thumbnail of Library of Congress lectures II; Episode 8 of 9
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
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 fund of the library today. John Cheever and to Reynolds Price will read from and discuss their writings with James Dickey a consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress. This evening we have the great privilege of listening to the work and comments of two of America's absolute best fiction writing us. John Shiva. So. Far on my left and Reynolds Price. The next hour we'll run something like this. Mr. Cheever will read from his work for around 20 or 25 minutes at the end of that. Mr. Price and I will pick up whatever thread we think we have discerned. And talk between us three on whatever has suggested it
at the end of the end of change Mr. Price will then read from his work for a similar 20 to 25 minutes in a discussion occasioned by that reading will then hopefully take place. The rules of the game are such sense. Since I made them that the discussion periods allow for anything at all. If for example Mr Mr Chivas story sparks in my head are in Mr. Price's head totally irrelevant topics then it is those that we will probably discuss. We are not limited to American to American fiction at the present time or even to Viet Nam and Western man. We just take it as it comes and let the farce start where the sparks hit. Now the principal figures of the evening of the John Cheever a
New Englander. Born in Quincy Massachusetts went to Thayer cademy Braintree Massachusetts served in the U.S. Army in World War Two. Has two novels the WAP shot Chronicles for which he received the National Book Award in 1957. And the upshot scandal many volumes of short stories the way some people live. The enormous radio the housebreaker of shady hero the Brigadier and the guy who had a Guggenheim fellow National Institute of Arts and Letters grantee in literature and the recipient of two O'Henry Memorial Award. Reynolds Price saw the No. Hold your applause. Until later. Should be tomatoes. Born in Macon North Carolina. Graduated from Duke University in 1950 and started it in Merton
College Oxford and now teaches at Duke and is the author of three works of fiction a long and happy life which won so Walter Raleigh Award for fiction in 1900 and the William Faulkner foundation first novel award in 1963. The names and faces of Heroes which won a National Association of Independent Schools in 1964 and a generous man. Mr. Price was also a Guggenheim fellow. His award coming in 1964. Well then since the pattern has been set and the gas introduced nothing remains but the program must shave. When you come out. I was raised in a Massachusetts accent.
And I can summon a short story called The Death of Justyna. I've read it once before in Washington. Washington. It's it's from a collection of mine called some pieces people places and things that were not appear in my next novel which I believe is out of print and it's a story I rather like and a story that bears on my feeling about fiction. A. Since I have to read without eyeglasses I can't see since I have to read with glasses I can't see you. So help me God it gets more and more improper more and more preposterous. It corresponds last and last to what I remember and what I expect. As if the force of life or centrifugal and throw went further and further away from one's purest
memories and ambitions and I can barely recall the old house where I was raised. When men went to Parma violets bloomed in a cold frame at the kitchen door and down the long corridor past the seven views of Rome up two steps and down three one entered the library where all the books were in order. The lamps were bright where there was a fire and a dozen bottles of good bourbon locked in a cabinet with a veneer like a tortoise shell whose silver key My father wore on his watch. Fiction is art and art is the triumph of a chaos no less. And we can accomplish this only by the most vigilant vigilant exercise of choice. But in a world that changes more swiftly than we can perceive there is always the danger that our powers of selection will be mistaken and that the vision we serve will come to nothing. We had my decency and we despise death. But even the mountains seem to shift in the space of a night. And perhaps the
exhibitionist of the corner of just an Elm Street is more significant than the lovely woman with a bar of sunlight in it. They're putting a fresh piece of cut about in the nightingales cage. Just let me give you one example of chaos and if you disbelieve me look honestly into your own past and see if you can't find a comparable experience. On Saturday the doctor told me to stop smoking and drinking and I dead. I won't go into the commonplace symptoms of withdrawal but I would like to point out that standing at my window in the evening watching a brilliant afterlife in this bed of darkness I fell through the lock of these humble stimulants. The force of some primitive memory in which the coming of night with its stars and its moon was apocalyptic. I thought suddenly of the neglected graves of my three brothers on the mountain. And that death is a loneliness much truer than any love it and it hinted at in life. Can you hear me. And I going to rap and
the soul I thought does not leave the body but lingers with it through every degrading stage of the composition and the glatt through heat through for the long winter nights when no one comes with a wreath or a plant. And no one says a prayer. This unpleasant premonition was followed by anxiety. We were going out for dinner and I thought the old burner would explode in our absence and burn the house. The cook would get drunk and attack my daughter with a carving knife. All my wife and I would be killed in the collision on the main highway leaving our children bewildered orphans. It was nothing to look forward to in life but sadness. I was able to observe along with these foolish and terrifying anxieties. A definite impairment of my discretionary power. I felt as if I were being lowered by ropes into the atmosphere of my childhood. I told my wife when she passed through the living room that I had stopped smoking and drinking
but she didn't seem to care and who would reward me for my privations. Who cared about the better taste in my mouth and that my head seemed to be leaving my shoulders. It seemed to me that man had been a lot of men who wanted one another with metal statuary and cups for much less and an absence of abstinence as a social mountain. When I abstain from sin is more often a fear of scandal than a private resolve to improve in the purity of my art. But here is a call for abstinence without the wordly enforcements of society and death is not a threat its gondolas. When it was time for us to go. I was so light headed that I had to ask my wife to drive the car. On Sunday I sneak 7 cigarettes in various hiding places and drank two martinis in a downstairs coat closet. At breakfast on Monday my english muffin stand up opposite me from the plate. I mean I
saw a face there in the rough toasted surface. The moment of recognition was fleeting but it was deep and I wondered who hadn't been was defriended and not a sailor a ski instructor a bartender or a conductor on a train. The smile faded off the muffin but it had been there for a second. The sense of a person a life a pure force of gentleness and censure. And I'm convinced that the muffin had contained the presence of some spirit. As you can see I was nervous. On Monday my wife's cousin Justyna came to visit him. Justin was a lively guest fellow she must have been crowding 80. On Tuesday my wife gave her lunch party the last guest after three and a few minutes later cousin just seen us sitting in the living room sofa with a glass of good brandy breathed her last. My wife called me at the office and I said that I would be right. I was carrying my desk and my boss MacPherson came in and spin me a minute he said. I've
been bird dogging all over the place trying to track you down. Pierce had to leave early and I want to write a lot lot. Alexa Cole commercial Why can't not I said but I've just called Justin or his dad. You're right that commercial He said his smile was satanic. Pierce had to leave early because his grandmother fell off a stepladder. No I don't like fictional accounts of office life. It seems to me that if you're going to write fiction you should write about modern times and Tempest at sea. And I won't go over my predicament with MacPherson briefly aggravated as it was by his refusal to respect and honor the death of dear old Justyna. It was like MACPHERSON. It was a good example of the way I've been treated here as I may say a tall splendidly groomed man of about 60 who changes his shirt three times a day. Romance is his secretary every afternoon between 2:00 and 2:30 and makes the habit of continuously chewing gum and seem hygienic and elegant.
I write his speeches for him and it is not been a happy arrangement for me. If the speech is a successful first in text all the credit I can see that his presence his tailor. And his fine voice are all a part of the performance but it makes me angry never to be given credit for what was said on the other hand of the speeches are unsuccessful. If his present his tenor and his voice can't carry the hour he's threatening and sarcastic manner is surgical and I'm obliged to contain myself in the role of the man who can do no good in spite of the piles of congratulatory mail that my eloquence sometimes brings in. I must pretend I'm less like a study in improving my pretension to have nothing to do with his triumphs and I must bow my head gracefully in shame when we have both failed. I am forced to appear grateful for injuries to lie to smile falsely and to play out a
role as an enemy is unrelated to the facts as a minor prince in an operetta. But if I speak the truth it will be my wife and my children who have pain hardships my spoken this. Now he refused respect or even to admit the solemn fact. I would definitely family and if I couldn't rebel. It seemed if I could at least hint at it. The commotion he wanted me to write was for a tonic called Alexa call and was to be spoken on television by an actress who was neither young nor beautiful but had an appearance of ready abandon and it was anything anyhow. The mistress of one of the sponsors uncles. Are you growing old I wrote. Are you forming out of love with your image in the looking glass. Does your face in the morning seem rocked and seen for the alcoholic and sexual excesses. And does the rest of you appear to be a grayish pink lump Kummel with Brendel hair. Walking in the Oldham wards do you feel that a subtle distance has come between you and the smell of wood smoke.
Have you drafted your bitch. Are you easily winded. Do you wear a good will. Is your sense of smell fading. Is your interest in gardening waning. Is your fear of heights increasing and I or sexual drives as ravening intense as ever. And does your wife look more and more to you like a stranger with sunken cheeks. Who is wanted in your bedroom by mistake. If this or any of this is true you need Alexa call the true juice of you. A small economy sized business with a bottle for $75 and the Giant found a bottle comes at two hundred fifty. It's a lot of scratch God knows but these are inflationary times and who can put a price on youth. If you don't have the cash borrow it from your neighbor loan shark or hold up a local bank. The odds of three to one that with a 10 cent water pistol and a slip of paper you can check ten thousand out of anything hot it. Everybody's doing it. Music up and out. I sent this to MacPherson modern medicine you go into the
416 home travelling through a landscape of utter desolation. Now my journey is that odd is a digression and has no real connection to justin is death. But what followed could only have happened in my country and in my time. And since I was an American traveling across an American landscape the trip may be part of this. There are some Americans who all of their fathers emigrated from the old world three centuries ago never seem to have quite completed the voyage and I am one of the. I stand figure to live it figuratively with one foot on Plymouth Rock looking with some delicacy not into a formidable and challenging wilderness but only one half finished civilization and rising glass towers oil derricks suburban continents and Abandoned movie houses and wondering why in this most prosperous equitable and accomplished world or even the cleaning when in practice the Chopin preludes in their spare time. Everyone should seem to be so disappointed
and Proxmire not I was the only passenger to get off the ground and profitless local that carried it shabby light over the dust like some game lag watchman or beetle making his appointed rounds. I went around to the front of the station to wait for my wife and to enjoy the crowd. Travelers find sense of crisis above me on the hill with my home and the homes of my friends or life and spending a fragrant wood smoke like temples in a sacred grove dedicated to monogamy feckless childhood and domestic bliss. But so like a dream that I felt the lack of viscera with much more than points the absence of that dynamism. We respond to in some European landscapes. In short I was disappointed. It was my country my beloved country and there are good mornings when I could have kissed the earth covers its many provinces and states there was a hint of blissed romantic in domestic bliss. I seem to hear the jingle bells of the sleigh.
That would carry me to grandmother's house although in fact grandmother spent the last years of her life working as a hostess on an ocean liner and was lost in the tragic sinking of the SS floor alone and I was responding to a number that I had not experienced. But they have like Rose like an answer to some primitive dream of homecoming. And one of the highest loans I saw of the remains of a snowman who still smoked a pipe and wore a scarf and a cap but whose form was wasting away and whose anthracite eyes stared out at the view with terrifying bitterness. I sensed some disappointing greenness of spirit in the scene. All I knew in my bones no less. How like yesterday was that my father left the old world to found a new and I thought of the forces that had brought stand under the image the cruel talons of Calabria with their cruel princes the Badlands northwest of Dublin and got house dust pots whorehouses bread lines the graves of children intolerable hunger corruption persecution and despair had generated these faint and gentle lights and
was nude or a part of the Great Migration it is the life of man. My wife's cheeks were wet when I kissed her she was distressed of course and really quite sad. She had been attached to just Tina she drove me home to spec where Justin was still sitting on the sofa. I would like to spend them pleasant details but I will say that both her mouth and her eyes were wide open. I went to the pantry to telephone Dr. Hunter. His line was busy. I poured myself a drink the first since Sunday and not a cigarette. When I call the doctor again he answered and I told him what had happened. Well I'd love to hear it. Sorry to hear about Moses he said. I can't get over until after six and there isn't much that I can do this sort of thing has come up before and I'll tell you all I know you say you live in Zone B a lot much enterprise and so forth. A couple of years ago some strange of the old poet Munchen. And it turned out that he was planning to operate as a funeral home.
We didn't have any zoning provision a ton of protectors and one was rushed to the village council at midnight and they overdid it. It seems that you know I'm a con have a funeral home in Zone B. You can't bury anything there and you can't die there. Of course is absurd but we all make mistakes don't wait another two things you can do. I had to deal with this before. You can take your lady and put her in the car and driver go to Chestnut Street was NCB again. The bond is just beyond the traffic light with a high score. As soon as you get over it as I don't see it's alright. You could just say she died in the car. You can do that or if this seems distasteful You can call the man and ask him to make an exception of zoning laws. I am. But I can't write I can't write you out of just that have you got until you got out of that neighborhood. And of course now a lot of tiger would touch or I'm going to go to dust. I don't understand I said I didn't.
But then the possibility there was some truth in what he had just told my brother against me over me like a way exciting mostly indignation. I've never heard that a lot of Dan forest is my life I said give me the time and I kind of done one neighborhood and I can't fall in love another I can't eat. Now just calm down Moses calm down. I'm not telling you anything but the fox and I have a lot of patients waiting. I don't have the time to listen to fulminate if you want to move or call me as soon as you get out of the gutter over the traffic light otherwise. Otherwise I don't advise you to get in touch with the mayor someone in the village council. He cut the connection. I was outraged that this did not change the fact that just anyone still sitting on the sofa. I poured a fresh drink and lit a cigarette. It just didn't seem to be waiting for me and to be changed from an inert into a demanding figure. I try to imagine carrying around a station wagon but I couldn't complete the task in my imagination and I was sure that I couldn't compete in fuck. I then called them abt
this position in our village is mostly right and I might have known. He was in his new office and was not expected home until seven. I could cover up I thought that would be a decent thing to do. And I went up the back stairs to the linen closet and got a sheet. It was getting dark when I came back in the living room with this is no merciful twilight. Dustin replying directly into her hands and she gained power and stature with the dark. I covered it with a sheet and turned on a lamp at the other end of the room. But the wreckage of the place with its old furniture and flowers paintings and so forth was demolished by a monumental shape. The next thing we worry about was the children who would be home in a few minutes. Their knowledge of death except in their dreams and intuitions of which I knew nothing is zero and the bowed figure in the past was bound to be traumatic.
When I heard them coming up the walk I went out and told them what had happened and sent them up to their rooms. 7 I drove to the man he had not come home but he was expected any minute and I talk with his wife. She gave me a drink. By this time I was chain smoking. When the man came in when we went into a little office a library where he took a position behind a desk putting me in a loud chair of a supplicant. Of course I sympathized with the most as he said it's over. Then you have happened. But the trouble is that we can't give you his only exception exemption without a majority vote of the village council and all the members of the council be out of town. P.S. California and Jackson Paris and I will be back in St. going to the week. Then I suppose Cousin Justin will safter gracefully decomposing my part up until John comes back from power. Oh no no no he said I won't be back for another month but I think you might wait until Laurie comes back from Stowe then we have a
majority. Assuming of course that they would agree to your peal of a crisis. Yes yes he said it is difficult. But after all He must realize that this is the world you live in and the importance of zoning can't be overestimated. If a single member of the council gives only exceptions I give you permission right now to open a saloon in your garage put up neon lights hire an orchestra and destroy the neighborhood and old human and convert commercial values. We worked so hard to protect more openness than in my garage I think I don't want to hire an artist but I simply want to bury Jestina. I know Moses I know him and I understand that but it's just that it happened in the wrong zone and if I make an exception for you I'll have to make an exception of everyone and it's kind of cool bitty when it gets out of hand can be very depressing. People don't like to live in a neighborhood with this sort of thing goes on all the time. Listen to me I said you give me an exception and you give it to me now I'm going home and dig a hole in my
garden and bury just myself. But you can't do that Moses you can't bury anything in Zone B. You can't even bury a cat. You mistake and I said I can and I will. I can't function as a doctor and I can't function as an undertaker but I can dig a hole in the ground. If you don't give me my exemption that's what I'm going to do. A combat as combat he said please come back. Look I'll give you an exception if you promise not to tell anyone it's breaking a law it's a forgery. But I'll do it if you promise to keep it a secret. I promise to keep it a secret he gave me the documents and I used his telephone to make the arrangements. Just as remote a few minutes after I got home but that night I had the strangest dream I dream that I was in a crowded supermarket. It must have been because the windows were dark the ceiling was paved for us tonight. Brilliant cheerful but considering our prehistoric memories the harsh link in the chain of life that binds us to the past. Music was planning and it was to be at least a thousand shoppers pushing their wagons among the long
corridors of commands tools and the tools. Now is there Oh isn't there something about the posture we assume when we push a wagon that on sexes. Can it be done with gallantry. I bring this up because the mullah who shop at a scene that evening as they push their wagons penitential unsexed. The whole concept is being my beloved country. They were Italians fans Jews negroes Shropshire many Cubans. Anyone who had heeded the voice of liberty and they were dressed for that some Tory abandon that European caricature character characterised characterised record with such but it is just. Yes there were grandmothers in shorts big butted women in knitted pants and men wearing such an assortment of clothing that it looked as if they had dressed horribly in a burning building. Yeah. But this is I say is my own country and in my opinion the current jurist who vilifies the old lady in shorts vilifies himself I am a native and I was wearing but skin
jump boots Chino pants cut so tight that my sexual organs were discernible and I ran us to take pajama top printed representation to the end. The Nina and the son of a rare and for. Fire. Scene was strange the strangest ever dream when we see a familiar object in an unfamiliar light.
Library of Congress lectures II
Episode Number
Episode 8 of 9
Producing Organization
WUOM (Radio station : Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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-gq6r388p).
Series Description
For series info, see Item 3701. This prog.: Novelists John Cheever and Reynolds Price read from their prose works and discuss the state of fiction in the U.S. today.
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Producer: Library of Congress
Producing Organization: WUOM (Radio station : Ann Arbor, Mich.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-40-8 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:26:09
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Library of Congress lectures II; Episode 8 of 9,” 1968-10-29, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 28, 2023,
MLA: “Library of Congress lectures II; Episode 8 of 9.” 1968-10-29. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 28, 2023. <>.
APA: Library of Congress lectures II; Episode 8 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