Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Sparring with Mailer

On November 23, 1952, Budd Schulberg wrote a review of Picture by Lillian Ross for the New York Times Book Review. Ross, who was a New Yorker writer at the time, had written five articles for on John Huston’s filming of The Red Badge of Courage which she turned into a novel—the subject of Schulberg’s review.

In his review Schulberg was critical of Ross’s attempt at impartiality to the subject matter- Hollywood and its movers and shakers. However, he conceded that the book presented “Hollywood’s more heroic attitudes as well as its more foolish and familiar ones.” Among the many book reviews Schulberg did during his lifetime, this one does not stand out in any particular way, except that it provoked a verbal sparring with another writer, Norman Mailer.

Mailer, in a letter to the editor of the New York Times Book Review rebuked Schulberg’s review of the book accusing him of being more “concerned with reviewing his attitude to Hollywood than Miss Ross’ book.” Mailer also felt that “Mr. Schulberg was doing his piece in such a way as to offend not a single important person in the Hollywood community.”
Three weeks later, Schulberg responded. Acknowledging a brief acquaintance with Mailer, he reminds him that in years past such a “calculated insult like your letter to the Times” might have led to a different response. However, Schulberg felt that “words seem to be the only weapons handy to the occasion” pointing out that Mailer was impugning his honor rather than his judgment and that he would normally “have classified your letter as the crack-pot kind I usually choose to ignore.” He continues that he was “struck by the callowness of your assumption that our differing opinions of Miss Ross’s book reflected your courageous honesty and my craven insincerity. This reeks of the black-and-white self-righteousness that makes clear thinking so difficult these days.” Schulberg than proceeds for another page and a half to defend and analyze his review while dissecting Mailer’s arguments. “I hasten to add, however, that I am not accusing you of having written it [the letter] in order to worm your way into the good graces of Miss Ross or The New Yorker.”

Norman Mailer did not lose any time responding to Schulberg as a week later he wrote another letter, this one directly to Schulberg in which he apologized for not having sent his initial letter directly to the latter, arguing that the reason for that was that he could not bear “a certain kind of book reviewing” and that it was more important to him “that the editor hear it for whatever my two cents are worth than the critic.” He continues to admonish Schulberg accusing him of doing something “which as an author rather than a critic is unforgiveable.”
Whether a book is good or terrible the labor put into it deserved the respect of treating the book as something in and of itself rather than as a tumbling board for the reviewer. I mean, look Budd, really and truly who gives a damn how many times you read the book, how you discussed it with your family… . The fact of the matter is that you spent, as I remember, what with chatting and synopsis, about three quarters of your review before you could get to judgement, and I don’t have to tell you that a writer reads his review for the judgement.
After a short treatise on “Impartiality and tact,” Mailer eventually gets to an apology.

Now for slandering you. All right, I did and there are nine chances in ten that I was wrong and hasty, and for those nine chances I owe an apology. But why in the devil must you feel that I must assume that you are pure and incorruptible. Who is?... Where I erred and where I do feel ashamed is imputing a vulgar conscious motive to you – I would have resented it just as much…. I feel I was wrong in writing the letter the way I did, and I think you were wrong in writing the kind of review you did. Let’s leave it this way.
We are currently re-processing some of Budd Schulberg’s correspondence. If you want to read the verbal sparring in its entirety ask for MS 978, Box 33, Folder 7.

Here is the original book review by Budd Schulberg, "What Makes Hollywood Run?"

Friday, May 18, 2018

Seeing Las Vegas

Photomontage of Las VegasThere has been a great deal of excitement on campus around the Library’s acquisition of the Mario Puzo Papers. Of course, Puzo is most well-known for writing the novel The Godfather and its subsequent screenplays, but his papers also reveal that he was a prodigious writer who worked across a range of literary forms. Alongside The Godfather material, drafts of scripts for superhero and disaster movies, a young adult novella, pithy works of cultural criticism, and memoiristic essays are also present in the collection. Puzo’s Inside Las Vegas (1977)—a sort of love letter from the author to the City of Sin (he was a self-described “degenerate gambler”)—appears to be a particularly unique publication in Puzo’s oeuvre. This is due to its inclusion of a corresponding photo essay that documents, in both black and white and color, the spectacle of life on the Vegas Strip.

Candid shot of showgirl in dressing roomThe striking photographs in Inside Las Vegas are both journalistic and artistic in nature. Black and white portraits of working show girls and newlyweds are depicted in a documentary style with compositional precision. Cityscapes, printed in color, are littered with bright lights and at times border on abstraction. Original prints of many of the book’s images (as well as others that were not selected for publication) can be found in Puzo’s papers.

While Inside Las Vegas as a whole offers revealing insights into Puzo’s vision of Las Vegas, taken separately, the photographs themselves have broader relevance to important currents in the history of photo journalism. John Launois, Michael Abramson, and Susan Fowler-Gallagher, the photographers responsible for the images in the book, were represented by Howard Chapnick at the famous New York City Black Star photo agency. Black Star was founded in 1935 in New York City by Earnest Mayer, Kurt Safrasnki and Kurt Kornfeld, Jewish emigres who had fled Nazi Germany and brought with them their knowledge of the increasingly popular format of photojournalism and the extended photo essay. Safranski, in particular, had previously worked at Berliner Ilustrite Zeitung (BIZ), the weekly German publication that is often considered the pioneer of photojournalism.

Posed shot of couple outside of a wedding chapelBlack Star quickly became the gold standard in commercial photography throughout a substantial portion of the twentieth century. Life magazine, founded just a year after Black Star in 1936, was one of the agency’s earliest and most important clients, and other notable clients would include The Saturday Evening Post, The New York Times, Time and Newsweek. In major outlets such as these, Black Star photographers helped to bring some of the most iconic images of the mid-twentieth century to the broader American public. They were responsible for documenting the historic events that have come to define the era: the assassination of JFK, the march on Selma, the fall of the Berlin Wall, just to name a few. Even Andy Warhol, who often repurposed journalistic images and symbols of pop-culture, used an image from a Black Star photographer in his Race Riot (1964) (it reproduced Charles Moore’s Life magazine photographs of black protestors being attacked by police dogs in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963).

John Launois, one of the photographers who worked on Puzo’s Inside Las Vegas book, also documented Malcolm X's pilgrimage to Egypt, and shot the recognizable images of a young Bob Dylan on his motorcycle which appeared in The Saturday Evening Post in 1964. Michael Abramson, also a contributor to Inside Las Vegas, was a Chicago-based photographer who documented the black night club scene in the '70s and '80s to critical acclaim. His work is now found in the permanent collections at the Smithsonian and the Chicago Art Institute, among others.

While the Mario Puzo papers provide researchers a valuable new archive for examining “obvious” topics, such as literary depictions of Italian Americans, it may also open doors to more unexpected finds. A brief investigation into the esteemed Black Star photographers who collaborated on Mario Puzo’s Inside Las Vegas suggests something of the high status that Puzo had achieved in the publishing world by 1977—eight years after the publication of The Godfather, and five years after Godfather II won a best picture Oscar. But this collection may also offer unexpected riches for scholars and researchers such as those interested in this important group of midcentury photojournalists.

You can ask for MS-1371 to see more. As soon as the finding aid is ready, we will post a link here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Anti-Tom Novel

Title page to Uncle Phillis's CabinSoon after Uncle Tom's Cabin shook America in 1852, there was quick and vigorous backlash against Harriet Beecher Stowe and her portrayal of the institution of slavery, so much so that Stowe issued a "Key" to Uncle Tom's Cabin that cited sources for every atrocity detailed in the novel. One common attack against Stowe's work was the "Anti-Tom Novel." We have a copy of the best seller of the genre, Aunt Phillis's Cabin, or, Southern Life As it Is, by Mary Eastman. Our copy is from 1852 and is already boasting of 10,000 copies sold. You can imagine the basic plot and action of these books--slavery is depicted as a benign institution where harmony and contentment overwhelm the few bad instances that get all the press. It is propaganda, pure and simple.
Social Friends Book plate, Class of 1858

What is odd about our copy is that it was part of the Social Friends Library. The Social Friends was a student organization that had a library that rivaled the Dartmouth College Library and served many of the students' needs. But, for the most part, Dartmouth students were abolitionists or sympathetic to the abolitionist movement. What was the book doing there? It was presented by William Kimball, Class of 1858. His brief biography doesn't suggest much about his political leanings one way or another: the son of a reverend, he was born in Concord, New Hampshire, and moved to Kickapoo, Texas, where he was a teacher; he died young in 1865. Perhaps he was pro-slavery and donated this book to insert his viewpoint on campus, or, just as likely, he gave the book so students could understand their enemy. There is nothing here to tell us: his motivation remains a mystery.

To take a look, ask for Rare PS1567 .E23 A86 1852. Stowe's "Key" is Rare E449 .S8959.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

"That is not Budweiser"

Three students eating lunch and drinking beer near Lake Champlain. Caption includes "That is Not Budweiser""
When you think of Prohibition Era rum running, images of Al Capone and gang warfare pop right to the fore. But sometimes it was a little more wholesome, as we recently discovered. While researching the Ledyard Canoe Club for the exhibit currently on display here in Rauner Library, Jaime Eeg discovered tales of Lake Champlain "expeditions" in 1931. How convenient it was to paddle up across the Canadian border, pick up some supplies then silently paddle back south. Just good clean exercise that would never draw the attention of anyone in law enforcement!

The reason we have such great documentation of the Ledyard Canoe Club, and why we can tell this story today is because of the collecting savvy and generosity of Jay Evans '49, who passed away last month. Jay was a guiding force both locally and nationally in kayaking and canoeing and he will be sorely missed by the Dartmouth community.

Fritz Meyer '33 and John Titcomb '32 in canoe with beer
The exhibit will be up through June 15th, so stop by and take a look. After that, ask for DO-31.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Sexuality and Silence: An Unresolved Mystery in the Archives

Photograph of Arthur Soule, class of 1908, in character as a woman in the Dartmouth Players' production of "For One Night and One Night Only."
"Here boys is what they used for women in Dartmouth College plays in the days when Colby was just another college away off in Maine."
 – Larry Griswold ’08

For a college that would not admit women until 1972, the idea that men could cross-dress as women characters and be celebrated may seem preposterous. However, Dartmouth Theater has a long history of "female impersonators," a term which back then was used to describe men who regularly played women in theater productions. From the College’s founding in 1769 until 1925, Dartmouth Theater productions, which were predominantly performed by the group called the Dartmouth Players, only had men in the cast. In 1925, forty-seven years before the college would become co-educational, the Players began casting women in their productions. At face value, one might assume a "forward thinking mindset" was growing on campus. As I culled through the litany of hand-written letters, playbills and magazine articles, I discovered that this was not the case. Instead, it appears that fear and tragedy are the cause.

In 1921, four years prior to the integration of women into Dartmouth Theater, President Hopkins writes to Doctor Bancroft, a friend and psychologist, that "[he] is exceedingly anxious to send one of
First page of President Hopkins's letter to Dr. Bancroft
our boys down to talk with you because I feel certain of the advantage that it will be to him to feel free to talk with somebody…I do not think that in his case abnormality has gone any detrimental extent as yet…"

The student in question is James Harvey D. Zuckerman. Zuckerman is a junior at this time and a member of the Dartmouth Players. He is also one of their female impersonators and played one of the leading ladies in the past fall’s production.

President Hopkins is very aware of this background as he writes to Bancroft and, as common for his letters addressing these subjects, he dances around the issue with his descriptions of "unnatural instincts" that are "out of keeping" with Dartmouth’s values:

"Sometime I want to talk with some of your authorities on mental hygiene in regard to the general problem of whether playing girls’ parts in the dramatic performances make a man effeminate or whether being effeminate qualifies him for playing girls’ parts. I am considered, among the dramatic group, as being unduly concerned on the question and if so I want to get over it. The fact is, however, that we have had a distinct tendency among a considerable number of the men who have played the so-called leads in girl characters to develop exotic or unnatural instincts which are thoroughly out of keeping with what the College means to stand for."

Perhaps uncharacteristically, President Hopkins’s next few sentences are rather direct:

Second page of President Hopkins's letter to Dr. Bancroft
"In one case, three years ago, the boy wandered off from Hanover and safeguarded the College reputation to the extent that he committed suicide in New York rather than here, but the underlying fact was that his affection for one of his dramatic club associates was not only unappreciated but was rebuffed."

The correspondence never fully concludes whether or not "playing girls' parts" is the cause of the "exotic or unnatural instincts" of which President Hopkins is so concerned.

While there is a lot to unpack in President Hopkins' anxieties surrounding the gender performance of the Dartmouth Players, I was shocked by the story about the student who committed suicide and how much President Hopkins knew about the incident. His information about the student's "affection" for another Dartmouth Player and that this affection "was rebuffed" made me believe there was an investigation surrounding the incident. As such, I thought it would be fairly easy to figure out who this student was – President Hopkins even gave a timeframe: "three years ago." However, as I searched through records of students who would have been at Dartmouth in 1917, 1918, or 1919, there was no other information about the incident.

The 1940 catalog, which lists graduates and non-graduates of Dartmouth up through 1940, does not have any student who fits President Hopkins' description. The catalog places an "*" beside the names of alumni who passed away by 1940 along with a description of death. From 1911 to 1921, there is no student, either graduate or non-graduate who fits the given information.

Furthermore, no Dartmouth Players listed in the playbills died under mysterious circumstances: their alumni files describe their long lives after graduation. However, there are only two playbills from 1916-1919 which means some names could be missing. The Aegis includes some of the cast lists, but this is also not comprehensive, and, of the Players listed, none died by 1921.

There is one interesting letter from a Mr. Axtell to President Hopkins in which Mr. Axtell discusses that his son will respond to these inquiries after returning from service abroad. His son, F. Donovan Axtell, was elected Assistant Director of the Dartmouth Dramatic Association for 1917-1918, the years in question. However, there is no reply from F. Donovan Axtell to President Hopkins or any other correspondences. There are also no other indications in the records that President Hopkins wrote to any other members of the Directorate.

In the 1919 Aegis, there is an "In Memoriam" page for Norman Kingsley Pearce, Assistant Business Manager of the Dartmouth Dramatic Association. According to an article in the Dartmouth, he passed away suddenly on April 15th, 1918 in Mary Hitchcock Hospital due to sudden complications with a cold. He received an operation in Mary Hitchcock which slightly assisted in his recovery before losing consciousness and passing away shortly thereafter.

Who is the student that President Hopkins refers to in his letter to Bancroft? I have no clue. Perhaps President Hopkins over-embellished in the hope of gaining Bancroft’s support for intervention? It is possible. Perhaps the information has been lost or even purposefully excluded. Both of these are also possible, and we may never know which one is correct. What we do know is that the archives seem to be silent on this question, leaving us to wonder why.

To explore this mystery for yourself, or to learn more about the Dartmouth Players, come to Rauner and ask to browse the Dartmouth Players records (DO-60, box 6522, Folder 21 “For One Night and One Night Only”) and President Hopkin's Presidential Papers (DP-11, Box 6764, Folder 101 “Undergraduates S-Z”).

Posted for Katie Carithers '20, recipient of a Rauner Student Research Fellowship for the 2018 Spring term. The Rauner Student Research Fellowships provide full funding for a Dartmouth student to conduct research with primary sources during an off-term on a topic of their choosing. For more information, visit the fellowship's website.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

May Day

Title page of Cesar Chavez with letter from Geoge McGovern pasted in along with other clippingsIt is a fitting day to feature a very curious book in our collection. It is a copy of Jacques Levy's Cesar Chavez: Autobiography of La Causa, but one that has been transformed and re-titled "Journal of Protest" by Dr. George Margolis, professor of Pathology at the Dartmouth Medical School from 1963-1982. Margolis chose a book about someone he most admired to collect his own story of protest by pasting the book full of mementos of his fight for social justice.

Margolis was an advocate for diversifying the medical profession by actively recruiting minorities into the field. He also protested the Vietnam War and was co-founder of the New Hampshire chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, but he had a particular attraction to Chavez's movement to organize migrant farm labor.
Letter from Susan Drake, secretary to Cesar Chavez, to Dr. Margolis

The book is plastered with letters and news clippings from Margolis's rabble rousing as well as his personal reflections on his successes and failures. It is an odd example of a kind of cultural appropriation. He literally obscures the words of the book with his own memories, but simultaneously pays homage to Chavez--seemingly trying to meld their work into one. But, does his work blot out Chavez's work? Or, does Margolis see Chavez as a power so strong that he can support Margolis's own labors?

Letter from United Farm Workers to Margolis thanking him for donation to support strike against Gallo
To judge for yourself, ask for Rare R707.M37 1993.

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Art of Photography

Photogravure of an old man looking at a marble statue of a womanThis last week, Rauner welcomed art history professor Katie Hornstein's History of Photography class for an hour-long romp through some of the most amazing books related to photography. Some of the gems included Gardner's Sketch Book of the Civil War and autographed prints by Margaret Bourke-White that were published in Erskine Caldwell's You Have Seen Their Faces. Another beautiful work that the students explored was Camera Work, a photography journal edited by Alfred Stieglitz that ran from 1903 through 1917.

Photogravure of a nude woman kneeling with her back to the camera and her arms clutching her headAlfred Stieglitz is often credited for the eventual acceptance of photography as an legitimate art form in the 20th century. He was also known as a promoter of modern art and ran several New York art galleries and was the husband of artist Georgia O'Keeffe. Shortly after 1902 Stieglitz founded a movement called the Photo-Secession that disavowed all traditional definitions of what constituted a photograph. This included a rejection of the oppressive control that contemporary institutions, galleries, and art schools had over the determination of what could and could not be considered art.

Photogravure of an adolescent looking at the camera smuglyCamera Work was a vehicle for promoting this movement by showcasing the work of the Photo-Secessionists, primarily through high-quality photogravure reproductions of film positives that had been transferred to a copper plate. Stieglitz's insistence on perfection in these reproductions was such that, at least in one instance, the photogravures were hung in a gallery exhibition instead of the actual prints, whose delivery had been delayed.

At Rauner, we are fortunate to have a complete run of Stieglitz's groundbreaking publication. To see more of the stunning photogravures in any of Rauner's fifty volumes (in twenty-four issues), come to the reference desk and ask to see Rare TR1 .C5.