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National Educational radio takes pleasure in introducing one in a series of recorded lectures and readings from the Library of Congress in Washington. The lectures were given in cooperation with the Gertrude Clark whittle poetry and literature are fond of the library today. Peter Taylor and John Updike will discuss the reading and writing of fiction. The discussion will be moderated by James Dickey a consultant in poetry to the library. The panel will be introduced first by the Librarian of Congress Dr. Elder Quincy Mumford. Ladies and gentleman Prince amount of the Library of Congress tonight I am very glad to welcome to the maverick Congress. Two distinguished writers of American fiction John Updike and Peter Taylor are going to read and then engage in a discussion of their work with the IRA's consultant poetry James Dickie. Before Mr. Dickey introduces the speakers. I would like to say that is very gratifying that in this program
the art of fiction is jawing with that of poetry and that both of these are so ably represented this evening. One final note. At the end of the program. Any of you who wish to greet the speakers may do so and they put our pavilion adjoining here. Please do not come up to the states following the program. And now Mr. Dickey. Again as usual. And I'd like to welcome you to another. I'm tempted to call it an exchange rather than a joint reading. I hope that we can encourage an exchange an exchange of views between our protest supplants Peter Taylor on my left and John Updike on my right
both Mr Taylor and mr are among the most widely published and esteemed of American writers of prose fiction and that time for exchange this evening is relatively short. A person who comes to a program of this sort has every right to hope that writers of this caliber will be able to do what writers always endeavor to do that is to make a large statement in few words. We have again as usual and I'll. Give it take a minute to you the way. Mr. Taylor will read for approximately 20 minutes followed by around five minutes of exchange involving Mr. Taylor and myself. Mr. will then read for 20 minutes and at the conclusion of his reading. Mr. Taylor and I will engage as we are able. The topics his reading has brought up are indeed topics by way of biographical
introduction. Peter Taylor was born in Trenton Tennessee in 1919 and holds a B.A. degree from Kenyon College. Among his literary and awards are the National Institute of Arts and Letters Grant and literature. The first prize in the O'Henry Memorial Awards and other. The number of Mr. Taylor's shore stories are collected in a long Fourth and other stories. The wood is a Thorton happy families are all alike and Miss Leonora who in the last scene is the author of a short novel a woman of means and of plays among them Tennessee day in St. Louis. John Updike was born in 1900 it too in Shillington Pennsylvania. And Holmes a B.A. degree Summa Cum loudy from Harvard College. His literary awards and honors include the first prize on the Henry Memorial Awards and two awards for his novel The Centaur are the National Book Award and the National Association of Independent Schools award. Mr. Hicks other novels of
the poorhouse fair Rabbit Run and of the fun his short stories are collected in Pigeon Feathers and other stores and a music school. He is also the author of three books of poems the most recent of which is telephone codes. We will begin with Mr. Peter Taylor. Mr. Taylor thank you. This is a story that I have written recently and I've tried to accommodate it to the time we have. Or the time to bestow your excuse of some of the characters are exceedingly flat others that have great depth. I hope so. It's called the elect. It was really as though someone were dead. You might well have expected to find
black crape hung on the front door. The telephone was off the hook. The doorbell had been muffled. The best thing Judge Marble's wife could do was to keep busy at her little tasks. And although it was past 2:00 in the afternoon Judge larval himself was still sleeping like a baby in the big upstairs bedroom at the back of the house outside the house. Their faithful son in law Joseph along with several of the judges ardent supporters and to state troopers as well were stationed on the wide front porch to receive and ultimately drive away any of the TV people or even the party's own public relations people who might come banging on the door. The judge had fought a long hard battle and he had won. He was now governor elect of the state. Surely the governor elect was entitled to his rest and his wife's opinion at any rate amongst the spoils belonging to the victor should be included some small measure of privacy. The war clock
in the downstairs hallway struck a quarter past the state's first lady elect sat at her little desk at the end of the living room. She was writing checks. She was paying last month's bills from the department stores from the oil companies from the grocer from the dry cleaners from the drug store. In the final weeks of the campaign she had let everything go as a matter of fact she had actually taken up residence in a suite of rooms at the hotel opposite the Capitol building. She had lived she had never imagined she could possibly live. She had in those last weeks joined in the campaign much as she hated it all had taken to the road with the rest of the family appearing on platforms in 20 counties waving smiling giving the victory sign. She had even made a half dozen little impromptu two minute speeches of her own when nobody else from the family was there to speak up. Even the opposition newspapers had called her a good trooper and said she was well spoken her best and most oft quoted words were those delivered to a jokester in a crowd who had
called out asking if she wanted to go keep house and that musty old governor's mansion she had replied with with A he goes there I shall go also at his table shall be my people and the crowd had restored its crude infelicitous approval. Give them hell Nell. But now it was over in the hotel ballroom at 3am posturing before the television cameras. Judge Nobbles opposition had conceded the race was done. Now the judge's wife could once again enjoy the dignity of being Mrs Laurel and not nil labile as the newspapers opposition and otherwise had insisted upon calling her during the campaign you had to endure almost anything that is you did if in the modern way you joined in the fray alongside your husband halfway through the campaign when things began to seem uncertain for the judge and she had had to begin climbing on platforms and making a spectacle of herself. She realized who were the two most sympathetic
figures in American public life. They were Bess Truman and Mamie Eisenhower. Clearly those two had hated it all as much as she had. They were women of some background like herself and like herself they had recognized their duty and it carried on. Everyone said that she unlike them must have known what to expect coming as she did from a political family having once as a child lived in the musty old mansion. But in her papa's day it had been different. In those days a candidate's wife stayed at home with her family. When her usual social rounds got her bills paid on time the intrusions of TV and the pressures from PR men had not existed then. It had been very different business models mother as first lady of the state. It said that the principal adjustment she had had to make was to the ever present sense of living beyond her means. Yes in those days the family of a successful politician had to learn to live like rich people. Nowadays they had to learn to live like
like show people. When it lies judge lawyer will call from up stairs saying that he was hungry. Mrs Laurel appeared in the doorway from the living room and stood at the foot of the stairs. She was smiling up at him. It was a good sign if he was hungry. It meant he had not fixed his mind on her yet this morning the cook could get the cook to give him his breakfast or lunch and she could finish paying her last month's bills. I'll tell NOLA you are up she called. Would you like to have her bring you something on a tray. I would not he replied clearing his throat then striking a Napoleonic pose slipping his hand inside his plaid robe and dropping his chin to his bare chest. He intoned the governor does not choose to eat alone. Mrs. larval laughed obligingly. I'll be down shortly he said. She recognized his elated mood and knew of course that that was what she could have expected today. All right my dear she said. She returned to the living
room. But she was hardly through the doorway before she heard him call again. He simply called her name Nell. She heard him clearly but at the far end of the living room her little spinnet desk beckoned to her. No not the desk itself so much as the stack of bills with their address panes and her own business on the lobes in the half open drawer and the checkbook spread out on the surface of the desk and even the tiny roll of stamps and her own stick on return addresses they held out their arms to her like so many little children. But the wife of the governor elect knew where our first duty lay. She knew that in the future some secretary could take care of her personal bills and perhaps even her personal correspondence. The small satisfaction of writing out those checks and then scratching the bills off her list was not important. What difference did those bills make. She heard the voice at the top of the stairs asking do you know where matters all shirt is. I want to wear it with my blue suit. Yes in the future some well-trained secretary would have to take care of her personal
bills. She could see already that she would have to consent to that. Presently she was walking quickly up the stairway and she was wondering would it come now. Would he speak to her now of his appreciation of her joining in the campaign when she had hated it so she stopped for a moment and went back to the kitchen to put the telephone on the hook and to tell know that Judge Laura was ready to eat something now. Then she started up stairs again and again the question filled her mind would it come now. How she longed to postpone the moment when he would try to speak to her of it how she dreaded the moment. And yet she could not say why she did so. When the two of them came down to breakfast or lunch a quarter of an hour later she found that NOLA had places set for three in the breakfast room. Somehow overlooking this obvious fact she calls through the kitchen doorway for NOLA to set an additional place for self and one for their son in law Joseph. I already have replied Millet cheerfully. Oh yes I see you have. And Mrs
Laurel detected in her own voice an absurd resentful note. She ought to have been glad she told herself that the cook could guess she and Joseph would wish to have a bite while the judge ate. But she was so keenly so painfully aware of being out of touch with the operation of her own kitchen and household that she had a silly silly sense of being superseded. No one had even said Horace the yard man and chauffeur who had been guarding the back door had sent Horace around to the front porch to invite Joseph to come in and presently Joseph appeared. His face flushed from being out in the autumn weather all morning and his manner all smiles and congratulations. Listo list began Joseph sitting down at the breakfast table. List o list. Really you would hardly believe how many important folks have tried to push their way past me this morning. I could tell the tale. Joseph was considered quite literary and it. And it even has even helped the judge with the wording of a good many of his speeches. Though Mrs Law was not always sure that his additions and corrections were beneficial.
Sometimes in the middle of a speech she had recognized Joseph's words on the judge's lips and somehow from that point on the speech would not ring true to her somehow. Her own father had never allowed anyone to tamper with his speeches and to him the very idea of hiring a ghostwriter an idea which the judge had recently been entertaining would have been abhorrence. Still Joseph was a loyal admirer of the judges and that had to be appreciated. The other son in law out in California was an engineer and was only it was openly scornful of politics and politicians. But those that had been at the judge's side throughout the campaign had been there in fact times when his mother in law had thought he ought to be at home with his pregnant wife. During these same months the daughter in California had also been pregnant and the engineer had given us this is their excuse for not coming home for the election. Well at any rate Joseph had not slept at all last night and had been in the on the front porch this morning protecting the judge's well-earned right to rest. You couldn't believe he said how little consideration some of those dollars show for a man who
has fought the hard campaign you have and how little respect in fact they have for the office of governor of this state. I really don't believe I could have kept them out if those two state troopers had been there with me. One newspaper man pretended he had a note to you from Senator Bryce and when I asked to see the note he just laughed in my face and walked away walking up the paper and stuffing it in his pocket. The judge laughed pleasurably at Josephs reporting of this last of the incident. Well I'm afraid that's how it's going to be from here out he declared. The campaign was nothing to how it will be from here out. I'll be needing you all the way Joseph. I don't know what your title will be but I'll be needing you to keep such fellows off my back. Oh. Exclaimed Mrs Laurel interrupting suddenly I should think your secretaries and the state troopers together could do that without taking up your own son in law's time. There was a spirit in her of words that she had not intended should be there and seemed to draw her husband's attention entirely away from Joseph. She saw him drop his eyes from Joseph to the plate which is no lie just set before him and then left them to her own face. It was a trick of his she had often observed in the past she had
observed that in any conversation he seldom moved directly from one important subject to another. That is there was always an effort to prevent your detecting the mental associations he made or the logic of his transitions. She had always acknowledged that he was too subtle and too deep for her acknowledged it to him. But there were moments when she had consciously had consciously to conceal from him her own knowledge of his depths and subtleties. No lie she called over her shoulder turning her face away from him and toward the kitchen. Give us luncheon forks please and not these big dinner forks no luck. But there was no answer from the kitchen. No darling I began the judge seriously. She pretended not to hear him although she enjoys it as well as the judge had already been served. She snatched the fork from beside their plates and rising from her chair she set out for the kitchen. NOLA was nowhere to be seen. After serving them Noel had no doubt stepped over to her room for a moment or she might so far as her mistress knew have put on her hat and coat and left the house for ever. That was how little Miss Lovel felt she knew of what was her own cook might do nowadays.
NOLA she called again and the silence which she got for answer somehow made her think of the names of other cooks she had had over the years. She was tempted almost to stand there calling their name and Minerva. True Clara where are you. No let's see no less someone out of the past in the way. But realizing that our husband and our son in law are waiting for their forks. Mrs Laurel scurried back through the breakfast room and into the dining room. She went there to fetch the luncheon forks. But where were they. She had pulled open the top shallow drawer to the buffet and found that they were not in their old accustomed place. Where could no longer have put them. It seemed incredible that she didn't know where her own flat silver was kept any longer. She was tempted almost to return to the breakfast room announced that the flat silverware missing. Instead of when she opened the swinging door and saw her son in law and her husband waiting there without forks. She quickly crossed over and put one of the dinner forks in the judge's hands. He accepted it but simultaneously seized her free hand with
his own. Thank you he said gently. Thank you for the Fort my darling and thank you for everything else. She saw him glance across the table at Joseph and heard him say. She's been a wonderful campaigner hasn't she Joe. She knew his glance that Joseph meant nothing and yet she had a sense of discovering a conspiracy between them. Only of course it wasn't merely between them. The entire world somehow was conspiring against her. She could feel the blood draining from her cheeks. It seemed she might actually faint. I never saw anything like it Joseph was saying resting his own fork from a boy what a campaigner she turned out to be. The timid reserved little Mrs Laurel I'll never forget that night at Lawrenceburg when the rest of us sat there tongue tied how she stepped up to the lectern and began. I plead guilty to the soft impeachment until that night I had known my pretty little mother in law had such powers of rhetoric. It was a quotation I used Mrs Laurel said in a whisper of voice trembling. She was remembering that wretched moment at Lawrenceburg when it seemed anything would be better than the silence.
Someone in the crowd there had called out a phrase used in one of the opposition papers that morning. The genteel judge she had felt she he was being attacked for the decent good manners she had always encouraged him. And this had happened on the very first night. He had been able to persuade her to sit on the platform. What I won't forget the judge was saying is the sight of her shaking hands with the line of mill workers at Cedar Point when those old codgers and those young roughnecks who had been heckling me only fifteen minutes before I saw who they were going to shake hands with. They came flocking from all over the plant. The judge held on to our hands now and gave it to her hand and gave it a series of squeezes as he spoke and it really was as if she were out there in the rain at Cedar Point again wearing her rain hat and raincoat and shaking hands with all those young boys and old men. While she had stood there in the rain and had come over her that there were no middle aged men amongst the mill hands there were only smooth faced young boys mixed with young boys who at some point turned into rough faced old man.
Her heart had gone out unreservedly to those young boys and those old boys and afterward at home that night the memory that they had been no middle aged man amongst them touched her. But what had troubled her most when she was alone that night was the realization that she had shaken their hands with a genuine cordiality and that she was not somehow capable of a professional cordiality. She had acted upon her real feelings and the result was that the persons she had deceived that they were not the old mill hands or the young mill hands but her husband her middle aged husband and her son in law and miss lead better and Jake Ransome and Billy Henderson. My darling Nell the judge was saying now still holding her hand and the juice it was still present addressing her in a language and tone that he had always heretofore reserved for their private exchanges. My darling you do have powers I never suspected you possessed. I owe you a debt that I can never repay. And the bad part is that I have no doubt that you will go on increasing that debt of mine so long as we live no longer will burst into
tears. With with her own DNA for clutched in one hand and with the judge holding on to her other hand she began heaving and sobbing the contorted features of her face completely exposed the moment had come. She had known how it would be without knowing she knew what she had dreaded what she had known to expect without knowing she knew was that his expression of gratitude would be but an expression of his desire and his will that she not now discontinue her public row. Tears quite literally flooded her eyes and flowed down her cheeks. It was though quite literally some dam within her had burst. She knew there was no turning back no answering him as he came to his feet and looked directly into her eyes. She felt a flash of hatred for him this handsome middle aged man. She remembered his saying to Jews if at some point in the campaign do only small favors for others on the ticket and ask only large ones. She had hated him hated the prosperous successful middle aged they were sharing but only for the one
moment she loved him. He was her life but her life would be changed now. The world was changed now however and it was only that she must change with it. Everybody had to change with the Times didn't pay. It was her duty to him to change. Politicians no longer had to learn to live like rich people they had to learn to live like show people. Somehow she would learn the judge had his arms about her and Joseph had come around to her too. They were both calling her a perfect darling. They were touched that she should shed tears over his expression of gratitude beyond Josephs tear blurred silhouette. She had an even more blurred glimpse of the kitchen and saw that no one had returned it was in command there drying her eyes and cheeks on a napkin which the judge had handed her. Mrs Lawless said I'm being so silly how silly can a woman be the wife of the governor elect. This should be the happiest day of our life and I shouldn't spoil it with tears. Looking at her son in law she said with a baffled smile Many are called but few are chosen.
Wonderful replied her literary son in law. Then to our husband she said. I'm through with crying now and she went up on her toes and kissed him on the clean shaven cheek. Then the three of them sat down to their brunch together busying themselves with their large dinner forks and it seemed to the wife of the governor elect that she was quite literally through with crying that she might really never shed another tear so long as she lived. Do you want to say anything that that brings up what I think you have thought was says it very well. There are many things crossed my mind listening to it. Asked of Mr. Taylor's directness of
touch has always amazed me. He's been likened to Chekhov and there is that that right touch. The way the forks reappear the way nothing is wasted. Remember this is a story that he very kindly cut a little which he had actually with the economy the way that the judges first seen sleeping like a baby throughout the victory as some kind of burden I think is just so beautifully that the human much doesn't doesn't. The sadness of it the feminine sadness which I think is done I'm quite quite convinced and I hope it never becomes governor not what what strikes me as an all good kind of direction of fiction is to show. And what intimate public life private family live which is concerned with things like forms and so on in a
connect. I think we have a tendency to believe that public life no matter how much the national magazines and newspapers and so on try to convince us otherwise. We know that the public life of an important man is only public. And a little private in connection with a great thing to me about a story like this is to show what very intimate and human the public the public life and the life of. Me in the public life is connected with by a small and intimate. With extremely intimate family life which which the public never sees. We need to be reminded of the current public life don't have to be
but you can invoke them if you live. So if other comments you want to do you want to say to yourself. Never. Yeah right. We can have what we would like to have you say I will rate I ration the story and of all the best potatoes that I've read this is the kind of goodness the kind of goodness in the author that comes out as sort of a roundness and a firmness in the prose that I like it in writers. I'll read of quite a different kind of stories maybe a mistake. It's called Harvest plowing and it's from my last book. It's an attempt to trace the curve of an emotion through a triptych of perhaps violently different
images in my own mind as I wrote it there. They were very coherent and the hope is that the end of the story. And together but it is an attempt to do for myself that these to broaden what a story is and. There's so many of them written that surely a few of them can be written in. And then use the word tricky I don't mean to be tricky but in some some way of bringing in the kinds of knowledge that maybe I called hive that say Terry Ivy is plowing now. Our Lives submit to archaeology. For a period in my life which seems longer ago than it was. I lived in a farmhouse that lacked electricity and central heating. In the living room we had a fireplace and as I remember a kind of chocolate colored rectangular stove whose top was a double row of slots and this metal seat rested on a sheet of a specif. I've not thought of the stove for years. Its image seems to thrust
to one corner from the bottom of the trench. It was as high as a boy and he did a rectangular space of air around it when I was sick. My parents would huddle me in blankets on a blue sofa next to the stove and I would try to align myself with its margin of warmth while my fever rose and fell. Transforming at its height might my blanketed knees into weird intimate mountains at whose base a bowl of broth seemed a circular Lake seen from afar. The stove was fueled with what we called coal oil. I wonder now. What must have been obvious then. If coal oil and kerosene are exactly the same thing yes they must be Fred a member filling the stove in the kerosene lamps from the same can a 5 gallon can with a side spout and a central cap which had to be loosened when I poured. Otherwise by some trick of air pressure the can would Bob and buck in my hands like an awkwardly live thing and the spurting liquid
transparent and pungent would spill. What was kerosene in the lamps became coal oil in the stove. So there are. Essential differences. As well as existential ones. What is bread in the oven becomes Christ in the mouth. When spring came our attention thawed and was free to run outdoors. From where we lived not a highway not a tower not even a telephone pole was visible. We lived on the side of a hill surrounded by trees and grass and clouds across a shallow valley where the greening meadow lay idle. Another farm face stars come from the mirroring rise of land though the disposition of the bonds and sheds was different. The houses were virtually identical. Pennsylvania sandstone farmhouses set square to the compass and slightly taller for their breath as if the attic windows were straining to see over the trees.
Library of Congress lectures II
Episode Number
Episode 2 of 9
Producing Organization
WUOM (Radio station : Ann Arbor, Mich.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Series Description
For series info, see Item 3701. This prog.: The Writing and Reading of Fiction is discussed by James Dickey, Peter Taylor, and John Updike.
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Producer: Library of Congress
Producing Organization: WUOM (Radio station : Ann Arbor, Mich.)
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-40-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:30:17
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APA: Library of Congress lectures II; Episode 2 of 9. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from