|Interesting Truman Capote Facts:|
|Truman Capote’s friend Harper Lee went on to write the book To Kill a Mockingbird, which won her a Pulitzer Prize in 1961.|
|Truman’s name was changed to Truman Garcia Capote in 1935 when his mother married Joseph Capote, and he adopted Truman as his own son.|
|Truman’s mother was emotionally abusive to him once they moved to New York City following her second marriage. She alternated between being kind or cruel to him, depending on her mood.|
|While in school some of Truman’s teachers encouraged him to pursue writing, believing that he had talent.|
|Truman did not see the point in attending a post-secondary institution, believing that he was either a good writer or he wasn’t. He didn’t believe that school could teach him to be good.|
|While working at The New Yorker Truman tried to get his work published but had no success. He quit and returned to Alabama to write his first novel Summer Crossing. The book was set aside and was not published until 2005.|
|Truman Capote’s first successful works were short stories. In 1945 his story Miriam was published in Mademoiselle and a fiction editor at Harper’s Bazaar noticed his work and his writing career had begun. He won the O. Henry Award for Miriam.|
|His first published novel was Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948). The book sold well despite Capote being a new author.|
|Truman Capote’s second published novel The Grass Harp was published in 1951 and a Broadway producer asked Truman to adapt it for stage. It opened in 1952 and ran for 36 performances.|
|Truman Capote wrote several screenplays including Beat the Devil and The Innocents.|
|Truman developed friendships with several well-known people including Jacki Kennedy and Gloria Guinness.|
|Breakfast at Tiffany’s was published in 1958 and later became one of Hollywood’s most beloved films.|
|Truman Capote began working on In Cold Blood with Harper Lee, which began as a story for The New Yorker, and evolved into a book. It was an instant bestseller when it was released in 1965. The book was a true crime book and Truman and Harper attended the trial. Truman and Harper interviewed the suspected killers during research for the book.|
|It is believed that the dark nature of In Cold Blood took its toll on Truman Capote, who began drinking too much and taking drugs.|
|Truman Capote died on August 25th, 1984 at the age of 59. He had liver cancer. He died in Bel Air, Los Angeles. His ashes were scattered at crooked Pond in Southampton, New York. # ana christy|
| September 22, 2005
FEBRUARY WAS ALWAYS the cruelest month for Hunter S. Thompson. An avid NFL fan, Hunter traditionally embraced the Super Bowl in January as the high-water mark of his year. February, by contrast, was doldrums time. Nothing but monstrous blizzards, bad colds and the lackluster Denver Nuggets. This past February, with his health failing, Hunter was even more glum than usual. “This child’s getting old,” he muttered with stark regularity, an old-timey refrain that mountain-men used to utter when their trail-blazing days were over. Depressed and in physical pain from hip-replacement surgery, he started talking openly about suicide, polishing his .45-caliber pistol, his weapon of choice. He was trying to muster the courage to end it all.
Then, on February 16th, Hunter decided to leave a goodbye note. Scrawled in black marker, it was appropriately titled “Football Season Is Over.” Although he left the grim missive for Anita, his young wife, Hunter was really talking to himself. Here, published for the first time, are perhaps his final written words:
No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun — for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax — This won’t hurt.
At the bottom of the page, Hunter drew a happy heart, the kind found on Valentine’s cards. Four days later, on February 20th, he committed suicide by firing his pistol into his mouth.
ON SATURDAY, AUGUST 20TH, SIX months to the day after Hunter died, many of his closest friends gathered in the high-ceiling lobby of the Hotel Jerome in Aspen. Since the mid-1960s, Hunter had used the hotel’s J-Bar as his boozy late-night office, its long out door swimming pool as his fitness club. Now, family and friends congregated here, waiting for a convoy of shuttle buses that would ferry them down the two-lane country road to Owl Farm, Hunter’s home in Woody Creek, to say goodbye.
As the hour approached, the Victorian hotel became a Gonzo way station. Reporters wandered about with spiral notebooks while Ralph Steadman and Bill Murray held court at the bar. “I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” Sen. John Kerry said as he boarded a shuttle, his arm around former Sen. George McGovern. “I met Humer in the days of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Then, last summer I offered him the vice-presidency in jest. He’s missed.”
Because Hunter had been a perpetual Peter Pan, accepting the bleak reality of his death came hard. Nobody coveted what his son, Juan, deemed “Dr. Phil closure.” Instead, his family and friends wanted to find a gallant, jubilant way to remember him. Luckily, Hunter provided them with a dramatic, ready-made funeral scheme first hatched nearly thirty years ago, a self-aggrandizing stunt guaranteed to launch his posthumous literary reputation skyward in a final blaze of triumphant glory. “Hunter wanted to be crazy and outrageous in death, just as he was in life,” composer David Amram said on the bus ride to Owl Farm. “Like a phoenix, he planned on rising from the ashes.”
Back in 1977, Hunter had asked Ralph Steadman — his brilliant illustrator and trusted sidekick — to draft a blueprint for a Gonzo Fist Memorial, his warped idea of a pyrotechnics-rigged mausoleum. The morbid notion had been preoccupying Hunter for a while. A few years before, he had asked his artist friend Paul Pascarella to design an official Gonzo logo: an iconic two-thumbed red fist clutching a peyote button, ensconced atop a dagger. Now, with a BBC crew in tow, Hunter and Ralph wandered into a Hollywood mortuary to inquire about transforming the Gonzo symbol into a full-fledged artillery cannon, 153 feet tall, capable of blasting his ashes into the atmosphere. It started out as a lark, but as they years passed, Hunter grew serious about the cannon concept, telling his family and friends it was his “one true wish.” He often spoke of how Mark Twain wanted to report on his own funeral, how France celebrated the death of Victor Hugo with a no-holds-barred parade and, more recently, how Timothy Leary had his ashes fired into space from Grand Canary Island via a rocket. But Hunter had a much grander farewell in mind. He wanted to trump his own suicide with a surefire, high-octane, sizzling Gonzo epilogue complete with a thunderous eight-piece Japanese drum band and a Buddhist reading and his ashes showering down on his lifelong friends while Bob Dylan wailed “Mr. Tambourine Man” from high-decibel speakers.
How one deals with the death of a loved one is a highly personalized affair. Some people weep for days; others take a hike in the woods or count rosary beads. The actor Johnny Depp, it turns out, is a charter member of the Direct Action School of Mourning. Depp and Hunter were home-boys. Both hail from Kentucky, and the two had become friends when Depp played Hunter’s alter ego Raoul Duke in the movie adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. One of Hunter’s great delights was getting Depp enshrined as an honorary Kentucky Colonel in 1996. From induction onward, Hunter always called him “Colonel Depp” — or sometimes just “the Colonel.” Since nothing could bring Hunter back to life, Depp decided to make his buddy’s 1977 death fantasy come true. “Fuck you, Hunter,” he joked one afternoon not long after Hunter died. “You want a Gonzo Cannon? We’ll give you a Gonzo Cannon.”
Following Hunter’s thirty-year-old blueprints, the Colonel commissioned a construction crew to build the cannon. Cost was not a factor. So what if the price tag was $2 million or $3 million? Depp’s recent hits Pirates of the Caribbean and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were financial grand slams, earning the forty-two-year-old actor enough money to buy his owns-land near the Bahamas. Doing it right for Hunter was all that mattered. “I loved him and wanted to make sure his last wish was fulfilled,” Depp says. ‘It’s that simple.” He galvanized Hunter’s inner circle to share his vision of building the most spectacularly weird monument ever erected for a writer. Without hesitation, both Anita and Juan signed up for the ash blast.
But greater Aspen has a notoriously hard-line building code. Pitkin County is NIMBY-land, a place where rich folks with $10 million alpine homes don’t want their scenic views obstructed by a giant day-glo peyote fist. Facing a political minefield, Depp dispatched his movieland troops to the Rockies, determined to construct a permanent monument for the Good Doctor. “There were a lot of community grumbles,” recalls Sheriff Bob Braudis. “Nobody minded a small cannon blast, but 153 feet tall? And permanent? That, quite naturally, raised eyebrows.”
So a compromise was struck. Depp could build his grandiose monument and his friend’s ashes could light up the Western sky in a fireworks orgy. But the memorial would have to be temporary. Two weeks only and down it would have to come. Faced with this reality check, most people would have resigned themselves to building a makeshift memorial, some tawdry papiermâché-like contraption modeled after a disposable Rose Bowl float. But Depp is not most people. “Our goal was to get everything right,” he says. “We wanted to respect the wishes of the people of Pitkin County. These were Hunter’s friends and neighbors. We wanted them to be part of the entire process.”
In early June, construction crews armed with jackhammers, buzz saws and humongous cranes arrived at Owl Farm. While engineers and security guards roamed the property around her, Anita focused on the guest list. Handsome invitations with a silver-foil dagger topped by a double-thumbed fist went out to a select group of family and friends. “Hunter had so many fans, and I wanted them all to come,” Anita says. “But reality dictated that we limit the event to 300 or 400 people.”
Slowly the program began to take shape. Juan would be master of ceremonies, introducing nine or ten of the people closest to Hunter to make brief five-minute eulogies. The tone was funeral-solemn — a wake — but expansive humor was naturally welcomed. Only mint juleps would be served for phase one. A full bar would open up after the eulogies. Music, of course, would be a big part of the evening; given Hunter’s preference for Kentucky bluegrass, Depp lined up Jimmy Ibbotson of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band to play “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and Lyle Lovett and David Amram to orchestrate variations on “My Old Kentucky Home.”
Finally, there would be absolutely no cameras or tape recorders or working media allowed at the ceremony. (An exception was made for the New York Times.) “We didn’t see this as a media event,” Juan says. “It was a remembrance of Hunter. Our goodbye. We simply asked people to respect the family’s wishes.” Not everyone got the message. Three days before the event, a freelance photographer who was snooping around the area was run off by Ibbotson, a neighbor of Hunter’s, who fired off his shotgun for emphasis. “If you want to print the fact that neighbors are shooting at paparazzi, please do,” Ibbotson told the Aspen Times. “It might save us a little hassle on the day of the event.”
THE FESTIVITIES WERE SCHEDULED to begin at 7 P.M. As the shuttle buses approached Owl Farm, guests encountered a wall of frenzied fans, wildly waving Gonzo placards while toking on dope and mixing drinks. Virtually everyone claimed some connection to Hunter — be it a Utah book-seller or Honduran smuggler or Houston social maven or Pennsylvania hitchhiker. A few lost souls were even dressed like Hunter in Tilley hats and white Converse sneakers, smoking Dunhills from a cigarette holder. “Those folks weren’t in Woody Creek to rub elbows with glitterati,” said Gerry Goldstein, a close Hunter friend. “They came from far and wide to salute Hunter.”
As I chatted with some of these pilgrims — all in awe of the fifteen-story Gonzo tower standing across Woody Creek Road surrounded by a forested canyon wall — it dawned on me that Hunter had become the Patron Saint of Righteous Rage for the voiceless outcast. Like Jesse James or Billy the Kid, Hunter took on the Bad Boy persona of the average guy’s avenger. He wouldn’t take shit from uppity bosses or dishonest police or corrupt lawyers or phony agents like most of us do. With a fierce vengeance, he lashed out, creating chaos from the mundane, psychedelic sparks out of the terminally placid. Most of us would never drive our Jeep through plate-glass windows or whiff rotten cocaine in a Huddle House parkinglot … so Hunter did it for us. Mayhem was his calling.
And posterity was his obsession. Hunter spent his entire life in a childlike state, wailing like a rambunctious new-born for things like Equal Rights and Prison Reform. He wanted his legacy to be both literary and political. As the invited guests and family arrived, they walked up a flight of stairs — an elegant, gondola-shape pavilion on the hill above Owl Farm, constructed especially for the occasion. The décor was a luscious cross between a Deadwood-like brothel and a Vegas stage show circa 1970. One entrance to the Gonzo palace was adorned by large framed portraits of Hunter’s favorite authors — Hemingway, Faulkner. Conrad, Twain, Fitzgerald. A fine circular bar stood in the center, flanked by furniture draped in black cloth, to be unveiled after the eulogies. Stuffed peacocks and Chinese gongs and other assorted Hunter artifacts were scattered about, his apple-red convertible stuffed with blow-up dolls perched on a nearby knoll. “It was like entering an ancient temple,” says Curtis Robinson, a former editor at the Aspen Daily News. “It reminded me of how much Hunter looked like the Dalai Lama.”
Standing at the podium dressed in a tuxedo jacket, Juan Thompson called for testimonials from his father’s family and friends. Anita. wearing a silk shirt with hand-painted red poppies (Hunter’s favorite flower), sobbed her way through Coleridge’s epic poem “Kubla Khan.” Steadman gave a rambling, hilarious toast, reading some of Hunter’s lengthy faxes to him over the years, including one that demanded an immediate loan of $50,000 (“Keep your advice to yourself,” Hunter instructed, “and send the money”). Ed Bradley of CBS News described encountering Hunter’s work when he bought Rolling Stone at a military PX in Vietnam and eventually growing to trust the notoriously erratic writer enough to allow Hunter to shave his head with a Bic razor. Colleen Auerbach — the mother of Lisl Auman, a young Colorado woman who was being released from prison after Hunter raised questions about her case — read a letter from her daughter. “Hunter saved Lisl’s life,” Auerbach said. “Not a day goes by that I don’t thank him and wish him love.”
Jann S. Wenner, the founder and editor of this magazine, called Hunter “the DNA of ROLLING STONE.” He also commented on the scores of black-clad security officers patrolling the surrounding roads and woods. “Hunter liked to refer to Owl Farm as ‘my heavily fortified compound in the Rockies,”‘ Wenner noted. “Well, today that’s never been more true.”
George McGovern, whose campaign for president Hunter covered for ROLLING STONE, remembered him as “a man of deep goodness and justice and compassion and idealism.” Sheriff Braudis, a longtime friend, gave a heartfelt speech recounting how he had helped Hunter out of various jams over the years. He encouraged those present to keep Hunter’s wife and son and grandson in their thoughts before concluding, “Goodbye, Hunter… motherfucker.”
Juan gave the final ceremonial tribute to his father. “So here we go,” he said. “Let’s do this thing…. Let’s shout, let’s laugh, cry…. Let’s honor the great fallen warrior. Let us spread his ashes on our farm…. Let us celebrate power with power. The king is dead. Long live the king!”
The previous week, Anita had flown to Pennsylvania to deliver her husband’s remains — kept in an oak box draped with an American flag — to Zambelli Fireworks. The company loaded the ashes into ten mortar shells packed with gunpowder. Anita wrote “I love you” on each shell, which were then driven by armored car to Woody Creek and packed into the waiting cannon.
Now the moment had arrived. As “Spirit in the Sky” began blasting over the loudspeakers, even the handful of drunks in attendance sobered up. The massive drapery enfolding the monument was slowly pulled away, revealing the Gonzo fist at the top of the tower — two feet taller than the Statue of Liberty — a multicolored peyote button pulsating at its center. Ed Bastian, a close friend, read part of the sacred text of the Heart Sutra in Tibetan, and a troupe of Japanese drummers began a choreographed ritual. As the drums stopped, champagne flutes were passed around. Then, at 8:46 P.M., more than thirty fireworks rocketed high above Owl Farm, bursting in the night sky illuminated by a nearly full moon. The cannon atop the tower fired, and Hunter’s ashes fell over the assembled guests like gray snow, “Mr. Tambourine Man” blaring from the sound system on cue. Hunter was literally all around us now, a destroying angel whooping it up with one final Rebel Yell. I glanced at Hunter’s compatriots: Kerry looked curious, McGovern sad, Lovett silent. “I have never seen an event like this,” whispered Harry Dean Stanton. “And I’m old. Very old.” Afterward, when the moment came to sing “My Old Kentucky Home,” the performers discovered that no one knew the lyrics. George Tobia, Hunter’s friend and attorney, whipped out his cell phone and managed to find someone to pull the words off the Internet. Struggling to hear over the blare of the music, he wrote the lyrics out in longhand by the light of the moon. Lovett and Amram then took the stage to perform the song, with Depp on guitar and Hunter’s brother Davison on vocals.
Depp, bouncing on his heels, had a wicked grin on his face. He — along with Juan and Anita — had a right to celebrate. They had bucked the tiger and won. Every body knew the tower and its ghostly beacon were temporary. But for the moment Hunter’s family and friends indulged in a well-earned collective pride. They, better than anyone, knew that Hunter was no saint. Far from it. Not even close. At times, in fact, his veins seemed to fill with snake blood. But he was always bursting with kinetic passion and an indomitable prankster vision. Somehow it was hard to mourn his wildly vibrant sixty-seven years with a one-ton Gonzo fist in the sky and Lovett onstage singing “If I Had a Pony” and raw oysters and Gonzo-emblazoned chocolates being handed out like Halloween candy. The party lasted until dawn, with Bill Murray cutting a fine figure on the pavilion’s dance floor and others serenading an inflatable sex doll until the sun finally rose and fatigue settled in and everybody drifted out of Owl Farm full as ticks from food and booze.
As I left the farm with George McGovern and Anita Thompson to deliver a tape of the ceremony to an Aspen bar where hundreds of Hunter’s fans were convened, we stared out the bus window, and there it was, from three miles down the valley — the green orgiastic fist, lighting up the mountain. Jay Gatsby’s green light at the end of the pier had moved west to Hunter S. Thompson Territory. It glowed in the darkness like a long-ago lighthouse on loan from Haight-Ashbury, blinking a sentimental farewell, a bizarre hallucinogenic symbol soon to flicker out forever.
Suddenly, the shuttle bus grew hushed. You could hear the wheels humming down the lonesome Colorado blacktop road. Our transport had become as solemn as an empty church. No human murmurs or casual asides, just stony silence. As the highway turned sharply right, putting the phantasmagoric Gonzo fist out of view, the collective fear of everyone on board was that we had all entered the No More Fun Zone. The Green Light was temporary. The sorcerer was truly gone. The ashes had settled, and only the dark shadow of the valley remained.
Roughly 57 years ago, a 22-year-old Hunter S. Thompson wrote a letter to a friend that had asked him for advice. On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a big deal – 57 years ago letters were just how people communicated. What stands out to me is the fact that Thompson wrote this letter way before anyone really knew who he was. The letter, in my opinion, is a pure statement of faith, written by one of the most influential writers of our time, solely for the purpose of helping his friend. I know the letter wasn’t written to me, but I still read it like it was.
April 22, 1958
57 Perry Street
New York City
You ask advice: ah, what a very human and very dangerous thing to do! For to give advice to a man who asks what to do with his life implies something very close to egomania. To presume to point a man to the right and ultimate goal — to point with a trembling finger in the RIGHT direction is something only a fool would take upon himself.
I am not a fool, but I respect your sincerity in asking my advice. I ask you though, in listening to what I say, to remember that all advice can only be a product of the man who gives it. What is truth to one may be disaster to another. I do not see life through your eyes, nor you through mine. If I were to attempt to give you specific advice, it would be too much like the blind leading the blind.
“To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles … ” (Shakespeare)
And indeed, that IS the question: whether to float with the tide, or to swim for a goal. It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives. So few people understand this! Think of any decision you’ve ever made which had a bearing on your future: I may be wrong, but I don’t see how it could have been anything but a choice however indirect — between the two things I’ve mentioned: the floating or the swimming.
But why not float if you have no goal? That is another question. It is unquestionably better to enjoy the floating than to swim in uncertainty. So how does a man find a goal? Not a castle in the stars, but a real and tangible thing. How can a man be sure he’s not after the “big rock candy mountain,” the enticing sugar-candy goal that has little taste and no substance?
The answer — and, in a sense, the tragedy of life — is that we seek to understand the goal and not the man. We set up a goal which demands of us certain things: and we do these things. We adjust to the demands of a concept which CANNOT be valid. When you were young, let us say that you wanted to be a fireman. I feel reasonably safe in saying that you no longer want to be a fireman. Why? Because your perspective has changed. It’s not the fireman who has changed, but you. Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective.
So it would seem foolish, would it not, to adjust our lives to the demands of a goal we see from a different angle every day? How could we ever hope to accomplish anything other than galloping neurosis?
The answer, then, must not deal with goals at all, or not with tangible goals, anyway. It would take reams of paper to develop this subject to fulfillment. God only knows how many books have been written on “the meaning of man” and that sort of thing, and god only knows how many people have pondered the subject. (I use the term “god only knows” purely as an expression.) There’s very little sense in my trying to give it up to you in the proverbial nutshell, because I’m the first to admit my absolute lack of qualifications for reducing the meaning of life to one or two paragraphs.
I’m going to steer clear of the word “existentialism,” but you might keep it in mind as a key of sorts. You might also try something called “Being and Nothingness” by Jean-Paul Sartre, and another little thing called “Existentialism: From Dostoyevsky to Sartre.” These are merely suggestions. If you’re genuinely satisfied with what you are and what you’re doing, then give those books a wide berth. (Let sleeping dogs lie.) But back to the answer. As I said, to put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.
But don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that we can’t BE firemen, bankers, or doctors — but that we must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal. In every man, heredity and environment have combined to produce a creature of certain abilities and desires — including a deeply ingrained need to function in such a way that his life will be MEANINGFUL. A man has to BE something; he has to matter.
As I see it then, the formula runs something like this: a man must choose a path which will let his ABILITIES function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his DESIRES. In doing this, he is fulfilling a need (giving himself identity by functioning in a set pattern toward a set goal), he avoids frustrating his potential (choosing a path which puts no limit on his self-development), and he avoids the terror of seeing his goal wilt or lose its charm as he draws closer to it (rather than bending himself to meet the demands of that which he seeks, he has bent his goal to conform to his own abilities and desires).
In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important. And it seems almost ridiculous to say that a man MUST function in a pattern of his own choosing; for to let another man define your own goals is to give up one of the most meaningful aspects of life — the definitive act of will which makes a man an individual.
Let’s assume that you think you have a choice of eight paths to follow (all pre-defined paths, of course). And let’s assume that you can’t see any real purpose in any of the eight. THEN — and here is the essence of all I’ve said — you MUST FIND A NINTH PATH.
Naturally, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. You’ve lived a relatively narrow life, a vertical rather than a horizontal existence. So it isn’t any too difficult to understand why you seem to feel the way you do. But a man who procrastinates in his CHOOSING will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.
So if you now number yourself among the disenchanted, then you have no choice but to accept things as they are, or to seriously seek something else. But beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life. But you say, “I don’t know where to look; I don’t know what to look for.”
And there’s the crux. Is it worth giving up what I have to look for something better? I don’t know — is it? Who can make that decision but you? But even by DECIDING TO LOOK, you go a long way toward making the choice.
If I don’t call this to a halt, I’m going to find myself writing a book. I hope it’s not as confusing as it looks at first glance. Keep in mind, of course, that this is MY WAY of looking at things. I happen to think that it’s pretty generally applicable, but you may not. Each of us has to create our own credo — this merely happens to be mine.
If any part of it doesn’t seem to make sense, by all means call it to my attention. I’m not trying to send you out “on the road” in search of Valhalla, but merely pointing out that it is not necessary to accept the choices handed down to you by life as you know it. There is more to it than that — no one HAS to do something he doesn’t want to do for the rest of his life. But then again, if that’s what you wind up doing, by all means convince yourself that you HAD to do it. You’ll have lots of company.
And that’s it for now. Until I hear from you again, I remain,
“It doesn’t ring a bell at all,” said Dourgarian, who specializes in selling first editions of Steinbeck’s work. “And that’s saying something if I haven’t heard of it. It’s also surprising because you would think that anything Steinbeck was involved with would be printed some place.”
But 70 years after Welles’ introduction in the midst of World War II, “With Your Wings” is getting a second release. Andrew F. Gulli, managing editor of the Birmingham, Michigan-based quarterly The Strand Magazine, came upon the transcript recently while looking through archives at the University of Texas at Austin. He features it in The Strand’s holiday issue, which comes out Friday.
Steinbeck, who died in 1968, wrote often about social injustice and on occasion featured black characters, notably Crooks in his classic novella “Of Mice and Men.” Gulli, whose magazine specializes in reissuing obscure works by famous writers, said in a recent email that “With Your Wings” was characteristic of the Nobel laureate’s worldview.
“Steinbeck was an idealist. He saw America as this wonderful land with so much to offer but on the flip side, he could see inequality, he could see greed and excess destroying the working classes,” Gulli wrote. “This story strikes me as an effort to show middle America that African-Americans were carrying on a huge burden in defending the United States and the allies during the war.”
An avid supporter of the war, Steinbeck worked overseas as a correspondent in the 1940s and, according to biographer Robert DeMott, wrote a favorable book about the Air Force called “Bombs Away!” Dourgarian noted that Steinbeck had favored “unusual” stories instead of describing the daily briefings from military officials.
“With Your Wings” at first reads like a standard narrative of a veteran’s return, a plot used by everyone from Homer to Ernest Hemingway. Second Lieutenant William Thatcher has completed his training and at a farewell ceremony receives silver wings, pinned to his chest. He climbs into his “clattering” Model-A Ford and sets out for an unidentified hometown. He appears to be greeted as a hero, or at least a celebrity, passing “crowded porches” and children “washed and dressed in their best and starchiest clothes, hairs bursting with ribbons.”
“He could hear the rustle as the neighbors moved silently near and formed a half circle behind him,” Steinbeck writes. “It was as though his own people were sitting in judgment on him.”
Thatcher’s sense of obligation is made more clear and powerful when Steinbeck reveals that he is black, at a time the military was segregated.
“He took off his cap with the gold eagle on it and held it in his hand. He saw his tall father lick his lips. And then his father said softly, ‘Son, every black man in the world is going to fly with your wings,'” Steinbeck writes.
“His heart was pounding. He could hear a little quiet murmur of voices in front of the house. He knew they were going to sing in a moment. And he knew now what he was to them.”
Online link: http://www.strandmag.com .
“The first draft of anything is shit.” – Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway’s favorite bars: Ritz, Paris; Harry’s Bar, Venice; Costello’s, New York; Sloppy Joe’s, Key West; and La Floridita, Cuba.
“The whiskey warmed his tongue and the back of his throat, but it did not change his ideas any, and suddenly, looking at himself in the mirror behind the bar, he knew that drinking was never going to do any good to him now. Whatever he had now he had, and it was from now on, and if he drank himself unconscious when he woke up it would be there.” —To Have and Have Not, 1937
Ernest Hemingway once dubbed Key West, Florida, the “St. Tropez of the poor.”
[1891 – 1980]
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York
Higher Education: 2 months at New York City College (according to one biographer, Miller became “disillusioned after an encounter with Spenser’sFaerie Queene“)
On Education: “[G]oing to school so many hours a day, learning all that nonsense, is what I call utter garbage. The only part of education I approve of is kindergarten. The rest cripples you, makes an idiot of you. I know this sounds crazy, but I believe that we’re all born creative. We all have the same creative instincts. Most of us are killed off as artists, as creative people, by our schooling.”
Work Experience: Bellhop, garbage collector, cement mixer, gravedigger, employment manager at Western Union, employee at Park Department in Queens, manager of New York City speakeasy, starving artist, proofreader on the Paris edition of The Chicago Tribune
Family and Relationships: Married 5 times (Beatrice Sylvas Wickens, June Edith Smith Mansfield, Janina Martha Lepska, Eve McClure, Hiroko Tokuda); 2 daughters and a son; also had well-documented affair with writer Anais Nin
Favorite Authors: Celine (Journey to the End of the Night), Blaise Cendrars, Joseph Conrad, Dostoevsky, Theodore Dreiser, Elie Faure, Rider Haggard, Knut Hamsun (Hunger), Hermann Hesse (Siddhartha), Jack London, Nietzsche, Marcel Proust (Remembrance of Things Past), Isaac Bashevis Singer, Oswald Spengler, Walt Whitman (Leaves of Grass)
Other Literary Influences: Taoistic writing, Oriental philosophy
On Ernest Hemingway: “Hemingway in my mind was not the great writer they make him out to be. He was a craftsman. But he wasn’t a craftsman as good as Somerset Maugham. There was a real craftsman. But if you are a craftsman you go on turning it out. It gets thinner and thinner . . . as much as I put him down, that first book, The Sun Also Rises, had a lot to do with my going to France; it inspired me to go.”
On George Orwell: “He was like so many English people, an idealist, and, it seemed to me, a foolish idealist. A man of principle, as we say. Men of principle bore me . . . I regard politics as a thoroughly foul, rotten world. We get nowhere through politics. It debases everything.”
On Jack Kerouac: “I have been fascinated by Kerouac, I must say. Very uneven writer, perhaps and I don’t think he has yet show his full possibilities, Kerouac . . . But he has a great gift, this great verbal gift like Thomas Wolfe had, you know, and a few others. Tremendous gift I think, but to me rather undisciplined, uncontrolled and so on, but I am fascinated by one book of his called The Dharma Bums.”
On William S. Burroughs: “Burroughs, whom I recognize as a man of talent, great talent, can turn my stomach. It strikes me, however, that he’s faithful to the Emersonian idea of autobiography, that he’s concerned with putting down only what he has experienced and felt. He’s a literary man whose style is unliterary.”
Tenure in Paris: 1930-1940
First Published Novel: Tropic of Cancer ( “[T]he Paris book: first person, uncensored, formless – fuck everything!”)
Age When Tropic of Cancer First Published: 43
Publisher: Grove Press
Year in Which Tropic of Cancer Finally Published in the United States: 1961 (U.S. Supreme Court finally ruled book was not obscene)
Last Lines, Tropic of Cancer: “Human beings make a strange fauna and flora. From a distance they appear negligible; close up they are apt to appear ugly and malicious. More than anything they need to be surrounded with sufficient space – space even more than time. The sun is setting. I feel this river flowing through me – its past, its ancient soil, the changing climate. The hills gently girdle it about: its course is fixed.”
Anais Nin on Tropic of Cancer: “This book brings with it a wind that blows down the dead and hollow trees whose roots are withered and lost in the barren soil of our times. This book goes to the roots and digs under, digs for subterranean springs.”
Ezra Pound on Tropic of Cancer: “At last, an unprintable book that’s readable.” [Another critic once described Miller’s entire body of work as “toilet-wall scribbling.”]
Origin of Tropic Titles: Miller’s pet names for June’s breasts – Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn
Selected Works: Tropic of Cancer (1934), Black Spring (1936), Tropic of Capricorn (1939), The Colossus of Maroussi (1941), The Air-Conditioned Nightmare (1945), Sexus (1949), The Books in My Life (1952), Plexus (1953), Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch (1957), Nexus(1960), Under the Roofs of Paris (1983) [Note: Sexus, Plexus and Nexus make up trilogy called The Rosy Crucifixion]
Favorite of His Own Books: The Colossus of Maroussi
Sample Sex Scene from Under the Roofs of Paris: “She has a bush as big as my hand and as soft as feathers. She lifts her dress in the front, takes my dong out and rubs John Thursday’s nose against her whiskers . . . will I pinch her breasts, she moans, and would I be offended if she asked me to kiss them, perhaps to bite? She’s catting for a fuck, that she’s been paid to come here has nothing to do with it now . . . she’d probably give the money back and something extra besides just to get a cock into that itch under her tail now . . . “
Awards and Honors: Elected to National Institute of Arts and Letters, 1957; French Legion of Honor, 1974
On His Readers: “I would say that perhaps less than 10 percent of my readers are the only ones I’m interested in having read me. The others are worthless. My books don’t do them any good or me any good. You see, I believe that over 90 percent of everything that is done in the realm of music, drama, painting, literature – any of the arts – is worthless.”
On His Critics: “Critics are just people, after all. They criticize, because you didn’t write the kind of book they wanted . . . I don’t write for the critics. I write for myself and the reader, whoever he or she may be.”
Favorite Films: Bunuel’s L’Age d’Or, Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria, Five Easy Pieces
Least Favorite Film: “Bonnie and Clyde! Did I hate that! I was clapping to myself when they machine-gunned them to death at the end. Dynamite them! Blow them to smithereens! It was so vulgar, that film. I love obscenity but I hate vulgarity. I can’t see how people can enjoy killing for fun. Also, there was a perverse streak there. There was a suggestion that the hero was impotent. I don’t like that. I like healthy sex. I don’t like impotence and perversion.”
Hobbies: Writing, painting, astrology, eating, roaming the streets of Paris, playing Ping-Pong [“I keep the Ping-Pong table handy for people I don’t want to talk to. You know, it’s simple. I just play Ping-Pong with them.”]
On American Artists: “I feel that America is essentially against the artist, that the enemy of America is the artist, because he stands for individuality and creativeness, and that’s unAmerican somehow. I think that of all countries – we have to overlook the communist countries of course – America is the most mechanized, robotized, of all.”
On Christianity: “The Christian Church in all its freakish ramifications and efflorescences is as dead as a doornail; it will pass away utterly when the political and social systems in which it is now embedded collapse. The new religion will be based on deeds, not beliefs.”
On the Civil War: “At Gettysburg, at Bull Run, at Manassas, at Fredericksburg, at Spottsylvania Court House, at Missionary Ridge, at Vicksburg I tried to visualize the terrible death struggle in which this great republic was locked for four long years. I have stood on many battlefields in various parts of the world but when I stand beside the graves of the dead in our own South the horror of war assails me with desolating poignancy. I see no results of this great conflict which justify the tremendous sacrifice which we as a nation were called upon to make. I see only an enormous waste of life and property, the vindication of right by might, and the substitution of one form of injustice for another. The South is still an open, gaping wound.”
On Civilization: “For 72 years I’ve been waiting to see some breakdown of the artificial barriers surrounding our educational system, our national borders, our homes, our inner being – a shattering of the wretched molds in which we’ve lived – but it never happens. We have the dynamic but we don’t set it off. I get sick of waiting.”
On Hippies: “Always, in the past, as soon as they become adults they join the Establishment. They become conservatives. The radical always becomes a great conservative. And the revolutionary becomes a tyrant, just like the one he overthrew.”
On Obscenity: “I feel I have simply restored sex to its rightful place in literature, rescued the basic life factor from literary oblivion, as it were. Obscenity, like sex, has its natural, rightful place in literature as it does in life, and it will never be obliterated, no matter what laws are passed to smother it.”
On Politicians: “One has to be a lowbrow, a bit of a murderer, to be a politician, ready and willing to see people sacrificed, slaughtered, for the sake of an idea, whether a good one or a bad one.”
On Politics: “Don’t ask me about politics. I’m against war. And I never voted in my life. But I’ll tell you one thing – I’m living with this hope: that the youngsters will get rid of all the old birds and wiseacres. In this country the ordinary man, you know, is dead inside before he’s 40. It’s not his fault. It’s the fault of mechanized things. There’s a lack of individuality. Everything is made for comfort and ease.”
On Joyce’s Ulysses: “There are passages of Ulysses which can be read only in the toilet – if one wants to extract the full flavor of their content. And this is not to denigrate the talent of the author. This is simply to move him a little closer to the good company of Abelard, Petrarch, Rabelais, Boccaccio – all the fine, lusty genuine spirits who recognized dung for dung and angels for angels.”
Henry Miller on Film: The Henry Miller Odyssey (full-length documentary with insights from Miller’s friends Lawrence Durrell, Anais Nin, Alfred Perles, Brassai, Lawrence Clark Powell, Joe Gray and Jakob Gimpel); Henry and June (notable as the first NC17 film, based on Nin’s famous diaries)
Place of Death: Big Sur, California
Final Resting Place: Ashes scattered off coast of Big Sur
CODA “It’s a distortion. Henry, Look at me! Look! You can’t see me or anyone as they are! I wanted Dostoyevsky!” —Henry & June, 1990
TROPIC OF CANCER TRIVIA
• Miller was 43 years old when Tropic of Cancer was first published in 1934 by Obelisk Press in Paris.
• Tropic of Cancer was finally published in the United States in 1964 after the Supreme Court ruled the book as not being obscene (Grove Press, Inc. vs. Gerstein).
• Ezra Pound on Tropic of Cancer: “At last, an unprintable book that’s readable.”
• Miller’s pet names for his second wife June’s breasts: Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn.
• George Orwell called Tropic of Cancer “the most important book of the mid-1930s.”
• Samuel Beckett referred to Tropic of Cancer as “a momentous event in the history of modern writing.”
Steinbeck was born about 30 miles from Cannery Row in Salinas, California, on February 27, 1902. He graduated from Salinas High School in 1919 and attended Stanford University, about 90 miles north of the Monterey Peninsula. He married his first wife, Carol Henning, in 1930. They lived in Pacific Grove next to Cannery Row, where much of the material for his books was gathered.
Steinbeck’s strong personal attachment to Monterey was perhaps inevitable. Living in Pacific Grove, in a house owned by his father, Steinbeck wrote stories spiced with the vibrant tales of cannery workers and roughnecks he knew.
Cannery Row ignited Steinbeck’s imagination and his affection for the colorful mix of people there influenced a number of stories and characters. Tortilla Flat (1935) received the California Commonwealth Club’s Gold Medal for best novel by a California author and marked a turning point in Steinbeck’s career.
Cannery Row (1945), one of Steinbeck’s best and most widely read fictional works, immortalized Cannery Row as a one-of-a-kind neighborhood of fish packing plants, bordellos, and flophouses, and made it the most famous street in America. Sweet Thursday, the sequel to Cannery Row, was published in 1954.
In 1930 Steinbeck met Ed Ricketts, an accomplished marine biologist who operated the Pacific Biological Laboratory at 800 Cannery Row. Ricketts was the inspiration for the character ‘Doc’ in Cannery Row, although he wasn’t called Doc in real life. Ricketts brought Steinbeck along on his outdoor adventures studying the biological mysteries of the “Great Tidal Pool” near Asilomar Beach, and on a voyage to the Sea of Cortez.
In 1948 Ed Ricketts was hit by a train after his Buick stalled on the tracks near Cannery Row. Today, the location of the train accident is memorialized with a bust of Ricketts at the street corner adjacent to the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa.
Steinbeck died on December 20, 1968, in New York City. His ashes were placed in the Garden of Memories Cemetery in Salinas.
For more information about John Steinbeck’s life and work, visit the National Steinbeck Center.
Thompson is most well-known for his 1971 book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, which has appeared in at least 40 editions and 16 different languages. Over the course of his career, Thompson wrote over a dozen other books and contributed articles to numerous periodicals, including Esquire, The National Observer, Playboy, Rolling Stone, The San Francisco Examiner, and Time Magazine, as well as penning the “Hey Rube” web column for ESPN.
Along with being an avid gun enthusiast, Thompson also had a great love of photography. A posthumous oral history produced in honor of Thompson, featuring many of his photographs, as well as portraits of him taken by others, along with an introduction by his friend Johnny Depp, was published in 2007. Depp played the lead role of Raoul Duke (a character based on Thompson) in director Terry Gilliam’s 1998 film version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
At the age of 67–likely in response to his unhappiness about aging, along with chronic pain from a broken leg and hip replacement–Thompson committed suicide with a gun shot to the head in his Colorado home.
PORT TOWNSEND, Wash. — A wooden fishing boat that John Steinbeck chartered in 1940 with a biologist friend, then wrote about in a story of their journey through the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, sits in sad, decaying splendor in a boatyard here, two hours northwest of Seattle.
People have come from as far away as Liverpool, England, to see the vessel, named the Western Flyer, in the eight months since it arrived. There is no exhibit, no effort to market the ship as an attraction, or even point the way so people can easily find it, blocked and braced out of the water at the back of the yard. Mud covers the portholes from its two sinkings and resurrections. The brass doorknobs are corroded to green, and the upper rail buckles inward with rot and age.
“We get a couple of people a week, and we give them directions — it’s pretty low key,” said Anna Quinn, an owner of Imprint Bookstore, a downtown shop that sells a few copies a week of the book that resulted from Steinbeck’s trip, “The Log From the Sea of Cortez.”
“They just want to see and touch it and be in the literary aura,” Ms. Quinn said.
A final chapter for the Western Flyer may be about to unfold. And there are fierce disagreements about how — and where — its tale of fleeting celebrity and ignominious decay should end.
The boat’s owner, Gerry Kehoe, a California businessman, said he planned to collect his property within the next couple of months. The 76-foot-long vessel, he said, will be cut into two or three pieces and trucked to Salinas, Calif., where Steinbeck was born, then reassembled and installed as the centerpiece — with real water and a dock — in the lobby of a boutique hotel Mr. Kehoe is developing.
The hotel, with two restaurants surrounding the boat and glass panels telling the story of the voyage, will open in the summer of 2015 with Western Flyer in the name, he said in a telephone interview.
The nephew of the Western Flyer’s skipper in 1940 has been ferociously critical of Mr. Kehoe’s plan. He says the boat belongs in Monterey, where it worked in Steinbeck’s day as a sardine fisher, and deserves better in retirement.
“He talks a good game, but he really doesn’t know what he’s doing — he doesn’t have a clue,” said Robert Enea, whose uncle, Tony Berry, piloted the voyage by Steinbeck and the biologist, E. F. Ricketts.
Mr. Enea, a retired physical education teacher, led a nonprofit group called the Western Flyer Project that he said had raised $10,000 and was trying to buy the boat in 2010 for $45,000 when Mr. Kehoe got it instead. The group, Mr. Enea said, envisioned a mission of environmental education in Monterey Bay, echoing and honoring the Cortez trip.
Mr. Kehoe said the Flyer Project lacked resources to save or restore anything — not least a boat built in 1937 that would take “well into the seven figures” to be made seaworthy. And, he added, striking a note that Steinbeck himself might have savored as a champion of the underdog, the economically struggling town Salinas simply deserves the Western Flyer more than wealthy, flourishing Monterey.
“Does everybody want the rich to be richer?” Mr. Kehoe said, adding that access to the boat will be free. Salinas, he said, “doesn’t have a lot going for it, to be honest with you, but it is the birthplace of the great man.”
Literary tourism is a big business, in the bits of a writer’s life that get left around in the messy business of living, or the characters that came to life on the page. From Key West, Fla.,visitors can swill rum in honor of Hemingway, to Dickens World, a theme park in England that offers a re-creation of bleak and stinky Victorian London, writers are still earning their keep.
Here on Washington’s rainy Olympic Peninsula, setting of the hugely successful teen-vampire-romance “Twilight” novels by Stephenie Meyer, Steinbeck is small potatoes anyway. In Forks, which the heroine, Bella Swan, called home and is two hours west of Port Townsend, visitors can stay in one of the Twilight Rooms at the Pacific Inn Motel, or eat a Bella’s Barbecue Burger Dip at the Forks Coffee Shop.
Some who have come to see the Western Flyer pay homage to science. The six-week, 4,000-mile research trip in 1940 to study plants and animals formed a template for thinking and writing about ecology decades before the modern environmental movement, said Ian Hinkle, a Canadian filmmaker who came to shoot in January for a documentary on the Salish Sea called “Reaching Blue.”
“That boat was the inspiration for many ocean researchers and ecologists today,” he said. “Now it’s sitting in a boatyard, just sitting there, one more big old rotting piece of broken dreams.”
But perhaps for at least part of the summer tourism season in Port Townsend that began this weekend, the Western Flyer is going nowhere. Ms. Quinn, who owns Imprint Books with her husband, Peter, said they were hoping to do some Steinbeck readings this summer, with people gathering at the boatyard.
Steinbeck himself, in “The Log From the Sea of Cortez,” said he believed the bond of boats and people ran too deep to sever. “It is very easy to see why the Viking wished his body to sail away in an unmanned ship, for neither could exist without the other,” he wrote.
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