Reader's almanac; Gladys Brooks
It's time for the reader's Ohman act with Warren Bauer. Originally broadcast over station WNYC New York and distributed by national educational radio the reader's almanac is America's oldest continuous book program. Here now is Mr. Bauer. Recently there alighted on my desk a book called If strangers meet my Gladys books published by Harcourt Brace and world. On the jacket there was a phrase descriptive of its contents in memory of my life with Brooks which was enough to make me read it straight away. Then White Brooks was a writer and a literary critic biographer and historian a man I had never met in person but whose work I esteem most highly both for its great learning and his taste. His penetration to the heart of every matter he thought or wrote about and His grace of style in the expression of his ideas. Now Gladys Brooks was a second wife of a Mr. Brook. Mr. Brooks. They were together just short of 16 years before he died in early May of 1963.
Now this book is the full an intimate account of those years written with a quiet zest with a deep and warm appreciation of these years a common experience of life in books and friends who made their lives a rich and satisfying. To read it is to participate in that experience with them to live it as richly and vividly as it must have been put them together. Mrs. Brooks has as secure a sense of style as did her husband. And so to read her musical and balanced sentences as she recalls the many friends they had together. Writer is an artist mostly. In the places they lived in especially in Bridgewater Connecticut and on Martha's Vineyard. The trips they went on the satisfying life together in the books they wrote. All is idyllic in the telling. What she has written in. If strangers meet is a memory the two words which she has placed under the title on the title page. It is indeed a living memory. A precisely
right expression far better than memoir. Which would have been a cold and static word for what she has done in this book. How Mr Brooks was born in New York and was educated here in Paris he's also taken a teacher's course in New York University I was interested to learn in our reading clinic to prepare her for work as a teacher of remedial reading. In her life as Mrs. Billing's brightened by children and grandchildren. She had lived in New York Boston and Paris and traveled very widely. She has written three other books three wise virgins grammar's a park and Boston and return. After reading it strangers meet I am ready to say that there should have been many more when I was thinking of how to take advantage of your coming to the Allman Agnes's books. It almost seemed that your reading of passages in your own voice would be enough for us to do. But that isn't making the best use of your presence. Perhaps the interview will be with some reading as
a sampling but you might tell our listeners when this book was written. I have feeling that it must have been since of course May 1963. Yes I began writing it in all Qwest. My husband died in May and I started in August of 1963. Because I was invited to go to Yetta which is a writer's colony in south brings New York and you're not allowed to stay there you're not given food three times a day and I shall write it. So this was the beginning of the book. Did it go well did it. Did you have any difficulties with it. It was just a matter of when to it I got started with more or less a system it had to be. I was all right. It's based on journals because I kept very for generals of our life together during the time that I was married to NY. So all I had to do was to refer back to those journals and to decide what to elimination What do you think
and want to expand I suppose in greater length and detail and so on. Yes. Out of your feeling about those events as you writing it. Yes. I rarely use the same woods that I had in my journal. But the ideas were there and the names of the people whom we still. Know. This book guy may say to our listeners does not have the form of an elegy and only at the very end is there an elegiac note. I gave the impression that your life up to that point was too full a living to do much looking back. To be sure you were keeping a diary or a journal. But that's just a recording of what happens of course. But here you were writing two on one or another of those books I mentioned. Well Mr. Brooks was in his study and writing were you not. You're both writing at the same time. Yes we were. He had a session advantage over me not only in
talent and experience but he was able to go why do we study early in the morning and stay there until lunch time at without being to stitch. Because I took the telephone messages I ordered the house. So about the food and so forth. It was a little harder for me because I had to do all those things as well as my writing. Yes I suppose a housewife if I may use such a word of you is handicapped and being a writer at the same time because there are these tasks that have to go on don't they. Yes they do. And he might be the first one not to complain but to note their absence if they weren't there. Now your life with Mr. Brooks had a number of what we might call polarities it seems to me that I was struck by that as I was reading. I think for example around places. Among other things perhaps very first of all homes I mean you see where you
chose to live. And you make a very considerable amount of point of that and talking about the places that you have lived among many many other things. The silo for example on Martha's Vineyard with many names of towns or places which have flavor as one pronounces them. I like Man am sure Chilmark in Vineyard Haven. And I specially like Beetle bun corners if Gay had been West Tilbury West to bring all these places have meaning and significance for you. I know very well you know especially like must have been you. Yes I have started going to my office vignette when I was about 15 years old so that had been there for a great many if not every cell but not consistently but a great deal and I think perhaps it's my favorite place on this it. And my husband had not been there before but he liked it
until and we stayed until. He was a little bit too much sought after there were a few too many peoples have it he couldn't get on with his work properly. And he wanted to go to a place that would be a little bit more remote and that we found in Bridgewater Connecticut. Well I take it a great many people feel about Martha's Vineyard. You've just said that you feel I do know that a great many people live there many people that I know not. I have to admit to you it was a shame faced. That I had never been on Martha's Vineyard. You know well there are it's had a cond of her own license of literary life. A great many of our best known writers go there now and some of it they have vacations a great many of them hissy Updyke many more. But my husband never took a vacation. He kept on writing year round Sandys included. And so it was for him best not to be where there were too many cocktail parties.
Yes I noted that about your description of your husband's habits. He seemed to settle down at the Tass almost methodically every morning. This was something to remember out of this book. That a writer could be so consistent about his habits. I suppose he was like that generally. Yes he was entirely consistent. And you spoke to me about the past in the new nostalgic element that came that was not stated in my book. Then walk had no patience with thinking about the past. He was off in the future the present and the future what could be done hoping always to do something better than he had before. But it was a great thing even to maintain the level that he had achieved very early in his life and his books. Many did. Of course he did grows no question about it I'm sure. Those later books have a have a depth and profundity that maybe in some small
measure missing in the early very early books. But he mayn't in attained an extraordinary level throughout all of his working life I know. We're talking a lot of places and you just mentioned Bridgewater and I would I would like to urge you to talk a bit about that because this is the most permanent I gather of your places together. What did that quiet Connecticut town have for you too. I wondered as I read if it had time and quietness when you wanted to quieten along. And comfort maybe a closeness to friends. What did it mean to you. Chiefly a place where we could live conveniently on the Main Street when we were hunting for houses in Connecticut a spot that been like water to return to because he lived in Westport before we were married. We hunted always on village street. So that we could be across from the main store and from the post office. And thereby not getting trapped in winter when there was too
much snow. Persuading people to come to our door easily. And in a place where they would not be too many fashionable people. Ed and Bridgewater had all of those them and others. But you did like the accession to friends and possibly to fellow writers and artists that seem to be a kind of necessity for both of you. Or so it seemed to me was that is that true. Yes we were just over the line on the border from Fairfield County. And when Rock told me that Fairfield County probably had the high highest average IQ of any county in the United States. And great many writers living and painted. And he wanted to be near but not in it and all around us they were righteous in Bridgewater in the Sherman Valley and Iraq spray if you would Ray and so forth. But they went actually next door to us
so that you didn't quiet mewed and select Bridgewater because it was close to literary Connecticut now in the lovely village. We fell in love with it. Well the pictures of the house that I've seen which are in your book. Make it a magnificent looking place it is a nice place it had a very beautiful garden about 60 years old with a huge magnolia trees in the top of each and so forth and roses. Well I read with great gusto those pages of yours where you were recalling some of your friends as you do throughout the book because they played such a large role I take it in your life and their names brought up remembrance for me even of men and women who have been here at New York University. These are either as a teacher such as Alan Tate and Louise Bogan a lawyer under Myron Padraic Colum. Or had come to read or lectures such as Robert Frost and Mark Van Doren Cummings Leoni Adams Malcolm collie. Were some to be interviewed
on this program I must say like John Hall and Max Eastman and John Dos passes and William Rose Benet and Marianne Moore. I couldn't help noting how many times Jacqui comes into your book I want to like an opportunity to say a word or two about yes. Fortunately both my husband and I adore Jacqui. He was a classmate of my husband. They know each other since they first got to college and they jack and my husband had gone to a meeting after them. I can't quite remember what the occasion was but there was a party given and my husband was standing alone in a corner very very shy. He was always shy and he looked rather forbidding but Jack felt sorry for him and went over and spoke to her then found that he was perfectly delightful that he opened up at once and they were friends ever since and I've known Jack when I was a little girl it is wife. When I was a little girl. So that friendship went right on.
And I'm sure that a great many more will go on and almost the same degree of depth. Perhaps not quite so. So much so as with Wheelock. But friends were a necessity in your life that's why clear from this book. Not having mentioned E. Cummings I think I ought to say that you got your title for this book that we're celebrating or at least I am. If strangers meet. And I think I ought to ask you to read that poem and maybe to say how it came to furnish you with that title. When I was very fond of the Cummings public still am and my husband wasn't too familiar with it. And so I decided to indoctrinate him and to read Sam Cummings poems aloud to him. And on off this way out of history I think it was he knew that I liked coming so he went out and bought Cummings last book
brought it in. And this point was among the others. So I made bold to enter my husband's study when I wasn't supposed to be there just on a stool beside his chair and said just listen watch and listen to this poem. I'll try to read it now it isn't easy to read Cummings because the punctuation is so different from anyone else's. Should I go here's my home and once like the Spurlock if strangers meet life begins. Not poor not rich only aware. And neither nor cruel. Only complete. I. Not you. Not possible. Only a truthful truth. Once if strangers who deep almost off touch. Forever and so too dark. I suppose that poem meant a great deal to you because you DID SHE WAS IT. Here's a line from it as as the name of this book.
Yes I'm so glad it appeared to me that phrases strangers meet life begins. That's what happened for me anyway and almost something that well book doesn't it. I hope so. Yes. This question occurs to me to ask you how does an author's wife regard the books which her husband has written particularly those which she has lived through the writing of. It. It's a slow process a creation which affects so much of his life and so in turn much of yours. I wonder can you be critical of them can you arrange them in order of their importance and significance. Or maybe they're like children not to be preferred one above another. Well that's rather a hard question to answer. I loved all my husband's books. I used to read the galleys and the page proofs and have to make the indexes so that I knew them quite intimately. And I suppose of our to choose I would say that the confident he is was the book that seemed most exciting to me when it was published because that ended the series of
makers and finders. The five books which compose the literary life in America. This he regarded as his magnum opus to him it was a most important and whereas the flowering of New England is the one that's most spoken of the first of the books. I think that confident is every bit as beautiful and important. Then after that I think I liked the first of his autobiographical book called scenes in portraits. You see he felt he couldn't go on writing about the past. And along the way when he finished the confident yes he stopped with the First World War. Because you can't write about the past when you are living in the present. So the way he got around that in order to describe writers who were living today was to talk about them in an autobiographical form. And the first of those was scenes in portraits. And as a very charming book beginning with his childhood in Plainfield New Jersey. He was so pleased
that. Tolstoy is the name of Tolstoy his house was plain fear translated into Russian. Is that so I didn't know that. Yes that book that you mention is a magnificent one. I I must say that I like the title what running title makers and pointers and says such a sweeping idea strikes me. It was books I have a question which I would like to ask you particularly. I wish you would talk frankly. About the problem if it be a problem at all and course it may not be a coming as a second wife into the life of a man who has had a family of his own. Is the new life more. How would you express it is it a bonus of happiness or an earned reward maybe or a kind of inexplicable and fortunate gift. Well I think it was a gift. Fortunate gift. When walk was so lonely he was unfit to live alone all his friends were worried about him. He never knew
exactly what time it was or know when to come out of his study. Anyway he was wretched alone. So obviously you received me with open arms when I stepped in and I inherited the benefit of his whole life including his two sons and his grandson who my dearly loved me were very kind to me. Now in a few more questions I'd like to ask would you. Will you go on writing in the years ahead on your own as you have already produced three books you are a writer and I would think that you would have that impetus. Well I hope I shall. I've started a book now. I don't I think I must not call it a book because I'm not sure that it can be so considered yet. But I'm working here and I'm also working at their request of Malcolm Cowley and John Hall dark. To try to get some sort of order into a whole boxful shoe box one of notes that my husband scribbled on pieces of paper in an almost illegible handwriting.
They seem to feel it if I can translate those into legible writing or put them typewriter that there might be a book in those notes that it might be very important and they doubt whether anybody else would have the patience to try it. It's so difficult. So I'm going out as well as try something on my own. But as I was reading I found many suggestions that I think that you might very well follow up because I think you have a great gift for phrasing I ran across one which particularly interested me and you had been reporting about being double in the gate here. And you said that the playhouse itself was rather shabby and very cold in the seats are uncomfortable but re preferred it to the overstressed luxury of our own theaters where so much is done for the body and so little for the mind and way of nourishment No anybody can strike off that last phrase as a writer and ought to be working at it I should say.
I'm not really a theatre cricket critic and I have no business to jump in here and I don't get to New York often enough to see many plays but it so happened that when we were in Dublin we saw an interesting play every night for three nights with no effort at all in the way of finding good seats. Paying out huge sums of money for them. And very often I have been to a play in New York as a theatre when I wasn't particularly interested in the performance. I would say we all had that in Dublin there might have been a high average. I think some people think there's a high average of success in London. Yes right. Now I'd like to gather one or two of the light full fruits of the book just as a sample of what you have done. There are two on one page so I'll just choose them for this purpose. We reported Thornton Wilder taking Ben White to task for his aversion to drawing attention to himself. And you quote him that's wilder as saying there's no arrogance like
modesty. And then you said you enjoyed the phrase because of it's drawing him down momentarily to the plane of the ordinary mortal whose self-love is more openly apparent. Yes it is sometimes very very difficult. To tolerate even Mike's modesty. Because it it it it never failed. And most of us of course love to have our egos blown up and he seemed not to. And I asked him once why he was so modest and he said you know way down deep. I'm not in the least bit modest if you could but no. But don't you think that people who talk about themselves are dreadful bore you know the second of what I referred to a short time ago as what your friend Zhang Jang ye said when he. Came to attend an wake 70th birthday or what he sent to wait for his birthday please tell us a bit about that yes we were in Rome and we awakened
early in the morning by a telegram which had come from New York and it was who shall be the Chinese writer who writes books under the name of the silent traveller. And he had said then why a quote from Confucius. I think that shiny perhaps admired my husband as much as he did anyone living person. And he was as fond of Confucius as he could be of any person and a sage who had died and so he brought the two together in this way by sending two of NY clients from Confucius here. Well I think that's a very good note to end on. Thank you Gladys Brooks for this opportunity to talk with you about your book if strangers meet which is a beautiful memory of your life as a wife of NY books at a towering figure in American critical writing just published by Harcourt Brace and world. It's a book to be read by all those to whom his name is red beard has the most warming personal tribute to him.
You've heard Warren Bauer and author Gladys Brooks as they discuss the book if strangers meet. This was another program in the series the reader's opening act on our next program Mr. Bauer's guest will be M.L. Rosenthal author of the new modern poetry the reader's almanac is produced by Warren Barr 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.
- Reader's almanac
- Gladys Brooks
- Producing Organization
- WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- Gladys Brooks discusses If Strangers Meet, a biography of her life with her husband Van Wyck Brooks.
- Series Description
- A literature series featuring interviews with authors, poets, and others in the literary world.
- Media type
Host: Bower, Warren
Interviewee: Brooks, Gladys
Producing Organization: WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-28-11 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Reader's almanac; Gladys Brooks,” 1967-08-23, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 3, 2024, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-pk07246f.
- MLA: “Reader's almanac; Gladys Brooks.” 1967-08-23. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 3, 2024. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-pk07246f>.
- APA: Reader's almanac; Gladys Brooks. 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-pk07246f