Tom Wolfe In Our Time, and In Our Library

Special note: This blog post was written by Tim Buchanan, M.A. ’15, East Carolina University Department of English, as part of a special series highlighting the Stuart Wright Collection

While browsing the Stuart Wright Collection a few weeks ago, I saw mention of a collection of illustrations by Tom Wolfe. Best known for chronicling the 60s counterculture in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and Wall Street excesses in The Bonfire of the Vanities, Wolfe is also known by his trademark white suit, which he wears like a uniform. I hadn’t expected to find works by this still-living author in the archive, and this item presented me with a facet of his work I never knew existed. They’re a fitting introduction to the Tom Wolfe Papers held at ECU, which also include an uncorrected proof of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

The book of illustrations is titled In Our Time, and was published in 1980 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. It compiles a series of Wolfe’s sketches, caricatures and accompanying essays, which originally appeared as a monthly feature in Harper’s Magazine with the same title. The book chronicles the narcissism and excess of the 1970s, offering an interesting glimpse at the sexuality, drug culture, and gender politics of the time from Wolfe’s perspective. In the first paragraph of the first essay, “Stiffened Giblets,” Wolfe describes his entry into the decade:

For me the 1970s began the moment I saw Harris, on a little surprise visit to the campus, push open the door of his daughter Laura’s dormitory room. Two pairs of eyes popped up in one of the beds, blazing like raccoons’ at night by the garbage cans . . . illuminating the shanks, flanks, glistening haunches, and cloven declivities of a boy and girl joined mons-to-mons. Harris backed off, on little step after another. He looked as if he were staring down the throat of a snake. He pulled the door shut, ever so gingerly (3).

The book also shares its title with Ernest Hemingway’s very first story collection, published in 1925.

Of further interest to researchers interested in Wolfe’s work is a comb-bound, uncorrected proof of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test bearing Wolfe’s signature. This is a far more modern––even postmodern––glimpse into the age or contemporary writings than the mention of a literary archive might bring to mind. The bound galleys are meant to give an idea of what the text will look like in print as well as the overall layout of the book. Some passages are crossed out by Wolfe’s own hand, so it’s possible to see bits of writing that didn’t make it into the final shelf copy.

Wolfe helped pioneer a new approach to journalism, called New Journalism, which blended literary technique with more traditional reporting. Among his contemporaries in the style were Joan Didion and Hunter S. Thompson. Because of his importance to modern writing, it is no surprise that we aren’t the only ones looking to archive Wolfe’s work. The New York Public Library has just processed a collection of his works and some selections are on display in “Becoming the Man in the White Suit: The Tom Wolfe Papers.”

Finding such well-known and contemporary writing among other, more obscure texts is a special thrill of working in the archive. Turning the long brittle sheets of the corrected proofs of a collection of his essays or the bound set of galleys to one of Wolfe’s most famous works, I felt that the archive itself was a living, unfinished thing not just shining a light on our literary past, but grounding those who explore within it to a strong on-going literary tradition.

The Dartmouth Dualist

Special note: This blog post was written by Edward Reges, M.A. ‘16, East Carolina University Department of English, as part of a special series highlighting the Stuart Wright Collection.

Richard Eberhart, Pulitzer Prize recipient and Poet Laureate of the United States from 1959 – 1961, is recognized as a dualistic poet; his poetry often featured two extremes in harmony, be they life and death or will and psyche. It is quite possible that the early days of his college career at Dartmouth College offered Eberhart a foundation for his understanding of the world and his creative identity. The Stuart Wright collection at Joyner Library has thirty eight boxes of Eberhart material, from poems and proofs to naval papers, calendars, photographs, and audio recordings.

Eberhart described philosophy as the “sum total of human knowledge as an outcome of the interpretation of the universe in one’s mind” in a paper written for his introduction to philosophy course in the spring semester of 1924. Stuart Wright obtained this paper and several others a young Eberhart wrote for this course. These papers depict a young man coming to terms with how he interprets the universe, and coincidentally, how he expresses himself. I have pulled from three of these papers, one on each of the prominent philosophical theories of mind, to demonstrate Eberhart’s reasoning.

The popular philosophy of mind in the 1920s, when Eberhart was a student at Dartmouth, was likely idealism. Put bluntly, idealism is the philosophy that everything we are and experience is an idea. Idealism is often seen as a dreamy outlook, and Eberhart seems to agree: “Intuition is a dream; thought must be the dream of that dream” (5).

Materialism, however, is the polar opposite of idealism. Backed by the consistency of science and observation, this theory claims that not only are the objects located in the external world that cause our experiences physical, but also our thought processes, experiences, and awareness are physical byproducts of a functioning nervous system. Eberhart refutes this theory by identifying ethically questionable motives for materialism: to break tradition and to control the external world. In his words, materialism focuses on “mental emancipation from the super-situation and false credulity of unproven gods and practice because it arises out of a desire to control the external world” (1). Eberhart dismissed materialism in part because he disliked its determinism, and believed instead that free will was the underlying principle of the physical form (Karthikeyan & Dwivedi, 226).

Eberhart combines his understanding of idealism and materialism to come to a conclusion in a third paper on substance dualism: the idea that reality consists of both physical and mental substances. The following excerpt from page 3 of his paper on dualism explains his position:

00033300_excerpt

Eberhart, Richard. Materialist Philosophy. 1924. Stuart Wright Collection. J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, N.C.

This dedication to a dualistic philosophy shows through in Eberhart’s works. As Karthikeyan and Dwivedi point out in their article “Richard Eberhart’s Poetic Theory: Art and Craft,” the poet believed that poetry is divided into an art and a craft, and used his craft to contribute to the art under the pretense that minds were divided into the physical will and the mental psyche. Karthikeyan and Dwivedi, on page 226, assert that Eberhart’s “psyche poetry pertains to the soul, to peace, quiet tranquility, serenity, harmony, stillness and silence. It provides psychic states of passive pleasure,” while “will poetry exists because of the power in the cell beyond its energy to maintain itself, ‘will’ results in action through zeal, volition, passion, determination, choice and command.”

It is a rare opportunity to see the reasoning behind a poet’s style and works. The Stuart Wright Collection in the Joyner Library offers explanations and personal correspondence that cannot be obtained with a Google search. For those interested, more items in the Eberhart papers, including a hand-inked autobiography of his early life and his philosophical analyses of Shakespearean literature, can be found in the Stuart Wright Collection Finding Aids, along with a short biography of his very interesting life.

Fiction: Make-Believe or Something More?

Special note: This blog post was written by Edward Reges, M.A. ‘16, East Carolina University Department of English, as part of a special series highlighting the Stuart Wright Collection.

“Robert Penn Warren.” Stuart Wright Collection – Robert Penn Warren Papers (1169-014) East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, N.C.

Few could hope to have such an accomplished life as Robert Penn Warren. Three time Pulitzer Prize winner and the first Poet Laureate of the US, Warren’s prolific and versatile career includes ten novels, a collection of short stories, and numerous poems, dramas, and literary criticisms. He is also one of the most influential of the New Critics, a group that evaluated literary work by close reading and valued highly polished, difficult works characteristic of the Modernist period. Warren was taught by fellow Stuart Wright Collection author John Crowe Ransom.

Among several typescripts, manuscripts, and personal correspondence, the Stuart Wright Collection boasts more than 40 poems and over 60 pieces of literary criticism by Warren, many of which are unpublished or include revisions to original text in the poet’s own hand. This work of literary criticism preserves Warren’s remarkable views on literature. One such essay, titled “Fiction: Why Do We Read It?” shows the passion and importance he invested in fiction. On page 5, Warren quotes Freud’s assertion that the “’meagre satisfactions’ that man ‘can extract from reality leave him starving.’” What then can slate our hunger? According to Warren, it is fiction. On the same page, Warren asserts that:

In it we find, in imagination, not only the pleasure of recognizing our past, but the pleasure of experimenting with experiences which we deeply, and perhaps unwittingly, crave but which the limitations of life, the fear of consequences, or the severity of our principles forbid to us.

Thus, it is Warren’s belief that the act of reading fiction is not an escape from reality, but rather an escape to fiction (p2).

This is not the only role of fiction, however. Throughout “Fiction, Why Do We Read It?” Warren compares fiction to a daydream accessible to multiple individuals. It is this accessibility that makes fiction a social experiment of sorts. Warren explicates this concept on page 7:

To enter the publicly available day dream you have to surrender something of your own identity, have to let it be absorbed. You must identify yourself with somebody else, and accept his fate. You must take a role.

A reader may wonder at this point what value there is in surrendering a piece of their identity. After all, it is a piece of us, it is us in a sense. To sacrifice any bit of identity seems to compromise our sense of self. Warren doesn’t think so, however; in fact, he believes the opposite:

Play, when we are children, and fiction, when we are grownup, lead us, through role-taking, to a knowledge of others. But role-taking leads us, by the same token, to a knowledge of ourselves, really to the creation of the self. (9)

What Warren is saying is that to understand ourselves, we must have something to compare ourselves to, much like the relationship between light and darkness or hot and cold. Our concept of self, however, stems from within, not from perceptive senses like sight or touch. In order to make a comparison of who we are and who others are, we must take the role of someone else. At this point we can start to make statements such as “I’m not as brave as Aragorn” or “I could never fall in love with a vampire.” Comparisons such as these allow us to understand what we are and what we are not as individuals.

One would think, with the importance Warren grants fiction, that he would be an enthusiast of education in fiction writing.. In fact, Warren was adamant that fiction should not be taught in a university. On the second page of a literary essay titled “Courses in Writing,” Warren states:

It [the university] should realize that writing, except as a craft [technical and trade writing], is not to be taught – that the ideal is to create some semblance, however modest, of the natural community in which writing is learned by process of trial and error, of self-exploration of form.

Warren believes that fiction comes about from experimentation and peer review, not instruction. To instruct someone on how to compose fiction is to deny fiction its intrinsic value, supplementing it with popular styles and format in an effort to make a piece successful. To the new critics, nothing could be more villainous.

For more information on the New Critics, try the summary given here. For more insight into the mind of poet, author, and ersatz philosopher Robert Penn Warren, request one of his boxes from the Stuart Wright Collection and head to the third floor of Joyner library to enjoy.

Literary Lampoons Part II: Golf and Politics – Not Quite Death and Taxes, but Close

Special note: This blog post was written by Edward Reges, M.A. ‘16, East Carolina University Department of English, as part of a special series highlighting the Stuart Wright Collection.

Sometimes, the lives of authors can seem as distant to us as the hole on a long, hazardous par 5. One need only peer into a literary anthology to find oneself immersed in a strange world of antiquated terms, ideas, and even settings. Take John Updike’s renowned short story “A&P,” for example. In the story, a young man makes a rash decision to leave his job after his manager forces three young women, clad in only two-piece bathing suits, to leave the store. “What’s an A&P?” I recall a classmate of mine inquiring in a class discussion of our assigned readings. The question was not a literal one; we had all read the story and could draw from context what the A&P was. Rather, it was a commentary on how rapidly change occurs and how quickly our memories can glaze over what was once a staple of our predecessor’s culture. The short story, written just over 50 years ago, takes place in what was at the time one of the largest supermarket chains in the United States. Now the mere existence of a supermarket other than Wal-Mart, Target, or even K-Mart (which may be antiquated as you are reading this article) is the stock of a joke playing on our short-term view of existence. (For those seeking more information about A&P supermarkets, the company’s website has an interesting history section.)

Likewise, authors and poets of yesteryear seem accordingly distant from us. Creators of fiction such as John Updike seem to be of a different breed. A breed that survived and even thrived without all of the technology we now take for granted. These authors have an air of mythos: an air that a bit of digging in a literary archive, however, proves unwarranted.
Nestled away in the Stuart Wright Collection at Joyner Library are windows into the lives of these very human authors of yesteryear. While Updike is known for his writing prowess, he was not born a writer or a historical character; he was born a man. A man who, incidentally, once aspired to doodle for a living. Several original pen-and-ink drawings as well as Updike’s newspaper copies of published cartoons found their home in the collection of Stuart Wright, Updike’s friend and golfing companion. They are now available for view in the North Carolina Collections area on the third floor of Joyner Library.

Looking through these inked drawings, the difference between our predecessors and us seems to shrink. One of Updike’s cartoons references a troubling time in U.S. History. Following WWII, Germany was divided amongst the allies into East and West Germany. The nation’s capital, Berlin, located in Soviet occupied East Germany, was likewise divided. The situation grew tense when East Germany denied land access between West Germany and West Berlin. A decade later, President Eisenhower found himself in a rough situation when the Soviets demanded that western allied forces leave Berlin:

Updike, John. “The Rough.” Undated. Stuart Wright Collection. Stuart Wright Collection. J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, N.C.

Compare this to a modern political cartoon depicting President Obama sinking into the sand trap of world crisis:

Varvel, Gary. “Obama, golf, and world crisis.” Cartoon. Indystar. Gannett, 28 Aug. 2014. Web. 19 Sept. 2014 http://www.indystar.com/story/opinion/cartoons/2014/08/28/cartoonist-gary-varvel-obama-golf-world-crises/14755671

Varvel, Gary. “Obama, golf, and world crisis.” Cartoon. Indystar. Gannett, 28 Aug. 2014. Web. 19 Sept. 2014
http://www.indystar.com/story/opinion/cartoons/2014/08/28/cartoonist-gary-varvel-obama-golf-world-crises/14755671

As you can see, the pastime of golf serves as a bridge between the distant past and present, if not in reality then at least in political cartoons. As Updike used humor and a pastime to voice his concern about political affairs, so do those of us in modern society.
Updike’s love for golf proves to be an unexpectedly relevant part of ECU’s collection of his materials. This is evidenced in Stuart Wright’s personal copy of “Golf Dreams,” complete with a dedication to Wright from the author himself. Tucked away in the pages one finds a number of letters expressing Updike’s delight in playing the game and his companionship with Wright. Several scorecards record the friendship match by match.

Updike, John. Untitled Scorecard. Ludlow Addition to Stuart Wright Collection. Stuart Wright Collection. J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, N.C. 22 May 1987

As you can see, John Updike was not just some far away author creating literature to enjoy from a detached modern viewpoint. He was a man who could revel in a game of golf to the point of solidifying his appreciation of the contest on the scorecard: “what a match!” More cartoons, bridges to the present and past, and glimpses into Updike’s life can be located and requested by using the Special Collections Finding Aid to his papers.

Literary Lampoons: The Cartoonist Ambitions of a Great American Writer

Special note: This blog post was written by Bryant Scott, M.A. ’14, East Carolina University Department of English, as part of a special series highlighting the Stuart Wright Collection.

In a review of Updike, Adam Begley’s new biography of the beloved American writer, Orhan Pamuk writes that, “in a way, what Melville did for whales, Updike did for upper-middle-class life in suburban America: He produced partly allegorical realist novels containing an encyclopedic array of the thousands of facets of human experience, all collected with loving attention to his subject matter.”

What is less known about one of the great writers of his generation is that long before John Updike began semi-autobiographically chronicling the anguish of American middle-class torpidity, he aspired to be, in his words, “the next Walt Disney.” In fact, as a youth he wrote frequently to his cartoonist heroes, stylized his artwork after theirs, and even modeled notable protagonists after aspiring cartoonists.

Newly added to the Stuart Wright Collection in Joyner Library is a modest yet exclusive supply of Updike material. Among the annotated manuscripts, personal notebooks, and correspondence is a wealth of sketches, drawings, political cartoons, various works published in the Harvard Lampoon and local newspapers, and other original art that expose the famous writer’s earliest ambitions—to be a great cartoonist.

The collection ranges from figure drawings to newsprint, spanning roughly the decade in which Updike was emerging as a major American writer.  At Harvard, Updike was in full form on the editorial board of the Harvard Lampoon, where, alongside poems and longer articles, he published cartoons frequently. The image below, from Updike’s own marked-up copy of the Harvard Lampoon, for instance, showcases an early bit of Updike’s sense of social irony.

Updike, John. Harvard Lampoon. Feb. 1954. Stuart Wright Collection. J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, N.C.

Augmenting these Lampoon editions, in the 50s and 60s Updike published frequently in newspapers, as is shown in the following example from the Amesbury Daily News. Here, as is typical of his cartoons, Updike displays political and social acuity at a young age.

Updike, John. Amesbury Daily News. June 21, 1958. Stuart Wright Collection. J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, N.C.

As seen above, these cartoons also nicely showcase the political environment of the time, often exposing the underlying social fears of a nation in the midst of the Cold War.

Interestingly, the collection houses various doodles and sketches that show the evolution of an Updike cartoon from brief sketches to prints to published cartoons, as is shown through the sequence of Nixon and Kennedy cartoons below. The first image is an undated pencil sketch from Updike’s composition notebooks while at Harvard, the second is an original pen and ink cartoon (one of many in the collection) that Updike submitted to the Amesbury Daily News, and the published cartoon is the third image below.

Updike, John. Personal composition notebook. Undated. Stuart Wright Collection. J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, N.C.
Kennedy: “What the American vision needs is a vision of a vision—more homes for our senior citizens. More schools for our junior citizens—I call all citizens to greatness! Hurrah!”
Nixon: “I, for one, thank the dear lord for the strength that enabled me to stand up to Khruschev [sic], and for the wonderful leadership provided by that master among men, Dwight David Now-is-the-Hour! Whee!”

Updike, John. Original Drawing. Undated. Stuart Wright Collection. J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, N.C

 

Updike, John. Amesbury Daily News. August 23, 1960. Stuart Wright Collection. J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, N.C.

 

Introducting a Series of Guest Blog Posts

During the Fall 2014 semester, we will be hosting a special series of guest blog posts promoting the Stuart Wright Collection at J.Y. Joyner Library. These posts, written by graduate students and faculty in ECU’s Department of English, highlight items of special interest in this unique literary collection, which came to ECU in 2010. Among the treasures held in the collection, you’ll find letters between Eudora Welty and Robert Penn Warren, drawings by Maurice Sendak, and, as the blog’s first post showcases, cartoons created by the young John Updike. We hope the blog sparks your interest in the Stuart Wright Collection. You’re invited to:

*Explore digital images of collection items.

*Browse finding aids for each author in the Stuart Wright Collection.

*Read the story of the Stuart Wright Collection.

*See the exhibit, Stuart Wright: A Life in Collecting.

*Visit the collection’s home in the Special Collections Reading Room on Joyner’s 3rd floor.

*Learn more about using the collection for research and teaching by asking a special collection librarian

Der Bat Artist / Maurice Sendak RIP

Source: Stuart Wright Collection – Randall Jarrell Papers #1169-005.6.u

Staff Person: Jonathan Dembo

Description:

Poet Randall Jarrell collaborated on three children’s books with illustrator Maurice Sendak: Fly by Night (1976), The Animal Family (1965) and The Bat-Poet (1964). Of the three, The Bat-Poet has always been my favorite.  Shortly before publication of The Bat Poet, in 1964, Sendak sent this undated letter to Jarrell.  In place of a signature, Sendak signed his letter with a characteristically charming and tiny pen & ink cartoon of himself in the guise of “Der Bat Artist” flourishing his brush in hand (or foot) and about to create.  The miniature drawing perfectly captures the spirit of Jarrell’s poetic hero, who, like a real human child, tale is just so eager and sweet and shy and curious, yet manages all this without being too cloying. The small bat wants to know things, and then he wants to sing, and when that doesn’t work, he begins to make up poems, trying to express himself. He sets out to explore the day world, for example, and he gets a creative crush on the vain yet talented mockingbird. Little by little, he puts his observations into words.  When he received Sendak’s letter, Jarrell filed it carefully inside his copy of The Bat Poet, where it remained until Joyner Library acquired it in 2010.

This post is in honor of Maurice Sendak who died on 8 May 2012 in Danbury, Connecticut at age 83.

The Lost Children a poem by Randall Jarrell

 

 

Source: #1169.5 Wright Collection/ Randall Jarrell Papers, East Carolina Manuscript Collection

Staff Person: Lynette Lundin 

Description: 

The Randall Jarrell Papers are dated 1913 to 1989. The manuscript collection includes correspondence, essays, manuscripts, printed poems, notes, original art, AV materials and books. He was an American poet of distinction, author and educator. Some of his notable instructors in college were Robert Penn Warren, Allen Tate, and John Crowe Ransom.

The newspaper article is from The Carolinian, dated October 22, 1965. The review was written by Dr Robert Watson of Jarrell’s book “The Lost World.” The article has excerpts from the book and the poem “The Lost Children and a brief biography.

Richard Eberhart photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson

Source: Stuart Wright Book Collection Printed Works Inventory #46-18
Staff Person: Ralph Scott
Description: Henri Cartier-Bresson [1908-2004] was a French photographer that pioneered modern photojournalism. Early to try the new 35mm Leica format, Cartier-Bresson is famous for his street scene photographs and portraits of individuals. He felt that the new compact camera format enabled him to stroll the streets ready to “trap life,” on film. This candid of Richard Eberhart [1904-2005] an American poet who won the 1966 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, is attributed to Henri Cartier-Bresson. Cartier-Bresson travelled to the United States several times and moved in literary circles throughout the world. His first American show was in 1935, at the New York Julien Levy Gallery. At some point his path crossed with that of Eberhart. The photograph was found in a volume recently acquired by Joyner Library through purchase from Eberhart’s literary agent, Stuart Wright.

Merrill Moore X-Ray

 

Source: Stuart Wright Rare Book Collection 59-23

Staff Person: Ralph Scott

Description: X-Ray photograph of Merrill Moore, author of The Noise that Time Makes. Photograph is captioned “because his poems are chiefly about time Mr. Moore thought the x-ray more appropriate than the ephemeral face.” Photograph is inscribed to John Crowe Ransom.