The reader's almanac; 1
It's time for the readers all men act with one by our originally broadcast over station WNYC in New York and distributed by national educational radio. The readers Allman act is America's oldest consecutive book program. Here now is Mr. Bauer. With this broadcast the reader's Allman act begins its 20 50 era being broadcast over station WNYC. Now I find this statement a little incredible even though I know through counting the years since 1938 that it is strictly true it does not seem so long. But I dare say that is because I have taken great pleasure in doing this program. It is of course a part time activity on many an outgrowth of my special interests as a teacher in New York University and I want to record now my gratefulness to the university for its willingness to regard this activity as a proper a useful one for one of its teachers to be engaged in. And now let me say again as I do at the beginning of each new school year and broadcasting season that what I hope to do is to bring new listeners into touch with books and their authors
interesting and significant books worth your time and attention. Great books perhaps when they come along but usually it takes a bit of time to recognize a great book. It's a phrase I'd like to be cherry about using too easily too often but good and interesting books come in greater numbers. I think it not too much to expect that I can make perhaps one such recommendation per week let me add that the choices will be wholly mine and that I am naturally far more likely to choose a good book than a poor one for the particular purpose of this program serves with that statement. Let's get on to the first broadcast of this new book season. My guest today is Martin Goren and auspicious beginning for any series of interviews since Mr. Van Doren is retirement from active teaching at Columbia University. I have noted just looking on from the vantage point of an average reader an increased production of his publications books stories play
in volume called A Happy critic and I even ran across a detective story in El Rey Queens magazine when millions of people saw a television show recently in which he an Archibald MacLeish carried on an hour's conversation on matters important to them and to us. Wallace suggested Mr. Van Doren is not merely resting on his Connecticut acres the starting point of this broadcast is that there has just been published to Helen Wang his Collected Stories. It's an imposing volume of over three hundred pages bringing together three separate volumes of stories that he had previously published and some new stories. Only recently written apparently. Certainly recently published and as I cast my eyes over that page opposite the title page where books by the same author a list didn't here under four categories. Poetry fiction nonfiction and drama. I'm enormously impressed by the fruits of his life. Well perhaps the most considerable list of accomplishments is not
repeated or not even represented there on that summary page at all. I mean the thousands of students that he has instructed in influence during his Columbia years teaching them the wisdom and the light of literature and the insights and knowledge to be gained from some scholarship. So I say Mark that these must be beautiful days for you. Maybe the best you've ever had with time to work on whatever is most important to you. Harvest time I think I'd call it. But it's for you to pick the best figure of speech. Well I can't think of a better one Warren. You may not realize it although I'm sure you do too. How much time I have when I need to do nothing at all. Because with all of your time at your disposal and not being under the pressures that one is under as a teacher or with any kind of job with all the time in the world at your disposal you can do a good many things and not do a good many many things. So I take it easy and yet the result seems to be as you
say that I'm doing that I've been such an active and quite true. And I thought that the harvesting was what you were doing really. Yes that's true. And what are your concerns these days away from the city except when some importunate chap brings you in for some irrelevancy like a radio broadcaster. Well I'm glad to have him. Or your publisher wants you to cross a t somewhere. Well I write I continue to write chiefly poems and stories I have for some reason determined not to write any more literary criticism. Not that I didn't enjoy doing that but I'd rather Now try to write things that other people would criticize. I confine myself to pointers and stories as matter of fact you are for doing category called a drama. On that page in my in my recent book this last winter I've written a second
play. Then I do things about the farm and I go off from time to time over the country reading my poems I I don't lecture anymore either. I have no subjects I need whenever I'm at a lecture I say no I have no subjects I just want to come and read some point and talk about them. I enjoy doing that very much. One of the chances that your play about linking are to be used to be presented. Well I do I know of no chances at the moment one is presented a year ago in a semi professional fashion. At Florida State University in Tallahassee and I enjoyed that very much. I was down there for a month. I watched it in rehearsal and and saw it go on then and followed it around the state of Florida for perhaps a dozen performances. But there was no strictly professional production in view. You know that may happen any time and I keep thinking it may but it hasn't yet. And I would hope that it does and sure what is the subject of that second play that you spoke of. And it's a little hard to say. It might put someone off not you I
think to say that it has a supernatural element in it. The crew chief persons on it are literally out of this world. They are they're citizens of eternity who who live for a while in time. And it is my intention yes. Well that's all I want to say. Yes you know I don't want to give too much you know. I agree. Now you must be thinking in between the small things that concern a countryman of the state of poetry these days when our old friend Robert Frost and I have it in the world's great call upon him. And two poets talking intimately with uncounted people listening in and a flood of books of poetry coming from the presses. Good days for poetry. I wonder if you're saying Yeah I suppose so. Of course I remember hearing that said with special emphasis. 50 years ago. Human if I can make a day of this century one member said to be a renaissance of poetry America and a great reputation is now extended or being established.
Poetry has had its ups and downs. Sometimes we hear that it's in a very poor state as of this moment I wouldn't leave that although I would say that they would not be that special enthusiasm of their wise in that they long ago which I mentioned. I prefer to think of poetry not necessarily in terms of volumes of poetry published by individuals. But in terms of the thing itself which is always with us I'm always troubled by anyone who says well I know nothing about poetry and I say well you do too. You were brought up on it. Mother Goose then which they would no more bring a book of verse ever vote. Nobody can forget it. Mother Goose it was probably you. You're fair when you were little and ever since then you've been somehow delivering your poetry popular song ballad him rhymes of all sorts. You know we live with poetry all the time as really it was story. We
can't get along without either. Well when I say that people say Well that's right and so it doesn't make too much difference whether you have recently bought a volume by Mr X or Mr Y or Mr Z. That isn't so important as the fact that he may be contributing to this ocean this ocean stream of poetry which keeps circulating. I want to throw in a word for Palgrave's Golden Treasury invented writing first book and I remember being given when I won let me say that that this is the chief way I believe in which people encounter poetry anthologies collections not me. And by various hands because it's tragically true that not many individual poets write very many poems if any people keep on reading. In time however there is the usual word at harvest. Yes. And I do in from Connecticut to help me notice the publication of your collected stories and I'd like to get us on to that. I'd like to know how you regard short stories in relation to your other work and their brief.
Some may have been written at a sitting. However much polish later are they there for just grace notes to longer works like a novel. Or is each like a poem one out of the many that make up a book but each important worth careful attention. Yes I should say that I should say the latter is mainly true. A short story of course is a very different thing from a novel. Just as a lyric poem as it is are a different thing from an epic toil. But it doesn't mean. And by the way they are lesser if only lesser in length. There's no question about that. The word minor you know ought to mean only smaller. It's unfortunate that minor poetry is taken by some people to mean poetry of the less worth it ought to mean just short of a point that Milton's minor point. I hate short ones although they include I think the greatest And yes I write poems and. A short story is what it said. A short
story it is an action it is an incident or a situation scene suddenly or conceived suddenly. And having for you for the teller of whatever the person who read tells it maybe because maybe something these men are heard having some kind of intense significance and having some crew unity so he willing just to put it there. Maybe it's just a grace note. Yes but it also could be something like a moist overheard or a sight seeing through windows. Suddenly opened and suddenly closed again but there it is it's if it's a bit of life and it's so important to you that you just can't let it go you don't have to do something about it. Almost all of these stories start with something that I saw or heard or thought of. You almost answered in a question and I thought about asking you next but I think I'll ask it anyway and you can say whatever you like. I wondered if this book
collected stories has a character in your mind a clear image and so is more than a gathering of your short fiction over the years. I do some definite feeling about this book that it is unified. Well I hope it as I say I like to think that it was but it's been difficult for me to know that you know he would be in the mind of any reader. To me there are unified stories Unified of their being mine. Yeah and I also by virtue of their having occurred to me almost all at once. In the late 1940s and suddenly on a train links between New York and Baltimore I said to myself I want to write a short story. I never had before I got a piece of paper and at the time of trying to reach Baltimore I'd written 50 ideas for stuff. Now they were old ideas in the sense that I always had them in my mind but I never thought of them in connection
with stories before. Fifty things I wanted to write stories about and for them to see if I did nothing else night and day closing them off I take it you know. Yes that's right Nancy. And the ideas were just phrases single words. The person I remarked so almost every one of these that came out and said I've done it since in a matter of fact about the same thing has just recently happened to me I've got many more ideas now Michael Brown live a lot of that I had to take care of them. But almost every one of them started somewhere. Everything has to start somewhere. You mean in more than an idea which is borne in your mind. It was something out here something outside to me. Yes yes. For instance have you read the story in this writing called Still still so we have to leave it. Well that started merely by my believing having said. Year after year in my experience I think that I thought the most moving and almost more beautiful compliment ever paid by one human being to another was played in The Winter's
Tale in a certain setting speech by Flora as well to put it but contains those words still still so I know I started there and I wanted to do something with that I want to go farther than it of course it was plenty far anyway since it's by Shakespeare but I just had to find a boy and girl. Modern boy and girl who get to whom is somehow applied and I had the boy write it on a piece of paper and give it a go. This brings me to a comment and I would like to make at one point as I was reading I remarked to myself in the room very few love stories in this book. And then later I realized that there were a great many love stories here why they're all love stories and I wasn't going to go that far I know I didn't but almost close to it only these were quiet ones and emitted what seem standard in love stories these days the quite explicit in detail physical
accompaniments to love. Dare I say that you were writing mature love story. I don't know. I remember my friends saying all my point was a love poem I said that surprised me at the moment. But I think that something that maybe all utterances utterances of love somehow or other I remember talking once at the Morgan Library about that collection of letters I was talking about letters letters you know that people are written to one another and that have been preserved. Famous letters or not so famous. And I said that every letter that was worth reading or worth writing was a lovely pair that mean that contain the words I love you. But it was written out of love out of at least deep concern for the person. I don't mean that there was anything I didn't mean you know what I don't mean I mean merely that we don't write a really good letter to anyone
it could be our father mother it could be a friend it could be anybody. It also could be someone with whom we are in love literally without wanting to weigh much. Yes you're altogether right. One writes a good letter. And all that that might mean only to one do when one is really attached. Yes and I pointed out something else to my groan of this just as I can I find out that good letters are written about the writer and I know everything I say when we hear from someone I want to know about him we want to hear what he's been doing and he write he tells us and other confidence that we shall listen to you we don't want him to keep. Just answer the questions we asked in our last letters right. I want to do you have a theory or a definition of short stories it grows out of or fits your work. You write a distinctive short story I have to say and I wonder if you define it in some particular way. You know I'm not sure I could I'm not sure I could there are
stories that I do write I suspect to many people seem bare. They often often. As brief as I can make them I don't want to explain too much I don't want to do anything except just put the people there who are involved and have them start talking or have them start moving. And I hope that that somehow or that if only by implication any meaning if there was in the story will spread to the readers mind. But a short story isn't the place for the author to say what his story means and any kind of novel that can be bought in a certain kind of novel that can be done. And I'd like to throw in here again a feeling that I had as I was reading and I thought at first I thought that these stories were truncated. But then that didn't seem right since that would suggest that they were cut off their for their time and then I thought they were diminished things and that seemed a lot better.
And what to make of a diminished thing was a very good question and the answer was it one can make much because a reader's imagination can be stirred to fill out a story. If explicitness was what he wanted or a carry it on beyond the point in which you stopped the story grows in the mind of the reader Thus whether this is what you would tend intended I don't know but that's what happened for me. Most of the stories I think that is what I intended I have always intended that anything I ever wrote that the reader. Should read what I should call an active mind and imagination. I like to read that way myself. I like to read something which makes which I think about later and keep on with somehow and in connection with that by the way see of me one that doesn't mean that I think any writer is justified in being grossly elliptical and dropping things they know nothing will take it or leave it. No I think you should
give him everything he truly needs which I should like you to. I don't think you should give him more than he truly needs in connection with that diminished idea. I wondered if you ever thought of calling your stories tales. Yeah because I have a great admiration for an English tale teller. He insisted on this part. Oh yes that's right. And always you call them tails never search stories. Yes I thought of that amount of fright. One of my one of my admiration holds are a poem I wrote a biography once he called his short stories tales. He even thought of a scarlet letter as a tale and it and it does. And a very glorious way certain shorter versions of the same story really that he had previously written. Yes Taylor would be a regular word and I think it might be better. On the other hand some people don't seem to know what it means and so on. And how do you interpret the term plot which always gets dragged
into any such discussion of the Form a short story. I take it that you don't use it. Or if you use it all you don't use it in the sense of complications which are finally unraveled on the last page of your story. Do you use a terminal you think of it. Hard to know. I hardly see myself. There is room for a plot in a short story. You remember Aristotle and his politics and talking about plays. And Prejudice particularly says their stories of a certain magnitude and there again he meant links and of course for him it was essential they said the soul of a tragedy well in such a work. Pages and pages long although not terribly long. Macbeth is only 70 pages printed this as a novel would be printed. Yet even the 70 pages they have room for events to turn and establish relations with one another I always assume that the function of a short story
was to do no more than to present it briefly in its luminously as possible in a single situation in which people find themselves. That and that may be inadequate but that is my view. Now here's a question I've been want to ask you for quite some time. What determines whether you write a short story or a poem. You didn't make too much difference to me. Poems and stories. I think I said earlier in this conversation that I was now can almost exclusively occupied as a writer with poems and stories. It doesn't make too much difference. I wonder if you've ever used the same idea for both forms. I don't remember and I don't remember actually doing that although it could be true. I might say this. One of the stories in this volume told a key took off from a poem by Thomas Hardy. He
had a little poem no more than 12 or 16 maybe 20 lines called the sailor's mother. It was about a woman whose son had been drowned at sea and who after he after death was reported had had to move to another house and the one that she lived in with him and she laments because if he's going to come back as a ghost if you get you going to come back and haunt you he won't know how to get it. Well that that started off and he did. You see they can I guess yes I do. And then for that matter a story called The bees took off from a part of what is called telling the bees. You know the old legend you know that when someone dies when they when the person who had been keeping the bee as the beast must be told. Yes a blast must be draped over the hive and something some of the bees. So to me. There is no real difference. Well Mark I'm sorry to have to diminish this talk by
pointing to the cock and it could and I wish you would go on for some time. But perhaps we have said enough. The two of us to make our listeners resolve to read some of the stories and collected stories By Mark Van Doren published by hill and Wang thank you for coming into town Mark and talking to us about a part of your work. Next Thursday my guest will be ainus Rob. Why do you read columnist of The New York World Telegram who has gathered a harvest of her essays and published them as don't just stand there. Until then good reading to you the readers all men 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.
- The reader's almanac
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- MLA: “The reader's almanac; 1.” 1969-02-26. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 4, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-mc8rgt9s>.
- APA: The reader's almanac; 1. 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-mc8rgt9s