Book Beat; 91
We're talking about the long walk at San Francisco State. Which is a very powerful and moving book by a great lady named Kay Boyle. The book is published by Grove Press and we will be back with Miss Boyer who teaches at San Francisco State in just a moment. This is book B. Each week introducing you to leading authors and critics this program is made possible in part by the National Book Committee and the American Booksellers Association. Your host is Robert Crumb a daily columnist for The Chicago Tribune and a contributing editor of book world the Sunday Literary Supplement of the Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post. This boy you were teaching of course at San Francisco State when the things that you're talking about happened now I believe youre an author in residence at Hollands. Yes I am the Hollings in the doing a very different atmosphere from San Francisco State no place and no high Akala. Thats true when you go back to San Francisco State
that says I have my last class at the Holland which I think is about and I think well Was anyone killed finally at San Francisco State are you lucky enough to escape that. No no no one was out to the town but there were a great many people beating up a good many students beating up a horse. What do you think was the basic the basic trouble there was a there was a black white friction of course even among the students wasn't it. Oh no it was not. No no it was the black studies program you see we as faculty went out on strike in support of the students the black students and even though you know that yes and we went out without the labor sanction for a while and finally we did get labor union sanction for it. But ours was a purely as of this showing our sympathy for the third world and that the blacks didn't you better explain what the third world is because I think about all the angles American Indians. Mexicans come home and the reason I thought there was some black white friction among the students was that it wasn't an attack on the school paper that went to them.
Well yes but that was an isolated incident. Yeah I see and I think that may possibly have been some reason that I don't really know but it was violence and that was deplorable it should not have happened. But the real violence the real violence among students came from the physical education guys when the strike with the police would call them wild and they would help them beat up the students you mean with physical education student portion of the students the physical education majors that align themselves with a palooza please you know when you mention of course that they the president of San Francisco State was more or less forced out. Yes some of them thought that this and then that the minister Hi I'm the ark with I must deal with those 4000 The year before and then then Mr. Smith Robert Smith was forced out of the fellowship and then a high collar came in as acting president because he had obviously agreed to be really represented and to call police in case of which would Smith had nothing to do.
But your book points out that Mr. Cohen was not legally president according to the to the to the rules. That's true it is still true. But you know when you have the political machine of a state behind you you don't have to obey the rules you don't have to observe them. You would think also that his own feeling about things he has been given the know called an assault by the academic senate of California the state college of California no confidence vote by the San Francisco State College and I think that at least a third possibly more the faculty against him and cause a great. Number of students but he doesn't mind these things. Well was he in the long run responsible for the calling of the police. Oh yes definitely against the advice I guess of the other. Most of the faculty members or many of the faculty members. Well there again we have the silent majority I think about a third. So they did urge him not to. And our feeling was that.
The whole the whole affair could have been handled by the campus police who were not on. There was no necessity to have soldiers tactical squad in there with the absolute opposite that this is a tactical squad which is a fairly small group. Yes but about 30 is that trained in karate and that's judo and house to house fighting combat fighting and all those sorts of things. How many students were hurt. Ah that I really don't know but a goodly number I really don't know. Well you know some some very upsetting pictures about at least one of the students lying on the ground and you say that he was one of the gentlest students you had that play you just one of them Professor When you very well was just standing there too and they suddenly came over to him and grabbed him and said Come on you come in as a prop because they had you know how they do now they take photographs of you when you were another demonstration. And they had his photograph you doing nothing that day. They took him to the a paddy wagon and just as he got into the back of that wagon they had him on the back of the head and maced.
And when he finally did get into court they dropped the charges against him as he had been doing I think. But that was the procedure. Well it's a good way to intimidate people as always and see that they don't come to other demonstrations and there's been a lot of outcry against a tactical squad and attempts to abolish it have done it. Yes but I'm afraid that with the repressive conditions in our country the present time I don't think they're going to be any chance of that. That thing about waste I think is a matter of fact that things are going to go worse. Do you I guess. I don't think it's gonna be the same kind of a demonstration at state or another place. But it's going to be I think there are pressing things are going to be much when you mention the number of students in there and some of them in very glowing terms in the world that intrigued me most I think was the little one who kept walking around looking for an astronomy professor and it turned out to be a high school dropout. Yes exactly. Who said later that this either either said or you implied that this was as close as he was ever going to get to college and that's why he was
there. Well you see with you with the regulations which Reagan that's put through now it's practically impossible at the present time. I mean even worse than my book points out because my book after all was written a year ago. It's even worse now no really literally no student of a minority group can hope for higher education in the state colleges of sand California. Probably impossible. They have upped the the tuition fees and they have upped the percentage of people that are going to be take from the senior classes. 33 I thought the top third note was not something that you know it's less than that now that top 12 percent used to be the top 30 in your book they brazen even better. Yes. And the idea is to push students of minority groups students with no money into the junior colleges which are not at all colleges that simply trade schools. When you mention overhearing I guess you or some friend of yours overheard a lady under the dryer saying that I'm right there with my own you know did you really when you quote it then because you remember it well she
said you thought it was a tragedy too perhaps not that way but you thought it was too bad to send these under educated people and asked them to go into college classes really on crime when they would be much happier if they were garbage then there's something about street sweepers street food. Well when the police came in the students opposed them or any of the policeman hurt I don't think that they were too heavily you know their armor. You know they're not men anymore you know they're like people from Mars with these horrible masks of these bulging things against the. Gas and all of us do that well on one occasion that your book says they they ordered a group to disband and then attack them before they had time to disband. Exactly and that was what that was the one of the big massacres that was a really bad bad time and I think I mentioned in there I called him good let the black editor and the owner of the paper in Oakland the whole black community came up after that and said we're going to stand by our children and we are we owe we are willing to die for our children
and they were attacked and called them good little was dragged off the shoulders of some black members of the administration and clubbed and taken to the police station and was let out because he had to be in Stockholm that night to attend a peace conference where he was addressing. The conference will have to begin the suit for false arrest of a number of the mess and I haven't heard any of them. Oh yes yes and they've dropped them all very quiet in that they don't they don't put this in the paper but I mean they've been heard and they've been lost in other words they've been hardened they've been dismissed the court dismisses them but you don't see that in the paper you say. Well in other words the people who are suing have lost their shoe is what I mean I know on the contrary the charges against him have been dismissed. Yeah but I mean a suit for false arrest is wanted by the person who was arrested I see what you mean. I wanted to bring you those that I don't know because that of course is a not a bad one but for instance the lawyer who handled some of the cases of the People's Park children in the Berkeley I think they were forwarded to six arrested
every single solitary case was dropped the charges were dropped against them. You never see that. Can you just see of the arrest of these students. Usually they find him guilty of disorderly conduct and then suspend suspend the sentence and you drop them completely. Just a protection let that makes a good shoot. You know if you're arrested the charges are completely dropped. Yeah you had a case in a confrontation with Mr. Hyatt during the height of one of the one of the riots or one of the. And I'll just point out just before that very much it happened that I went up at 8 o'clock and I saw this man on that soundtrack which was on a public that if it was not on that I would have gotten that Santa wasn't his soundtrack no it was a private sound belonging to the students and they were asking students not to go into class until the demands of their black and third well brothers in that and he jumped up on the soundtrack and pulled out the Wyatt tried to attack it. The boys who were driving it and making it function.
What surprises me is that these people who are so much against violence are frequently the most violent people of all. Well he said a funny thing afterwards he said I couldn't stand that mindless chanting so he was screaming and retort apparently Well you know which was a very strange thing and this is on television and this was on television. He led them at one moment which is really bad and it gave you the creeps to see him leading this on strike shut it down and strike shut it down and he'd lead them like an orchestra. You know it was that when you compared him I think to Eichmann and he said Kaye boy you're fired. Yeah. And then later denied having said it. Yes he gave three versions to the press officer lives and one of the versions was that he'd said OK boy I'm surprised a distinguished novelist of your standing acting like a member of a lynch mob. Well you know there wasn't a time to say all that and you had a formal for those circumstances I would send the other one is cable you should be ashamed of yourself. And he denies all three of them although that was in the papers. He gave these.
But he is not the president and how how many of the faculty members are still at San Francisco State who were there say three years ago. Well those who it felt as I did and do try to get jobs elsewhere but found that it was very difficult because they were no longer the young and the colleges were not. Universities were not so anxious to take not so young people and also any state college they applied to had the word from California state to see that they had been disrupted as they would like a kind of an informal blacklist. Yes I knew many who did go and have interviewed and thought everything was said and they were told they got a letter from the Eastern college or the Midwest got so far but the position had been filled so a great many of my colleagues thank heavens are still there. So when I go back I will find my old friends again. Well what happened to the black studies demands. Well that there is no more black studies program at San Francisco State that has been eliminated completely so that the situation then is reverted in that it would
presumably. You may have some more student troubles not of that kind I wouldn't say so because I think that we lost we all lost. You know even the perfectly peaceful strike it was a total loss. It was something impossible to win. Do it at all. When the country is in this kind of. Well I hesitate to say fascist but it may be on the way there. Look at Hardwick the editor of The New York Review wrote me at the time and said I think that to California particular the Bay Area is destined to act out the tragic drama of the whole United States and in California you have a vegan who might equate next and. You have high Akal and you have the bitter battle between those who love freedom and the oppressive element and she has a feeling that in the next few years it is going to spread across the whole United States. So horrible thought and I sincerely trust you're wrong and I know you hope you're oh too
well. Your book also takes up things such as a selection of the jury in the trial of what he went in. And your interview with. With you yes but you don't really have. We should not take place you didn't didn't really have. But tell us about the jury selection because it's very interesting you know well and I don't doubt it that one of my very close friends in California Jessica Mitford who covered the Spock trial that's a predator on the show. You have a man in Boston of course the jury selection is quite different from in Oakland and Alameda County. They do it just there she tells me on the police list which is much fairer because they go there they therefore have the list of everybody living in a certain house almost like the census thing. In California they do it quite differently they do it on the voter registration list. And most black people the dissolution of the democratic process do not register to vote. So they're not therefore I would vote for jury duty that they're not called you know their names I
don't know their names and all that. And Charles Gary has done a very noble job in trying to get that changed in this new employer Newtons law and how Bobby Seale saw it and I don't know if there's going to be a change or not it's difficult. But you also mentioned some of the questions they asked the jurors. Yes well Gary was one of the first lawyers to introduce this kind of questioning. And it's a fascinating process because you can see immediately that the prejudice of people just a very simple question Did you ever have a fight with a black man. Well yes in a garage once you know you know he tried to take something out of my car and I knocked him down and so Gary says dismissed the challenges of the sport. You lived in Germany for I think four years five years five years. How did you like it there. I'm curious because I was a workhorse but and I was in Germany and I just wondered where I live a range thing that I live for 25 years and from without ever coming back because I never had the money to come back.
And those 25 years in France produced for me. Many fewer friends than I have in Germany which is a non-issue because all my sympathies are with French people. But the only French friends I had were the office. And people of that kind no ordinary French friends while in Germany during that five years I didn't feel I have friends there whom I could count on all my life. Now this is a very proud oxycodone and it's really going to surprise me rather that when I went back to two years ago during the strike I went back there for Christmas to visit some of my children and powers and at the Frankfurt airport where I landed the same men that I had known for 10 years before his students in the Frankfurt University were professors and they met me at the airport with exactly the same slogans on the placards that had been carried all day in support of the students at Frankfurt and I find Di much more active political
awareness in Germany in Frankfurt particular than I do in Paris at the present time. WOMAN You really have more hope for Jeremy than you have for France. As far as I hope I don't know. Working something out and I'm not I'm not going to try to look in the future too closely but the French police I think are just about the worst in the world probably worse than our own. Difficult though it may be to do what were you arrested for by the way and you and I think Joan Baez served a little time at the same time for demonstrating against the ground it's a very peaceful everyone sort of imagines terrific violence and all like I think we sat in the doorway in Oakland in Oakland at the induction center and you said that and the first time we sat seven hours before the police come and ask you if you would go. And of course you can't possibly tell Yes I will. So you would say what they say when you walk to the patrol wagon. And then you say I will. And for some strange reason women are accompanied by a police lady
because they might they think something might happen to you I don't know what kind of thing might happen to you before between the induction center and the paddy wagon. And the first time I served 10 days I think with John and I mother and then my daughter you know buy into that I could serve on weekends and holidays so that I wouldn't miss my classes at San Francisco. That second thought I was about to just before Christmas again with Joan and her mother and we had a mob of Christmas in jail I'm writing about it now in the book I'm writing fantastic Christmas. How did your students react. They must have known that you were teaching during the week and then going off to jail on the weekends. I have something I think that's a lot of us think about something just because students they seem to understand that you know you have to stand up for things you believe in. But it's such a peaceful thing I mean there's nothing really violent about as all this sitting in the induction center. And sometimes we felt that hasn't done much good but you know I really feel that those things have done that. Every one of them has done some good.
Well something must have done some good because I'm sure that overall though the reaction against the war in Vietnam is far greater and far more powerful than it ever been. Yeah. And it must be the cumulative effect of a number of things. I like to believe that although I part with a small they did have some effect. But I would think it must have had. Most of it. How many books have you done now by the way. Oh about 30 I guess. And you're not working no on the one about the jail. I'm well I'm writing a novel now and I'm bringing all these experiences in but I'm liking it for the public and I get a younger woman because I don't like to read about a lady. Usually. I think of you as a young child. Sometimes I feel that way myself. When did you start writing by the way old boy. Well I was almost retarded I had to say it but I was I couldn't read I couldn't write nothing on earth could make me read aloud. And at what age. I think I was 7 before I can read. And I used to
tell my stories in my poems to my mother and she would write them down. And then I started then really what was that were you lot various places we moved around like we did in Philadelphia and bring law and that I consider you quite a bit in New York. But the strange thing is that I don't know if this is a serious drawback but perhaps it is I really have never changed. It is isn't that good Mexican food so no none of your ideas are right to start with you maybe they weren't I don't know when you watched what happened today which cling to the thought that they were. No I don't see any virtue in changing your ideas as you get older simply because you're getting older not because the ideas of lost their validity and I think a lot of people do that they just get tired and say all you want is the US lets go with the crowd. Well my my mother's sister was very active in the woman suffrage and later in the Equal Rights Movement mother was due but she was a very gentle and nonaggressive person she did it very quietly but I was even as a child of seven or eight I remember so well being
against this woman's movement because I wanted even then this out of the obvious but it's true. Even then I thought everything is wrong we have to have a revolution peaceful revolution that will change things for men and women and that's why I suppose I've never been approached and never been approached by any women's lib group of course the chaplain Hollins college was a modest man and was a very great friend of mine says that because you're an Uncle Tom and you've made it in that. But I really feel very strongly that we've got to work with IMing men and other much the victims of what's going on the women of course the economic things you know women are paid less. But then I suppose in my special field in writing there is less and that's different. You know the contract is the same for a man or a woman that you know the royalties are the same so I said well maybe even better because I remember Jonathan Cape you remember the English saying to me
years ago that they like giving contracts to women because once a woman had written a book she would write 20 books whereas a man up to the second book might start having misgivings about himself you see that woman just keeps right on some maybe she has an advantage in that in the writing. You told me I think that some of the lawyers reassuring to the late University Press is reissuing all of your novels. Yes they've done so far the first one like the guy gal in the second line year before last and they are going to do Monday night which is a novel I Think I the most successful novel. I mean success from my point of view I think I said in it what I wanted to say. Well I suppose plagued by the nightingale is perhaps your most famous title and to let you know I don't know avalanches. Is it because avalanche went into an armed forces edition of two hundred fifty thousand copies No I didn't say the most successful I said the most famous the best known title that is for me because I just happen to like the title which of course from our end was going to say which you derived. You know I think
avalanche is the best in fact the second time I was arrested when I got out of the patrol wagon at the police station and Oakland the lieutenant or whatever it was I never can keep their title straight he was in plainclothes and you open the door and he said What is your name and I said came boiling he said. Abba played by the night and please get started. None of it isn't that I think this is really a stunt who incidentally was the lieutenant you mention here who who finally left the police force after 27 years or something I can't think his name but the one with the with the the ideas about what should be done and the very forward looking Lieutenant you mention. Oh heavens I forgot the name I know there were there were several women in Santa Rita rehabilitation center who left after we'd been there but you know the impact of 67 women talking about peace does have an effect on people. I'm sorry I don't remember the doing well you can guess the trouble I have written so much that I forget what I write I mean it's accurate. Yeah I think sometimes I'll open the anthology in the middle I'll start reading I think this is
very interesting you know and I keep on and I get to the end I thought I wrote it about. Well that's funny you say that so I know it's unfair to an author really the question is I don't know I know what you mean at that time. Yeah he's now in Washington you know with a very high position in Washington. But I'm going to I'm going to think that in a very forward looking stick that fantastic that he was he was an amazing yes. I forgot about that. Well what do you see as the future in California by the way. Well Mr. Reagan be re-elected do you suppose. Oh no I'm not going to think about it I'm just going to do my duty from the day to day and hope you know that everything will be better than and fight it's going to be what has the attendance dropped off which I first posted yesterday but it is a sharp drop. I really doubt they said that to the summer school last year. 970 was a third all of that is because they upped that to which was $25 for a subject and most of the kids when they want to take the summer school so they can get in in the autumn have to take three
things and what what black man or what the third world student can afford $75 for someone who can't. That's what they want they want them and I think who are you in favor of eliminating all the entrance requirements for certain groups for example. No not all I mean I think that has to be decided on an individual basis but you see during the before the Black Studies Program which wiped out a great many black students were permitted to come in without meeting the requirements but people volunteered to tutor them and that I think is a modeless. Well how did they do. That. Well go well and it was it was. They were bright enough so they could do the world we just need a day to help and all they needed was a bit of encouragement do you think. Well what are some of the I mean they're very few in the academic world like me who can say I had never had any case of this tour I've never been to school at all or anywhere I have no degrees or anything and when I can say to a black boy or girl look forget about that. I never had any education you don't need a daddy how far did you go to get little. Oh I didn't go anywhere. And my
poor son when he applied for college you know you have to fill out what your mother your father and his mom did there to get the. Third grade and I say no so you'd have to with that I think Mari Sandoz got through fifth or sixth grade and I mean she taught also. I don't think that's right and I think 30 books is considered the crib of the degree of some kind. Well it's very encouraging to black students when you say all they've got to do is read and talk and think and try to write. You know you're going to get there and. But you're not an academic approach. I wish we'd brought this up earlier because no people are never going to know why you didn't go to school and we haven't time to tell them. We've been talking with Kay Boyle about her book The Long Walk at San Francisco State which is basically about what happened at San Francisco State a couple of years ago when there was this confrontation between the students and the I guess the establishment. And the book is published by Grove Press and I think you'll enjoy it very much as I did. And I want to thank you for watching as I bought the Chicago Tribune and Miss BOYLE It's a delight to meet you because I've admired you from A.
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- Book Beat is a literary radio program hosted by Chicago Tribune columnist Robert Cromie and made possible in part by the National Book Committee and the American Booksellers Association. In each episode, Cromie interviews an author about a specific book theyve written or translated. Authors discuss the books background, topics, and themes as well as their research and writing process.
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