwood
Dear Mums:
     I remember how I used to scribble reminders to myself about the children's funny sayings and doings, so I could entertain Ed when he got home at night.  The tables are turned.  Kathie has taken to jotting down notes about me--for Dick's benefit.
     Last Thursday, to describe a typically traumatic day, I was helping her get ready to come home from a short stay in the hospital (she had developed an infection that is better now).   Since her suitcase was full, I stuffed her slippers, purse, and three or four textbooks into her book bag.  "Okay, let's go," I said, bending over to pick up the heavy canvas bag.  Her purse came flying out,I fell over backwards and landed on her bed.  I had grabbed the wrong handle.
     Back in Framingham, I unpacked the suitcase and the book bag, started a load of laundry, then headed for the market with Kathie's grocery list.  I locked myself out of my car and had to be rescued by the manager of the market and a coat hanger.  This problem took so long to solve, Kathie was beginning to worry about me.
     After I put her groceries away, it was tune for exercises.   Kathie's heel tendons have shortened, making it difficult for her to use leg braces.  We spend half an hour a day stretching the tendons by pressing the top half of her foot toward her knee.   While I was sitting on the edge of her bed, working on her right foot, I noticed what appeared to be a small bruise.  I studied it, wondering if I should point it out to her.  "You seem to have-‑" I began, then broke off as the discoloration vanished when I pressed her foot in the opposite direction.  "Oops!" I said.
     "Oops, what?" Kathie demanded, pushing herself up on her elbows.
     "Nothing, dear.  I thought you had a bruise, but it's gone now."
     "Mummy!" Kathie said chidingly, but laughing as she sank down on her pillow.  "Don't ever say `oops' to someone who doesn't feel sensation.  It can give a person quite a turn."
     She continued to laugh so heartily that I couldn't help laughing, too.  She really is amazing.  Circumstances that would make anyone else cry, she regards as funny.  Like the time she was sitting near her professor's desk in front of the class, and a spasm lifted her feet neatly out of her shoes.  Not wanting to distract her classmates or the professor by putting her shoes back on, she simply sat there until he had finished his lecture.  How she giggled later when she told me about her "embarrassing experience."
     Before I left for Westwood, I put a leg of lamb in Kathie's roasting pan and added some water, which splashed out when I slid the pan into the oven.  I went to the sink for a sponge, then couldn't find a single drop of water on the floor.  Finally discovered it had gone into a partly open drawer containing paper bags, napkins, and other miscellaneous water‑logged goods.
     At home, things were no different. Someone had booby trapped the place while I was away.  Why else, when I tried to transfer some dry dog food into a smaller bag, did I end up with an avalanche?  Reinette, Miette, and I had a race to see who could clean up the debris the fastest.  An hour later, I was having hors d'oeuvres with Ed, and my gold inlay fell out.  At 10:00, as we were sitting up in bed reading, the light in my Tensor light flickered and died.  Ed trudged down to the basement, finally found a replacement the right size.
     "There you are!" said he.  We watched, fascinated, as the bulb revealed its unusual personality.  On, off, on, off, on, off-‑it belonged on a Christmas tree.
     Huge blizzard today, the worst in years.  Kathie decided it would be wise to stay home, and it's good we did.  Hundreds of cars are stranded and stalled all over the city and on the highways.  I had a lovely day holed up safely in my cozy house, catching up on neglected housework, drawing sketches Kathie wants for one of her courses, and writing letters like this one. . . .
Westwood, Mass.
November 11, 1967
Dear Tim:                                      
     As I started reading your letter I thought at first that you were the author of the hippyish‑sounding philosophy.  A few sentences later I decided uh‑uh, I'll bet this was written hundreds of years ago.  What alerted me was a radio program I had heard a few hours earlier. The host started off by reading a denunciation of the younger generation, then revealed that its author had penned his complaint back in the Middle Ages before even I was born.  The quotation was from a book called Wild Kids, by an elderly bearded man named Frank Something, one of the program's guests. 
     The other was balding, kind faced (do I sound like Time Magazine?) Dr. Robert Masland, head of the Adolescent Unit at Children's Hospital.  He looked surprisingly fit, considering he's had only five or six years to recover from his interviews with you and Vonnie.  Frank Something's book describes wild kids such as would make those of today suck their thumbs with envy.  In fact, up until a couple of generations ago, there was no such category as adolescence.  As soon as a kid could successfully deal with guns, liquor, and women, he was a man, baby.  Six-year-old alcoholics were not uncommon in Ye Merrie Olde England. 
     I enjoyed your comment on the Westwood woman's letter to Playboy.  I had already received a fair amount of teasing from Kathie, Dick, and your father.  Whoever would have thought there was a swinger in our quiet little dry town? 
     Hope you are finding life satisfactory and continuing your interest in writing.
November 30, 1967
Fort Lauderdale
Dear Timmy:
     I felt a twinge when you expressed mild regret at not having a more motherly type of mother (I was a nice mommy when you were little, wasn't I?) but am glad you find compensations in our present relationship.
     The thing is, I am no more interested in being a typical mother and grandmother than you are in being a typical all‑American boy.  Why conform to traditional roles just because everybody else does?  I wish nothing but happiness for women my age who are content with being family oriented for the rest of their lives, but their world is too narrow for me.  I think I'm still capable of growing, learning‑‑and as you observed, changing.
     For any changes I have recently had in my thinking, Playboy magazine may be responsible.  Dad has subscribed for years, but it wasn't until I began reading the articles that I enjoyed it as much as he did.  Subjects I once regarded as beyond the pale, I can now consider with more comprehension: homosexuality, abortion, pornography, drug addiction.  I can pass on to Vonnie a beautifully written book like Stradella which, though sexually explicit, is a world apart from romance novels like Valley of the  Dolls.
     I believe you can learn more about what's really happening from one issue of Playboy than from twenty of Time.   Playboy has taught me (though I resisted the lessons for many months) mistrust of the Establishment and its spokesmen; mistrust of the false front behind God knows what goes on (what is it with the CIA, anyway?); new respect, via the interviews, for those whom the Establishment has condemned as Communists, queers, or quacks; disillusionment in a society that preaches democracy while practicing mayhem.
     I wish Playboy would change its name.  With rare exceptions, my friends don't understand my interest‑‑the men smirk; the women look baffled.  My friends "have become their parents."   (This last thought was in an article I read years ago, concerning the way, as we grow older, we become less and less the open minded, free‑thinking individuals we once were, and more and more our parents.)
     Consider the reaction of my contemporaries to beards and long hair.  Their own grandparents wore beards, mustaches, and hair of every length and style imaginable.  Jesus Christ wore a beard!  And long hair!  No matter how often I remind your grandmother of this, she remains innocently convinced you can tell a nice young man from a not‑so‑nice young man by how often he uses a razor.
     My own feeling is that I find a thick mop of hair far more attractive on a man than the chain‑gang "whiffles" of my day.  Dad never looks better to me than when he's complaining that he's gotta get a haircut.   As for the rebellious element in the younger generation, I feel an admixture of sympathy and disapproval, tinged with envy.  I sympathize with many of their causes, disapprove when they over‑react with violence or under-react by giving up and dropping out; envy the freedom enjoyed by both girls and boys, thanks to the  pill, to "find themselves" before they are shoved onto the treadmill of family obligations.
     I sent $25 to an organization of Vietnam veterans who protested against the war in a New York Times ad.  There's a great article, by the way, in the December Esquire, called "Big  Brass Lambs."  Did you know there are dozens of well known, high ranking officers who consider the war a tragic mistake?
     Advice from Dad:  Lay off liquor, screwing, and drugs, particularly screwing ‑‑ that can get you in real trouble, says he, giving me a meaningful look.
     Isn't it nice to have a father, at least?

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