Reader's almanac; Ben Lucien Burman
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. One author among all those I have NATO during the many years this program has been broadcast over the city station returns here every time he writes and then publishes a new book. Now many have been here three or four times but only Ben Lucian Burman has been here by actual count on 10 different occasions corresponding to 10 different books that he has published. It's not that he has some special hold up on me but simply that he's the guest who can always be depended upon to be both interesting and entertaining no matter what sort of book we're talking about. I remember a delightful novel called everywhere I roam which started this association. And then another literary landmark was the occasion when he had written what was for him a departure from his previous work a book for children and for adults both
a delightful animal tale beast fable perhaps would be the classical term which would put him in a class with Hans Christian Anderson and Kenneth Graham the author of Uncle Remus and that was a book called High water at Catfish bend way back there in 1051. You know this book was recognised at once as a distinctive achievement and the animal characters could have been its of a marsh called Catfish bend somewhere near the Mississippi River have begun far more widely known and loved as three more catfish bands have come out. The last one the one that we are noticing today is called Blow a wild bugle for catfish Ben published by the tap and your publishing company. This same publisher has brought out the preceding three books in a single volume so that all four of these books are now available in the same format. These books are of our own time as any fable necessarily must be. They reflect some of the forces which play upon us and disturb us humans as in blow
a wild bugle disturb the animals of catfish Bend is a pick gone thing to find this true as one reads the tale of what happens as a call you get the illusion that they can and they are a super race and begin to act like one with grave consequences to all the denizens of the Martian catfish bend. So welcome back to the almanac again Ben Berman and I'm especially glad that you found the time and the inspiration to do another catfish and then book after such a books of contemporary satire as a street in the Laughing camel on the sign and a praying tiger. Rob it's great to be back Warren. And it's been alone for a long time since we've been talking about books. Now then what is it that determine when it's time for another cat baseband to be conceived and written. Not clearly one a year might be too many. One every five or six years would certainly be too few and you would hear from your readers all over this country. And of course they have to fit in these new
books have to fit in somehow with their other work. So how do you manage. Well I think it's a feeling that you get. Frankly I felt that I had written my last cat face banned book when I did the third one. But people have been very nice and they say please give him another cat baseband BLOCK So finally I guess said Kid I just broke down and found well I think it's time to do another cat for his van bucks so that's the way wild view go came about. I hope all those folks who are listening who have read all of your can't fish Baen books up to this time will remember that and if you don't produce one of the next two or three years we'll all write and complain. When I'd like to explore with you or the special problems of writing a series of books with the same characters in it I daresay there are advantages First of all you have the characters already made. No need to work over there characterization that
set by previous books but isn't really an advantage. Do you find it still. Well it is an advantage and it's a disadvantage. Actually I find that I know my characters and I love my characters. But then I don't want to repeat myself under any circumstances that's a first thing in writing that I said when I started out writing I will never repeat myself and that is of course a danger that you have in the series showed to avoid that. I get a very specific theme and A which means that we will go on a completely different direction now the theme of this one is the folly of war it is sapped our own military regime and just sat our own dictatorship. It's a satire on arrogant and
stupidity. And so it's completely different you see in the other ones we had a theme. Why don't we just theme on. The cruelty of hunting. Another one high water government bureaucracy. Seven Stars and that was hunting. Each one has a completely different idea so that way I go off in a completely different direction. So long as you have something thematic Lee new it seems to me you're on very safe grounds. Yeah exactly idea I think you can produce a dozen shall we say. And why should I say it doesn't let's say 15 right now. We have to get thing I will not write another one and you know I have a team that I know is sound and but I'm sure with the world in that chaotic state against it I won't lack for something. No there's another look at it from my point of view if you have an audience
waiting for this new book. This is certainly true I would assume especially for such a popular series Aziz animal stories that audience is there in this waiting. But let me ask you how are you aware of it. You get letters kids write in let say and demand a new can't fish banned book or a lot of oldsters I dare say also. Yes I would say it's from the letters chiefly and people I meet and then of course see their reviews the reviewers have been wonderful and they keep asking far when are we going to have another one so I guess I have to do what they say. Let me ask you in this room getting close to something very very practical I think here I wonder of what you've been saying is borne out by sales figures now. We don't have to be crass about this of course. But you must study such sales figures because they have something to tell you about the appeal of various of your books I've had.
Now if each succeeding catfish bend volume has done better than the preceding one at least initially that means something pretty fairly definite It seems to me that there's that your audience is growing each time. Is this true. Oh absolutely. Oh the books are now over 200000 which is a pleasant figure for an all very respectable and they're appearing in a constant gray and new countries we just recently got a beautiful Swedish EDITION. And I guess coming out in England. And in Germany he's very very strange to me why the Germans like my books I don't know. If it had been frayed your head and I'm I'm banned in French said it not to catfish books but one of my books because my stuff is so
awful and I don't consider their German to Sahar but highwater in its German translation. One of the three top prizes in their book festival there. And so there are springing up all over the place. The negotiations now in other countries so that is how I know each. Then there is your Readers Digest which has brought out a big addition. And that have taste of high water for a very small and quite remarkably gun as a matter of fact. It's man needs you know in simple language to keep this parrot. I have a veto power over it so that's how I can keep it you know. So they they are spreading all the time. That's how I know. I would expect high water to get to JB and to be the biggest
seller simply because it's been long used in print. Is that true. Yes it is true and of course a been working on the film of that far some time and I hope that before very long it will have all of that. So if you'd like to know anything about independent film production and all the problems I can now spend weeks talking to you then is it getting harder and harder as some of the things that you've just been saying suggested it is perhaps a little harder to write individual books in the series by now since you've come through with the fourth one I know that you say that themes are likely to be. Enough of them around to go around. Maybe for half a dozen more. But I was asking you about the advantages a bit ago I wonder if there are not some very distinct disadvantage is maybe for example getting new
maxims for old Judge Black to mouth must be a concern of yours for example that's a small one but well I think they judge black. The problem isn't too serious because I have maxims and bromide now that I think 100 books. Actually I think I think it is easier rather than harder because I know my character as you see your great problem in a novel at least I find you have to start from scratch. You have to create an individual. Now I know and I do this in the cadre spend books you take a hat here you take a shoe there you take the coat here a face here and pretty soon you've got a character. Well of course my cats baseband animals are really good people and I do the same and once I got them settled.
Then there's no problem now I will. And I do as I've done in blow. You go introduce new characters all the time I one of my favorites in this book is iron skin the the sheep dog who was convicted of. Killing a sheep because they found won't any speed. Then I got the idea I have that up in the Kentucky mountains when they were actually trying a dog did they have dog trials out there in the mountains and they were trying this dog far and stealing a sheep and they convicted him and putting him in jail for a while and the young dog that was with him they gave a suspended sentence. Well that's a very good device of course to create some new characters you
probably have to limit yourself to one. Perhaps at the very most too when any one book because it grows too fast you'd have a very long cast Indeed but it's a good it's a good idea that you are. And let me ask you how you get to think for succeeding books. Thinking about it while I was getting ready to come over here I I thought probably something just popped into your mind but I notice an item from a New York City newspaper is printed just preceding the opening page of this story. The accident of seeing that news story about Cory ODIs moving east. Musta been the initial impetus to this story. Did you see that. Did you put it into a notebook. So that was present when you needed it for a theme. Well you're pretty close one actually. I first began to think of it when I was on a steamboat going up thing
Missouri River. We were going up the river and the pilot said you know they killed the call yo to be here last night and I had always thought of choreo DS as being out in Arizona New Mexico and I discovered that there were quite a lot of core yogis in Missouri and I found they are moving constantly moving east. And then I saw this I got in the paper about they had found Koryo he's up in New York state and that a course a remarkable thing. If the car Yogi's becoming an eastern animal. That is a complete change of our psychology about the cardio. So then I began thinking about it and thought one I suppose the choreo to try to move in and upset cat face band sound that way I. That's the genesis of the book.
I can see that this reflects something that a scientific man would be really interested in but you have taken it and made something dramatic out of it and it's a fine working theme because it works very well in this novel. Now what do you call these books when you think seriously of how historians of literature are like you to deal with and I've called them variously sables or beast Fables which is an old old term and animal stories which is much more current a phrase. How do you call them in your own mind. Well I think I think I would damage the animals satires I mean because I'm very happy that being. And kids like them. But as you know there are really very adult fables they're very adult satires that and perhaps two children get the satire. I don't I don't know what they give me a chance to satirize all the strange
things that are going on and the world today. One thing that might mean is you and if you remember the passage about the aunt I have. I was growing up to believe that the aunt was a noble citizen and a wonderful dad to watch the aunt and everything is great and go to the at the house throughout grade and that sort of thing. And actually having lived in Africa and the jungle and the tropics so much I had to come to the conclusion that the ant is a monster. He's really a harmful creature so I thought in this book that I would destroy him and part their reputation and so that is why I make them so ridiculous moving around in circles and if you remember I have them I say well what are you going to do.
Somebody said to him wanting gone around in circles that way far and why I'm going to Warren and they say Well my grandfather is dead and what's good enough for hard grandfather and he's good enough for us. They're conservatives and yes yeah out there right. Then I wonder if you thought of these catfish Ben volumes as possibly your best bid for having written an enduring classic which would suggest it was a literary immortality and I'm not saying of course that that's your in your novels which I esteem very highly. I will not be read probably as long as the Mississippi is at least a trickle. But I have a feeling you see that books like your cat Ben books which in a way resemble such a book as the wind in the willows which is a can of grain certainly is a classic. It's been read for fifty years and probably will be read for many many more
years. How does the how do you feel about these books is the keeping of Ben Lucian Burman name light for many centuries. Warren I don't think that I can answer that question. I think that is a rather too. Kind people like yourself. And the other critics. I don't think it's possible for an author Jasmine his own stuff I mean I write what I feel you know and I put it down at the time irrespective of anything I've never written a line and I didn't believe Dan. And I have to let him stand at that and if people prefer the catfish books novels or vice versa I frankly couldn't say. I just don't know. Well that's a it's a modest answer to a question that was a little ominous I must say. And I expected that you would answer it in that fashion
but my serious feeling is that. Not that these will outlast your novels. He even particularly of course those about the Mississippi. But I think that there are there are headed for me immortality and it doesn't take much of that. Prophet to to say that it strikes me as very kind of you know in reference to that adding some other characters to your permanent cast. I know I think that you been pretty much interested in animals and I know that you get around the face of the earth a good deal so that you must have a lot of animals who are sort of wind up waiting to get into catfish bend. Oh no I have so many and it's a matter of fact as you know we've just come back from the South Pacific and from Barney Oh. And I'm high I think even catfish bend to
Brian you know to get the arang of Tang's and Bates pronounced orang Tang I discovered guy I always call that orangutang But but he's. I think I'll have to bring one over the catfish band and getting them involved sound way because they're fascinating creatures. As a matter of fact the legend is that if you are a male and you are out in the jungle and you meet I'm a orangutang. Look out because he will attack you if you are a male and you meet a lady or running a Tang who look out again because she wrote embrace you and carry you off to the top of her tree. Supposed to have been done many many times. And the curious thing is according to the natives who believe this firmly that if you get you up there these trees are 100 50 feet tall and they don't
branch out so you can't get down you see and if she keeps you up there a couple of years she's very careful to feed you. But the food has no salt in it and you lose your power of speech. Well actually they are so close to human beings headed she said. It's really astonishing I know I was out in this one place where they were bringing out the wrang and tanks for the government you see there protecting them and it's forbidden to have a pet earring and Tang and they had this big younger rang a tank that may be four feet high named Susie and they said call Susie over to you and I it was a little working at about call you Susie but they said go I hadn't called so I called Susie and she came rushing over and then leaped
toward me and put her arms around me and I was absolutely amazed the most gentle and the most like it. And she stroked my arm and I was then I put it down after a little while. And I was this was out in the country and I was helping Alice and my wife across the gully and I happened to catch him by the ring finger in her hand and she cried out. And think poor writing again was so wordy again we rushed over to see what had happened and caressed her finger very remarkably like human beings. Well I'm sure the other animals and cat baseband will move over for an orangutang to come and join them. You mentioned Alice and I it just reminds me that we have not mentioned her that this book will while Google for catfish Ben and three from catfish Bend which is the group of three.
All of these have been illustrated and very beautifully by Alice Cathy. We want to bring her into this discussion certainly. One of thank you Ben Lucian Burman for this discussion and one of the most engaging of sagas of our time in the catfish banned books is they appear in the bookstores at the present time in two books that I just mentioned below the Wild Bill grouper catfish and three from catfish bend both published by the Tappan jare publishing company and illustrated by Alice Cathy let me reiterate. She is also Mrs. Bergman as we've just noted. You heard Warren Bauer and author Ben Lucian Burman as they discuss the book Blow a wild bugle for catfish band. This was the final program in a series the reader's Ohman act produced by Warren Barr and originally broadcast by station WNYC in New York. The reader's almanac is made available to this station by national educational radio.
This is the national educational radio network.
- Reader's almanac
- Ben Lucien Burman
- Producing Organization
- WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This program focuses on author and journalist Ben Lucien Burman.
- Series Description
- A literature series featuring interviews with authors, poets, and others in the literary world.
- Media type
Host: Bower, Warren
Interviewee: Burman, Ben Lucien, 1896-1984
Producing Organization: WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-28-13 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Reader's almanac; Ben Lucien Burman,” 1967-08-23, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 25, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-zp3vzn8s.
- MLA: “Reader's almanac; Ben Lucien Burman.” 1967-08-23. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 25, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-zp3vzn8s>.
- APA: Reader's almanac; Ben Lucien Burman. 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-zp3vzn8s