thumbnail of Reader's almanac; Jessamyn West
Transcript
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
It's time for the readers all men to act with one by our originally broadcast over station WNYC in New York and distributed by national educational radio. The reader's almanac is America's oldest consecutive book program. Here now is Mr. Bauer the author of the friendly persuasion which diggers and love death from the ladies drill team. Among other books has another novel in the bookstores presently. I mean of course. Jessamyn West and her book is called a matter of time. Just out from Harcourt Brace and world. Now this is the first time in and Mrs. West has been on the almanac although I could have wished it had occurred much earlier than this but I am happy that we have such a novel to discuss at this purse meeting for a matter of time. It is an extraordinarily moving story on a high level of appeal. Its theme may be described as love than death especially the triumph of love over death and the removal of the sting and the pain of death. We will want to talk in more detail about this but let me avoid being specific about the matter for the time being
because I want to promise you readers or those who become readers of a matter of time that a reading experience a great subtlety and beauty is waiting for you. This I can feel I can promise you because I've had it myself. A word or two about more and more about the author by way of further introduction. Mr. West was born in Indiana of Quaker parents. It's clear that a friendly persuasion came straight out of our background and life because a Quaker spirit and faith never had a happier spokesman. She was educated in California understand graduated from Whittier College which may have had something to do with her now being a resident of California. I don't know this novel. Ms West appears to me to have been one with a theme over which you have brooded much not because you were obsessed with it but because the challenge to tell it well memorable even was one that you actually had to meet. Now this may well have meant that you have been developing it slowly for years.
Perhaps in your unconscious or consciously certainly before you were sure that you knew precisely how to do it and how to incorporate in it all that you wanted it to say and mean. I wonder if there's any sense of truth in what I've been saying. Yes I think there is although I myself and I think many writers would be I would be hard put if you were to ask me in so many words what is the thinking of a matter of time. I'm I'm not sure what I would cite cite to you that it is but but chiefly to me are all over the book as you know does and in a death it seems to me that what I wanted to say what I wanted to convey was something of the richness and goodness and excitement and beauty of life and also to say something of the chances missed in the lives of these people for
experience experiencing though those riches and beauty some excitements. That that seems to me to be a bit above all the thing I don't know whether it would. That seems to you to have been the theme or not. Well I don't think I would have included it in any summary of what I would think the theme might be. I think that this comes from what you just talked about perhaps has come as a result of dealing with the theme proper. If there is such a thing as a proper theme here. Those seem to me to be infringing benefits that came to you as you were writing. Well you would perhaps say that the theme was the way in which a person meets today. Yes yes but it seems to me that the effectiveness or the reason for anyone's interest in the death of this person could only be
the result of having lived a will. This person if you hadn't been caught up. If you if you warn the reader who isn't caught up in the living of this woman as a as a girl as a young woman you know you can't care that then the book will be complete for you wouldn't care whether you or she lived or died as you know thousands of people die every every single day and their lives are and their deaths are tragic. But because we don't know them we don't feel for them. So in a way it's a medium Porton thing to me saying that had to be done. Maybe it's simply because it's the first thing that had to be done. What's was to stop the ship the living of the person before work could go on to the dying. Well I feel that I have to agree with you I think the only difference really between us is that I may be using the phrase theme in a kind of academic sense and after all
I have to admit it being academic you say. It seems to me around the central point which is perhaps one inadequate way of describing what a theme is. There cluster of many other values for you because this is a rich story and it comes out I'm sure a very rich mine and you would have surrounded the theme itself with many other qualities that lend richness and. And depth and significance to what you were saying here not to go back to what sometimes go the academic can and sort of approach to the theme. I noted over the weekend reading some of your review is that one of your reviewers pointed out that you have dealt with this theme theme and my sense now is as bad as the theme of death or love over death or something of that sort in several different short stories at any rate. And here she was implying that the reviewer that you have come back to
it once more. And have dealt with it in a far larger and deeper sense. I wish I'd seen that review because I forget you know I forget what I have written I don't know. And I kept an eye on it. I don't remember myself. I think that I have. I have in my novels a people die. I don't remember the short stories myself in which people die but I can quite well see how someone reading this and trying to think academically. Now I can see how that's supposed to be a dirty word you know. When I think of them a lot I'm not going to be used in a dirty way because my husband is a professor at a university so I'd better not think of that as dirty. But this book does I mean does he have to do with the way in which death is met. Yes. And many things
of course I mean you have to live before you can die. And the way you live probably has something to do with why you die so. Now am I nor am I getting more academic. Something like you're approaching it as if they're not being mean. May I tell you that I made a speech in Baltimore just before I came here and for the most part people who hear me make I remember from the persuasion more than anyone else and there are questions after after the speech and the woman got up and said Can you tell me what philosophy the goose in the fundie persuasion was struck. I tried to get academic about a goose. She has been reared on symbols. Yeah yeah I know out of the goodness. Yeah. Well let's carry this thing on a little bit further and particular way in which you develop a theme. One of those is a small point but I do think it may be mentioned. There's a long time in the book before you ever get
round to mention the the cause of the book says death. I wondered if there is if you were trying to avoid perhaps the inherent morbidity and fear that has been attached to the word cancer. No I don't think that was what I was trying to do but it seemed to me that the interest in a book or are the appeal of a book or the validity of a book. So long as it can be accelerated are motivated simply by the knowledge of something coming. I'm saying right writing this in a way as if it were a mystery story. If there is there is a menace. But you don't say who the menace is. Yes don't don't you think there are something justified. Not because I thought that cancer I had tuberculosis for years and years and years and that you know it used to be part of the white thread and that sort of thing and people didn't
say that word and I don't think I haven't any compunction about saying the word cancer but it was rather. That I thought that not to say at once. You know as if I were a doctor and writing out of a diagnosis of a case to to let the reader feel impending menace without specifying and that that was a bit of a simply are possibly mistaken craft. Well I don't think so I think with what you've just said isn't actually a very good explanation of your feeling about it. To identify cancer the menace which is certainly is. Very early in the book would've taken away some of the point of later development. I bet that that is what I felt right rather than. And I can understand how you had feel that you had to work up to it. In life I think a book is is best when the reader can wonder some Don't you know. When when when when not
everything and I think this is a fault of mine I tend to be you know too open and say everything right off and if the character I think is wonderful I say he's wonderful. But then I am trying to train myself to not just give everything away in the first chapter. So this this was rather technique or an attempt at sparing readers feelings. Let me take you on just a little bit further to another matter of interest to me and I'm sure to readers as well although I think probably we are giving away some of the things that you would like to keep to yourself later in the book or reader in the reading possibly I wondered how you reason about test Tassie is acquiescence in books is way out of life. Was there any difficulty about this. I mean beyond the pain of loss of a loved person was there any moral implication there at all for you.
I think that I and the writer a writer when he writes puts himself of course as you know into the shoes of First one person and then another and I think that when I identified myself as a writer with Cassie. My feeling was that this girl was our woman that she was at this time of the book and that she wanted to do whatever her sister wanted that that she felt that she was simply an instrument. At this point of helping her sister to accomplish whatever her sister wanted to accomplish. Furthermore. I think that a dent of finding myself with with Tassie that there did not. If this is your question I got go ahead and talk so much that I maybe lose the point of your question that she did that she did not feel any compunction. You know in a
religious or or moral way the only thing that she felt was was a reluctance that this parting and any degree pre-mature alike with her sister. Yes and by and I felt in the book the thing that I tried to bring up the book was that for the world for the nurse or the one next to and in flood you've become I think extremely attached to that person. And even if even if it might be better if that person would desire to to be finished with the life that that being with the ill person the doomed person has has become the well person's life and he has be reft us not to be rough on losing a person to be reffed by losing his vocation you know.
Well certainly he does not need to feel guilty in the slightest It seems to me you know. By association here when this and they project which Blixen carried out had to have help of course in order to do it. There's another point of view here I think is very important and that is that we might say that you're not concerned here about the medico moral aspects of euthanasia. To put it in another heavy academic phrase. I think you mean of course a the Death is after all the inevitable experience of us all. We can make it. Or we can have a means and character. We can go out whimpering. But Blix didn't not in the least. She chose her way of going out on her own time. Though it was actually very close to the normal ending of her life of course. So that makes a difference doesn't it.
For those people who are talking and thinking about guilt or Oh it it certainly did to me because I I can't think of. Of of many cases of people who take their life that may be a craven and a craven way out attacking their allies. Simply to escape the difficulties which if they would stick around and they could solve in life and help themselves and help out their people. But Blix by sticking around wasn't going to either help herself or help anything anyone else she would. She was only going to put upon those near her she was going to put an enormous burden of the sympathetic suffering with her she was going dark and she felt that she was going to darken their lies by having to see her become simply a non person then why. So I think I think there's enormous
differences. And in the matter of you know ending a life. Yes. Now how about a doctor on his case with different eyes Sumit you have to say because of his oath would you have him acquiesce to tacitly at least. How did he make his peace with his conscience of AIG who I really don't know if the idea I don't know what that doctor I tried to make the circumstances so that the doctor would be as a little involvement as possible. Well you know under that course under those circumstances I don't know if if someone had the means. Of ending his life. Now there is no law and was determined to do it although the doctor the doctor really had the doctor really didn't think she ever was going to do it he had seen many people say that they would end their lives and not do it. But what what under the law or what could that doctor have done. Could he could he.
If she had lethal pills and they were hidden from even where they were he couldn't bring in an officer with a search warrant and ask him. Try to find him he couldn't. I tried to develop this and he couldn't get a warrant and so you have to go and go to a hospital where you're under 24 hour surveillance. True he didn't burnish them and I know he didn't punish He didn't punish them and he made that clear and I tried to make that clear so that he wasn't because I think this I don't want to get in trouble with the doctor. And I think this is one I wouldn't want I think this is a thing for the individual to do. I I think a doctor wouldn't want to and I wouldn't I don't know that I would want a doctor to say look you had it girl. Well you made him of course a very sympathetic individual one in discriminating and thoughtful fully understanding the situation here and how it ought to be mapped. He's a wonderful character.
I thought I admired him myself. I really doubt I think yes fine man. Oh that one little thing and I would like to wish we'd given more time for this kind of thing but I wish we could go on for an hour and that is the one my quote was something about the technique of novel writing. I'm not sure that many readers notice and would such a characteristic as this but I'm sure that their affectation by it because they they may not reason about it or be clear in their minds how the telling the story was actually accomplished. You had more experience readers than I have in the past do you think they are conscious of technical matters if for example I'm thinking in the back of my mind about the way in which this story does not progress step by step in time. Well they're conscious of it when they can't tell what time I got irritated. But I this is told this is the first time I ever told a story in the first person.
And I did this before I decided to write this book. A matter of time before I knew I was going to write a matter time I decided that I was going to write the next book that I wrote in the first person for the reason for the reason that it's fun to you know to try new ways of how it's nurses and also because the last novel that I wrote south of the angels had many characters and I went into the minds of many of my characters and I heard complaints both from critics and from readers that you know no longer do. And no sooner do we get accustomed to being in the mind of one person then power. Miss West we're not you know in the shoes of some other character. So I thought and I haven't tended to do that if I feel that I'm not giving my reader you know full money's worth unless I join the insides of the minds of lots of people. So I said I am going to tie myself down to writing in the first person.
You know I think maybe I'm not sure that this was the best way to have told this book. Or it might have been to get why I don't know. I think it's it tends to make the reader feel. That it's more something that actually I lived through. Maybe they do with every book that's written in the first person I would think oh yes the tendency is to think way even if it's a you know want to start all novel and by some 16 night yes it seems to them assess something live through. I don't want to hurry on one of the comments that I would like to make one other quality I found enlightening and illuminating and very warming in this book. I think quick insights given to the reader which come from you like bits of sharp flashes of lightning is really what I mean. Let me give you an example Tassie was at what was her mother's nurse and because of her love she was very good at it indeed. And then you say in a reading it exactly as you have it eased my efforts. And
mother sometimes held out her supple long fingered hand. Oh Patty she'd say a complete understanding of what you had done in those words. Now whether she spoke or not I had blessed myself with my act two people united in an act of love. The calm that follows is pretty much the same whatever that is. And I think that's a beautiful expressed idea feeling insights like that are like nuggets in a gold mine. I want to ask you just a bit about who do these come unexpectedly to you as a writer or are they planned. They come unexpectedly. And this it seems to me as the great excitement and we Ward writing it out is that in writing and then becoming other persons and putting yourself into a situation. Insights that seem to you to be true that you've never had before
come to liking alumina and you and this. I remember this well and it was not not something that I had had before I lived through the writing of this experience. When you're deep in that experience and you're trying to get over it fully and completely to the person and suddenly you somehow don't know why or I don't know where it comes from and pure that you don't either. Your mind makes this assumption and phrases it somehow in the best possible way. At the inn Yes in the best possible way that I as a writer am able to do. But this seems to me to it to be really one of the reasons that that people write surely I can't. If I knew everything you know if you know you said what is planned beforehand and then I you know have a little phrase but can I find a spot where I can insert it. And how did the stories that I have known most completely and where they were going have been the least interesting him and probably
stories that were not as good as the others. But I do want to say that such insights as we have been talking about come often to the readers of any of the novels and stories of Jessamyn West because they come often in the work of Jessamyn West particularly in this novel a matter of time. So I recommend this highly to you too to read. I hope that you'll get to it soon. It's just been published by Harcourt Brace and world read but it's this book and I'm sure you'll go on to read more of Miss West words you've heard Warren by our own Jessamyn West in a discussion of Miss West's novel a matter of time. This was a program in the series. The readers all men act on our next program Mr. Bauer's guest will be David Duncan. And the book under consideration will be Mr. Duncan's autobiography A Yankee Nomad the reader's Allman act is produced by Warren Bauer and is originally broadcast by station
WNYC in New York. The programs are made available to this station by national educational radio. This is the national educational radio network.
Please note: This content is only available at GBH and the Library of Congress, either due to copyright restrictions or because this content has not yet been reviewed for copyright or privacy issues. For information about on location research, click here.
Series
Reader's almanac
Episode
Jessamyn West
Producing Organization
WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
AAPB ID
cpb-aacip/500-6m335t4z
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-6m335t4z).
Description
Episode Description
This program features Jessamyn West, author of The Friendly Persuasion.
Series Description
A literature series featuring interviews with authors, poets, and others in the literary world.
Date
1967-06-19
Topics
Literature
Media type
Sound
Duration
00:24:28
Credits
Host: Bower, Warren
Interviewee: West, Jessamyn
Producing Organization: WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-28-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:24:19
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Citations
Chicago: “Reader's almanac; Jessamyn West,” 1967-06-19, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 28, 2024, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-6m335t4z.
MLA: “Reader's almanac; Jessamyn West.” 1967-06-19. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 28, 2024. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-6m335t4z>.
APA: Reader's almanac; Jessamyn West. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-6m335t4z