Friday, March 29, 2013

Writing home

One of the problems of not having children and not practicing any religion is that spring break sneaks up on you. Judging by the lack of commuters on the L today, I suspect that the Internet may have already packed its Speedo and headed out the door for the weekend, hying (or, since this is the Internet, perhaps "hai-ing"?) to Daytona Beach to pound some Jager and barf intricate patterns onto the sand?

Well, just in case I'm wrong, let's look at some letters! And today's subject is perfect: Faulkner, a master drinker himself, a man who--to his ultimate detriment, one suspects--could have out-Jello-shotted your average Chi Delt Biff of Tri Delt Betty any day. This day, however--January 12, 1925, when he was twenty-eight--the pleasures on offer were more modest and quiet. He writes to his mother from the house of a friend, where he's visiting:
We got there Saturday evening in time for dinner. They are grand people, they let you do whatever you want to--dont try to entertain you, you know. Dr Rainold is a funny light little man, and Mrs Rainold is like Mrs Eatman. They were sitting before the fire reading, and spoke to us, and then went on reading. I have never felt as completely at home. They didnt try to 'talk' to me at all, let me get a book and read too.
Ghosts of the Rainolds: if you're listening, you're welcome to haunt the Rocketship any time you'd like. We've got books a-plenty. Just watch the ectoplasm; it ruins books.

Because I'm going to be spending at least part of my weekend proofreading--and thus ever-so-briefly regretting that I chose the glamorous field of publishing--I'll close with a reminder that the world is made up of readers and non-readers, and we, friends, are not in the majority. From a letter Faulkner sent home from Paris on November 9 of that same year:
I'm having one high and elegant time. With my $200.00 check I got to the American express Co. bank. I stand in line for a long time and then am told I must see a manager. I go to the manager's office: i is 12:30 then, and he is gone to lunch. He returns at 2:15, followed by a train of people all talking at once--like Moses crossing the Red Sea with his gang. After a San Francisco woman gives him hell for thirty minutes, I get to speak with him. Well, he never heard of Boni & Liveright--not a reading man, he explained. He looks in Bradstreet & Dun, Liveright is there, but no rating whatever is given. So he wont take the check.
The American consul also turns him down. What he doesn't do is go try Sylvia Beach--surely she, at least, would have honored the check? He might not have been able to turn it into food or booze, but books are a better consolation than nothing.

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