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Writing Was Everthing

 
 
Reply Mon 3 Mar, 2003 10:41 am
I am lucky to live near Cambridge and Somerville, MA, where there are vestiages of independent booksellers and a special treat, the Harvard University Press Book Display Room.

At the Display Room, they sometimes offer out of print or slightly damaged books at fantastic savings -- any bibliophile visiting Cambridge should stop there.

A couple of years ago, I picked up Alfred Kazin, "Writing Was Everything," thinking it was about the act of writing.

Tangently (sp?), it is but it is really a (mostly literary) journey through the 20th C.

I read it last night and enjoyed it thoroughly.

It reminded me of how much of my life has been lost -- like discussing Sartre and Whitehead on dates while in college. It also presented some writers who I know through my researches on Simone de Beauvoir from an American perspective.

Has anyone else read this book?
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Dartagnan
 
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Reply Mon 3 Mar, 2003 11:17 am
I miss those days, too, plainoldme. I had hopes for a book group for discussions like that, but the one I finally joined devolved into chitchat and BS really quickly. Here in Seattle, we have Elliott Bay Book, and they sponsor readings nearly every night. It's a wonderful resource--I've been there quite a few times over the years.

But the casual talking and arguing about literature is a thing of the past for me. I guess this forum helps, but it's not quite the same, is it?
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larry richette
 
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Reply Mon 3 Mar, 2003 12:40 pm
The exchanges on this Forum are better than nothing, but still no substitute for face-to-face discussion with a group of friends about writing and literature, something I haven't had for years. Oh well.
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plainoldme
 
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Reply Tue 4 Mar, 2003 09:42 am
D'Artagnan and Larry,
I was a member of a great book group for 14 years. Although I wasn't able to participate at the level I wished...I started in the club when my youngest was only 2 and could not always come up with child care...I enjoyed the informality of the group, which allowed people to join in as much or as little as they wished as well as the high level, and variety, of materials discussed.

Six years ago next month, I had a discussion on the plane returning me from France, with a man who ran the embargo against Iraq who was in a book group in Washington, made up of men who met at Georgetown Law, class of '71. The group varied in size over the years as members left DC to be employed elsewhere in the country but the men always came back. Their club was more than a book discussion group: it was a long time friendship. I envied them.

I quit the group in part because I was confident that I would soon have a full-time job and in part because I was tired of fiction and wanted to concentrate on reading history.

I went to a meeting of an even more informal book discussion group sponsored by my local library and found it somewhat unsatisfactory. I will try them again later this month.

I suspect we are all of a certain age and that when we were in college, we wrote letters to friends! Long hand letters stuffed into envelopes and mailed with stamps! What relics! My sophomore year, I wrote to the first man I loved, then a senior at a state university, an hour's drive away. He didn't own a car and I didn't even have a driver's license and neither of us could afford phone calls. Talk about changes! The letters we wrote to each other were so meaningful. I remember when one of my letters to him arrived damaged by the PO, encased in a brown craft paper envelope. He was crushed!

Sartre is given special mention in Kazin's book. When I was preparing the material for a course I taught on Simone de Beauvoir, I was amused by Sartre's "break down," when he hallucinated about being followed by giant crustaceans. The man I was dating at the time and I thought how much that sounded like the Monte Python routine about the criminal who was convinced he was being followed by a giant hedgehog called Spiny Norman. We had a whole routine about lobsters patrolling the streets of Paris, saying, "Sartre." At that time, we took my youngest child and his friends to a Renaissance Fair. One of the handicrafts offered at the Fair was a selection of ceramic charms. I bought a tiny lobster and named him, "JeanPaul." My boyfriend and I were stunned to discover the potter -- a young man in his mid-20s -- had no idea who Sartre was. Both my boyfriend and I commented how much influence Sartre had on us and our generation.

Sartre and hand written letters: dinosaurs!
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Dartagnan
 
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Reply Tue 4 Mar, 2003 01:20 pm
Those are fine memories, plainoldme, but hey, I still write letters and use envelopes and stamps, as well. In fact, I plan to write one today! I have a couple of friends--also of a certain age--with whom I correspond. One of these correspondences began when we both went to college and is now in its fourth decade. No lie! There's still nothing quite like receiving a letter in the mail...

As for book talk, I actually had a nice one last night with a friend as we had a few pints at our local pub. I just picked up a copy of "Harvard and the Unabomber", which was reviewed in yesterday's NY Times. It's scholarly, not sensationalistic, and has new information on why the Unabomber turned out the way he did. The info is based on a study he took part in as an undergrad at Harvard.

Well, enough about him. Though letters and book chats aren't as present in my life as they once were, I still get to partake now and then. I wish you could, too!
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larry richette
 
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Reply Tue 4 Mar, 2003 08:36 pm
Plainoldme--I wouldn't be too surprised that a young American doesn't know who Sartre is. He probably wouldn't be able to tell you who Plato, Socrates, or Aristotle were either. There are no limits to the ignorance of our fellow countrymen. For proof, look at the current tenant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue!
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plainoldme
 
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Reply Wed 5 Mar, 2003 12:04 pm
Good for you, D'Artagnan, for keeping up the fine tradition of the penned word. The closest I come to that is sending materials I snip from magazines and newspapers to my older kids.
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Dartagnan
 
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Reply Wed 5 Mar, 2003 12:33 pm
Well, I guess you could try Googling him, which might tell you something if his name isn't too common. Or, alternatively, when you write him, subtly hint at what you're interested in learning...
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plainoldme
 
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Reply Wed 5 Mar, 2003 05:41 pm
D'Artagnan -- I've met him and know a few things about him.
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sozobe
 
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Reply Wed 5 Mar, 2003 05:49 pm
Aw, go for it!

And I rather doubt that 32 is "of a certain age", (if it is, I'm going to be very depressed), but I have an entire good-sized drawer filled with letters to and from my husband.
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Dartagnan
 
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Reply Wed 5 Mar, 2003 05:50 pm
Well, plainoldme, I'm a firm believer in there never being too much water flowing over the dam--if you catch my drift. So, I think a letter would be highly appropriate. I'm sure you can phrase it nicely, and you could suggest getting together for a drink. What's to lose?
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plainoldme
 
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Reply Wed 5 Mar, 2003 05:56 pm
larry richette -- Re: ignorance. I caught the second part of that Salem Witch Trial disaster on CBS and I can't help but think dreck like that adds to the ignorance. Historical fact, my eye!
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plainoldme
 
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Reply Wed 5 Mar, 2003 05:59 pm
Will follow sozobe's and d'artagnan's advice.
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larry richette
 
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Reply Wed 5 Mar, 2003 10:28 pm
That's right, plainoldme, write him a letter--you have nothing at stake except your pride and your self-esteem!
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sozobe
 
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Reply Wed 5 Mar, 2003 10:30 pm
You're such a romantic, Larry... Wink
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Dartagnan
 
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Reply Wed 5 Mar, 2003 11:50 pm
Yes, that's Larry--ever the contrarian!
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plainoldme
 
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Reply Thu 6 Mar, 2003 11:53 am
Sozobe and D'Artagnan -- I have to agree with you two: I doubt a woman loses pride and self-esteem by writing to a man! I assume that the name larry richette, while it may not be a legal name, identifies a man. So, larry, if a woman you had met three or four times over a period of about 2 to 2 1/2 years, dropped you a note, inquiring of your availability, would you be upset?
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larry richette
 
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Reply Thu 6 Mar, 2003 12:43 pm
No, I'd be flattered--depending on the way in which she asked. But I'd think that if you'd met this guy that many times you'd know the answer already, wouldn't you?
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larry richette
 
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Reply Thu 6 Mar, 2003 12:45 pm
And yes, Larry Richette is a legal name. Short for Lawrence Richette. All I meant was, you are runing the risk of a rebuff. But if that doesn't worry you, go to it!
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plainoldme
 
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Reply Mon 10 Mar, 2003 06:19 pm
A rebuff is better than never knowing. In the meantime, I have found out that he lives alone, but that doesn't mean there isn't someone in his life.
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