Listen to the land; The fertile Twenties, part 2
Listen to the land a profile of a nation in terms of its living language. This week. The fertile twenties part two of Amy Lowell Dorothy Parker Sinclair Lewis Ring Lardner and F. Scott Fitzgerald. By sharing aloud the writings of our country past and present we can come to a fuller appreciation of those things which are meaningful to us as Americans and perhaps of the nature of our role in a contemporary world. Listen to the land is produced by station w h y y Philadelphia under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. Now here is your host and narrator Richard S. Burdick with four lines written by Dorothy Parker and entitled to me for an actress her name clear cut upon this marble cross shines as it shone when she
was still on earth while tenderly the mild agreeable Moss obscures the figures of her date of birth. Probably no other name so quickly suggests the cynicism the irreverence and the disillusionment of the 1920s in America as does that of Dorothy Parker whose biting satiric stinging verse and prose are on comfortably perceptive and few people question at the foremost satirists of the twenties and one of American literature is most skilful and sensitive realists was Ring Lardner. And yet Ring Lardner was also a highly skilled humorist with an uncanny ear for language and speech idioms. He wrote particularly perceptively of baseball players and one of his most amusing stories is alibi. I bought a first rate ball player who just couldn't make a move of any kind without first making an excuse for it. It may remind you of someone. I'll do a
few pages of the story with the hope that you'll read the full thing for yourself. You can find many delightful stories in larger collections. You know me al the big town how to write short stories and a fine collection of the Ring Lardner stories untitled round up. But for now here is alibi by Ring Lardner. His right name was Frank X. feral and I guess the X stood for excuse me because he never pulled a play good or bad on or off the field without apologizing for it. Alibi was the name Kerry was done in the first day he reported soth him and Kerry was together in left field. The first day Frank joined us catchin fun goes and it was after we was through for the day that Kerry told me about him. What do you think of alibi I cast Carrie. Who's that says I. There's Here now Farrell in the outfield says Kerry.
It looks like I get it I says. Yeah says Gary but he can't hit near as good as he can apologize and Kerry went on to tell me what I couldn't pull in out there. He'd drop the first fly ball that was hit to him and told Kerry is glove wasn't broken good yet and Kerry says the glove could easily have been good reasons grandfather and he made a whale of a catch out of the next one and Kerry says Nice work or something like that. But I says he could have caught the ball with his back turned only he slipped when he started after it and besides that the air currents fooled him I thought you'd done well to get to the balls as Kerry. Now I demand something under it says I. What did you hit last year. Carrie asked him when I had malaria most of the season says Ike. I wound up with only 356. Where would I have to go to get malaria says Carrie. But I didn't wise up. I and Kerry and him said at the same table together for supper it took him half an hour longer
not to eat because he had to excuse himself every time he lifted his fork. Doctor told me I needed starch he'd say and then toss a shovel full of potatoes on them or they ate much meat on one of these jobs he'd tell us and grab another one or eat say it's nothing like onions for a cold. And he dipped into the perfumery. Better try that apple sauce as Kerry it will help your malaria. It was malaria so I was like you know already forgot why don't we hit 350 sexualized here. I and Kerry begin to lean in mine. Are you married I asked him. No he says I never much with girls. Well it just shows once in a while and parties and dances and roller skating. I never think I'm to prizefights aces Gary. We don't have no real good Bob says I just push stuff and I never figured a boxing match was a place for the ladies. Well after supper he pulled a cigar out and let it. I was just going to ask him what he done it
for but he beat me to it. I kind of arrests a man to smoke after a good workout he says. Kind of subtle is a man's supper too. Looks like a pretty good cigar says Gary. Yeah says I or a friend of mine give it to me. The four of us sat around the lobby a while after we was through playing. And when I got along toward bedtime Carrie was pretty me and says I could like to go to a band only can't think up an excuse. Carrie hadn't hardly finished whispering when I got up and told her her voice oh I ain't sleepy but I got some gravel I'm a shoes and it's killing my feet. Now we know he had never left the hotel zones we came in from the grounds and changed our clothes. So Kerry says I should think they'd take them gravel pits out of the billiard room. But I was already on his way to the elevator lamp and he's
got the WORLD BEAT says Carrie to Jack and I knew lots of guys that had an alibi for every mistake they made I heard pitchers say that the ball swept when somebody cracked one off and on I've heard infielders complain of a sore arm after he even went into the stand and I saw outfielders tooken sick with a disease ball when they misjudged the fly ball. But this baby can't even go to bed without apologizing. I bet he excused himself to the razor when he gets ready to shave. And at that says Jack he's going to make us a good man. Yeah just carry on that's the rheumatism keep his batting average down to 400. Well sir I kept wailing away at the ball all through the trip will everybody know do you want a job kept Adam in their regular last few exhibition games and told the newspaper boys a week before the season opened that he was going to stardom and Cain's place. You're there kid says Kerry to Ike the night cap made announcement. They ain't many boys that wins a Big League berth their third year out.
Course I've been here a year ago it says Ike. Only I was all bent over with lumber gone. Any Lall was a poet who was born in Massachusetts of a long line of publicists and poets. She was one of the most daring and picturesque figures in American literature. I mean Lowell was a pioneer and innovator. And it was because of her experiments in form and technique that she attracted attention and still best known. If you would like to become acquainted with a striking poet I suggest you read any Lowell's sword blades and poppy seeds. A vivid collection. Here in a poem called Meeting House Hill she is writing in a conventional mood a mood of reflection and quiet dignity a poem that I deliberately selected because of its contrast with the turbulence and the cynicism
of the 20s in which it was written. I must be mad or very tired when the curve of a blue baby on the railroad track is shrill and sweet to me like a sudden springing of a tune and the sight of a white church above them trees in a city square amazes my eyes as though it were the Parthenon. Clear reticent. Superb Lee final with the pillars of its portico refined to a cautious elegance. It dominates the wheat trees and the shot of its spire is cool and candid rising into an resisting sky. Strange meeting house pausing a moment upon a squalid hilltop I watched the spire sweeping the sky. I am dizzy with the movement of the sky. I might be watching a mast with its royals sucked full straining before a two
reef breeze. I might be sighting a teacup or tucking into the blue bay just back from Canton with her hold full of green and blue porcelain and the Chinese coolie leaning over the rail gazing at the white spire with a dull brown eyes creates a vivid picture doesn't it with words. In your dictionary you will find under the letter B the word babba tree anon meaning quote smug acceptance of the ethical and social standards of ordinary business and middle class respectability unquote. The reason the word is there is because in 1922 a novelist named Sinclair Lewis published a book about a man who was the epitome of the above description and the name of the book The man was Babbitt. Just two years previously LEWIS His main street had been published a slashing satire of prevention as him as
existing in a fictional town called Gopher Prairie Babbitts locale was Zenith where George Babbitt was a real estate man. Lewis had a fine murderous time with his pictures of the club luncheons and their hearty jocularity the mildly shady business practices his writing rang with the passion of a man who meant what he was saying. Crackled with a vitality that was sadly lacking in his final novels. After the energy and the originality of the novelist seemed to have been dissipated. But Babbitt was Sinclair Lewis at the height of his career. Going to read to you the opening passages of the book. Babbitt. This is from the first chapter of same. His name was George F. Babbitt. He was 46 years old now and April 19 20 and he made nothing in particular neither
bought her shoes nor poetry but he was number one in the calling of selling houses for more than people could afford to pay. It was nothing of the giant in the aspect of the man who was beginning to awaken on the sleeping porch of a Dutch colonial house in that residential district of Zenith known as Floral Heights. Man George Babbitt was awakened rudely by the alarm clock at seven twenty. It was the best of nationally advertised and quantitatively produced alarm clocks with all modern attachments including Cathedral chime interment an alarm and a phosphorescent dial. Babbitt was proud of being awakened by such a rich device socially. It was almost as creditable as buying expensive cord tires. From the bedroom beside the sleeping porch his wife's detestably cheerful it's time to get up Georgie boy and the sound a brisk and scratchy sound of combing hairs out of a stiff brush grunted dragged his thick
legs and faded baby blue pajamas from under the khaki blanket. He sat on the edge of the cot running his fingers through his wild hair bows pumped mechanically fell for his slippers. He looked regretfully at the blanket. Remember a suggestion to him of freedom and heroism. He had bought it for a camping trip which had never come off. It symbolized gorgeous loafing gorgeous cursing Verrall flannel shirts. Craig do his feet groaning at the waves of pain which passed behind his eyeballs. You went down the hard clean unused looking hall into the bathroom where the house was not large a hide like all houses on Floral Heights. And all together royal bathroom of porcelain glazed tile and metal sleek as silver. The TAL ARAC was a rod of clear glass set and nickel. The tub was long enough for a Prussian Guard and above the sut ball was a sensational exhibit of tooth
brush holder shaving brush holder soap dish sponge dish in medicine cabinet so glittering so ingenious that they resembled an electrical instrument board. But the bad but it was God was modern appliances was not pleased. The air of the bathroom was thick with the smell of a heathen toothpaste Virgona been at it again. But of that can know little of da like I've repeatedly asked as you've gone and gotten some confound it. Think I'm stopping me just sick. The bathmat was wrinkled and the floor was wet. His daughter Verona eccentrically took biogs in the Morning now and then he slipped on the mat and slid against the top. Seriously he snatched up his tube of shaving cream furiously he lathered with a belligerent slapping of the unctuous brush furiously rictus print cheeks with a safety razor pulled the blade was dull. You hunted through the
medicine cabinet for a packet of new razor blades reflecting as invariably The cheaper to buy one of these no Dennis's and strap your own blades. And when I discovered the packet behind the round box of bicarbonate of soda he thought ill of his wife for putting it there and very well of himself for not saying Damn. But he did say it immediately afterward when with wet and soap slippery fingers he tried to remove the horrible little envelope and crisp cleaning or oiled paper from the new blade. Then there was the problem oft pondered never solved of what to do with the old blade which might imperil the fingers of his young as usual he tossed it on top of the medicine cabinet with a mental note that some day he must remove the fifty or sixty over blades that were also temporarily piled up there. He finished his shaving in a growing testiness increased by his spinning headache and by an emptiness in his stomach. When he was done his round face smooth and streaming in his
eyes stinging from soapy water he reached for a tollar of family towels were wet wet and clammy and vile all of them when he found as he blindly snatched them his own face told his wife for her own as Ted's take is an alone bath towel with a huge welt of initial Then George F. Babbitt. That a dismaying thing. He wiped his face on the guest doll it was a pansy embroidered trifle which always hung there to indicate that the Babbitts were in the best Floral Heights society. No one had ever used it. No guest had ever dared to guests secretively took a corner of the nearest regular towel. He was raging. By golly here they go and use up all the Tal's every doggone one of them they use them and get them all wet and Sapna never put a dry one for me. Course not for me I'm a goat and I want one and I'm the only person in the doggone House has got the slightest doggone bit of
consideration for other people and thoughtless and consider there may be others I may want to use a dog on bottom after me and consider he was pitching the child abominations into the bathtub pleased by the vindictiveness of that deaf desolate flapping sound and in the midst his wife serenely tried have been observed serenely. Why Georgie dear what are you doing. Are you going to wash out the towels. Why you needn't wash out the dough. Oh Georgie you didn't go and use the guest talo did you. It is not recorded that he was able to answer for the first time in weeks. George F. Babbitt was sufficiently roused by his wife to look at her. So begins the habit by Sinclair laws. I say I've got an extra few seconds here also I just insert and I picked out. Nineteen thirty nine I think it was. I was and I play in a New England fitter with us and Clare laws. And he was invited
to come over to our summer school at a college to address our writing class which he did reluctantly and there are about 100 students there and he asked me to go with him and his opening remarks were no one in this room except myself will ever be a writer because if you're going to be writers you'd be home writing instead of here listening to me talk about it. He is very or awesome I am an awful lot of fun press. Brilliant. The first American to win the Nobel Prize when F. Scott Fitzgerald died in Hollywood in 1040 at the age of 44. The obituaries in the press said nothing much of them except remember that he was quote the historian of the Jazz Age which of course was true but absurdly far from being the whole truth. Fitzgerald does not belong just to the 20s he was a writer of candor intelligence and extreme sensitiveness to environment in the best of his works. Now it seems
certain to rank with the absolutely first rate American writing The Great Gatsby perhaps his finest novel is a major work. And if you haven't read it or if it's been a long time since you have hired you to get it from your library or buy it and give yourself an unforgettable reading treat. I like to read you now a typical Fitzgerald story. Not one of his major stories but an honest top bit of writing typical of his style and attitude. It's entitled three hours between planes. In the story Donald plant bored and restless has landed at a small midwestern airport with a three hour stopover. He recalls that a childhood sweetheart now married lives in this town and although he has lost all contact with her through the years Donald manages to obtain her married name and calls her she immediately although somewhat vaguely invites him to her home for a brief visit before his next flight. Now he has alighted from the cab which is brought into the house at the end of a curved
drive Donald saw a dark haired little beauty standing against the lighted door a glass in her hand. Startled by her final materialisation Donald got out of the cab saying Mrs Gifford she turned on the porchlight and stared at him wide eyed and tentative A smile broke through the puzzled expression. Donald it is you who we all chain saw. Well this is remarkable. You always were a lovely person he said but I'm a little shocked to find you as beautiful as you are. It worked. The immediate recognition of their changed state the bold compliment made them interesting strangers instead of fumbling. Childhood friends have a highball she asked. No please don't think I've become a secret drinker. But this was a blue night. I expected my husband but he wired to be two days longer. He's very nice Donald. Very attractive. Rather your type and coloring. And I think he's interested in someone in New York. And I
don't know. Well after seeing you that sounds impossible Donald assured her. I was married for six years and there was a time I tortured myself that way. Then one day I just put jealousy out of my life forever. After my wife died I was very glad of that. That left a very rich memory nothing Marder spoiled or hard to think over. She looked at him attentively and then sympathetically as he spoke. I'm very sorry she said. And after a proper moment you've changed a lot. Turn your head or remember father saying that boy has a brain. You know you probably argued against it. Oh no I was impressed. Up to then I thought everybody had a brain. That's why it sticks in my mind. What else sticks in your mind he asked smiling. Suddenly Nancy got up and walked quickly a little away. Oh now she reproached him that isn't fair.
I suppose I was a naughty girl. You were not. He said stoutly and I will have a drink now. As she poured it her face still turned from him he continued. Do you think you were the only little girl who has ever kissed you like the subject you demanded. Then her momentary irritation melted and she said oh well we did have fun. Like in the song. Yes on a sleigh ride. Yes and somebodies picnic to James and at Frontenac that those summers. It was the sleigh ride he remembered most and kissing her cool cheeks in the straw in one corner wash he laughed up at the cold white stars. The couple next to them had their backs turned and he kissed her little neck in her ears and never her lips. Nancy he said whenever I talked to my wife about the past I told her you were the
girl I loved almost as much as I loved her. But I think I really loved you just as much. When we moved out of town I carried you like a cannon ball in my insides. Were you that much stirred up. He suddenly realized that they were now standing just two feet from each other he was talking as if he loved her in the present but she was looking up at him with her lips have parted in a clouded look in her eyes. Go on she said. I'm ashamed to say I like it. I didn't know you were so upset than I thought it was me who was upset you. He exclaimed don't you remember throwing me over at the drug store. He laughed. You stuck out your tongue at me. I don't remember at all she said. It seemed to me you did the throwing over her hand fell lightly almost consolingly on his arm. You know I'm going to photograph book upstairs I haven't looked at for years I'll go up and dig it out. A few minutes later side by
side on the couch they open the book between them. Nancy looked at him smiling and very happy. Oh this is such fun she said such fun that you're so nice that you remember me so beautifully. Let me tell you I wish I'd known it then. After you've gone after you had gone and after what we had done I hated you. What a pity. He said gently but not now. She said I regret nothing. Let's kiss and make up. That isn't being a good wife she said after a minute. I really don't think I've kissed two men since I was married. Once more he said. But Nancy had turned a page and was pointing eagerly at a picture and half an hour Donald had developed an emotion that he had not known since the death of his wife. But he had never hoped to know again. Then she was saying here's you right away. He looked he was a little boy in shorts
standing on a pier with a sailboat in the background. I remember she laughed. The very day it was taken Kitty took it and I stole it from her for a moment Donald failed to recognize himself in the photo. Then bending bending closer he failed utterly to recognize himself. That's not me he said. Oh yes he said it was at Frontenac that summer we who we used to go to the cave cave what cave I was only three days in front and back again he strained his eyes at the slightly yellowed picture and that isn't me. That's Donald blowers. We did look rather alike. Now she was staring at him leaning back seeming to lift away from him. But your DONALD But no no you're Donald plant. Well yes I told you on the phone. She was on her feet her face faintly horrified. Plant blowers. I must be crazy or was it that
drink I was mixed up a little when I first saw you. Now look here what I told you. He tried for a monk as calm as he turned a page of the book way nothing at all he said. Pictures that did not include him formed and reformed before his eyes front and back. A cafe Donald Bowers. You threw me over. Nancy spoke now from the other side of the room. You'll never tell the stories she said. Stories have a way of getting round but there isn't any story. But he thought she was a bad little girl. And suddenly he was filled with wild raging jealousy of little Donald bombers he who had banished jealously from his life forever in the five steps he took across the room he crushed out 20 years and the existence of Walter Gifford with his stride kissed me kissed me again Nancy said sinking to one knee beside her chair putting his hand on her shoulder. But Nancy strained away. You said you had to catch a plane. It's nothing I can miss it's of no importance. Please go she said. And
please try to imagine how I feel. But you act as if you don't remember me at all he cried as if you don't remember Donald plant. I do. I remember you but I was also long ago. The taxi numbers crossed what eight for eight for on his way to the airport Donald shook his head from side to side. He was completely himself nobbut he could not digest the experience only as the plane roared up into the dark sky and its passengers became a different entity from the corporate world below. Did he go. Did he draw a parallel from the fact of its flight. Donald had lost a good deal in those hours between the planes. But since the second half of life is a long process of getting rid of things that part of the experience probably didn't matter. So for the past two weeks we've examined the literature and some of the writers of the
1920s. We've covered quite a field. Carl Sandburg Robert Frost Samuel Hoffenstein e e cummings Dorothy Parker Ernest Hemingway ne Lowell Ring Lardner Sinclair Lewis and F. Scott Fitzgerald names whose contribution to the literature of this nation cannot be measured in volumes of print. Next week we come to the hour of parting our Twenty sixth and final program in the listen to the Land series. The title of next week's program appropriately is as others see us. I hope you will see fit to join me as we hold the mirror up to ourselves. Until then this is Dick Burdick saying so long. Listen to the land was recorded at station W.H. y y Philadelphia under a grant from the National Educational Television and Radio Center. And is being distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is James Kaylor inviting you to be with us next week for the 26 and final program in a series as others see us with your host
- Listen to the land
- The fertile Twenties, part 2
- Producing Organization
- WHYY (Radio station : Philadelphia, Pa.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This program, the second of two parts, focuses on the exceptional American writings of the 1920s.
- Series Description
- America's literary heritage is explored through readings of short stories, poems, folklore, journalism and legends. The series is narrated by Richard S. Burdick.
- Media type
Announcer: Keeler, James
Host: Burdick, Richard S.
Producing Organization: WHYY (Radio station : Philadelphia, Pa.)
Writer: Voegeli, Don
Writer: Eitzen, Lee
Writer: Lowell, Amy, 1874-1925
Writer: Parker, Dorothy, 1893-1967
Writer: Lardner, Ring, 1885-1933
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 60-54-24 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Listen to the land; The fertile Twenties, part 2,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed January 30, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-qf8jjr6d.
- MLA: “Listen to the land; The fertile Twenties, part 2.” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 30, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-qf8jjr6d>.
- APA: Listen to the land; The fertile Twenties, part 2. 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-qf8jjr6d