A November Farewell to Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, and Veronica Lake

Stuart Michner

…Damp, drizzly November in my soul…
—Herman Melville

in the opening paragraph Moby Dick, Ishmael writes cheery poetry to the perennial November gloom, topping Roz Chast’s cartoon in the Nov. 21 New Yorker Spell it in scary, wobbly black letters. The three characters of pure desperation are a curly-haired woman wrapped in a coat (“It’s only 4:15, but it’s getting dark!”), a trembling young man rubbing his hands (“Something’s wrong. ”), and the final word balloon is the horror personification of horror (“It’s the end of the world.”).

For the purposes of this end-of-the-month column, I’m going to replace the three Chastettes with two famous authors and one movie star. Mark Twain arrived in Florida, Missouri, on the last day of November 1830, accompanied by Comet Haley, which reappeared just in time for his departure in 1910. Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis 100 years ago on November 11, 1922, three days before Veronica Lake, whose birth name was Constance Frances Mary Okerman in Brooklyn. Thirty-two years later, on November 26, 1954, Roz Chast himself was born in Brooklyn. While I stopped watching quizzes and game shows a long time ago, there always seemed to be a contestant from Brooklyn who was inevitably greeted with a level of enthusiasm (loud applause, high-pitched whistles, cheers) that wasn’t found elsewhere Welcome.

hacker’s poem

I must have sensed Twain’s birthday was approaching when I took him to the series celebrating David Milch last week dead woodand his mentor Robert Penn Warren, who said Huckleberry Finn: “The invention of this language, with all its implications, has given a new dimension to our literature. It is a language capable of writing poetry”—possible because Twain narrates his s story:

“Now there’s not a single smog to be seen, so we’ll take some fish off the line and make a hot breakfast. Then we’ll watch the loneliness by the river, a little lazy, and gradually drift off to sleep Gradually wake up, … maybe see a steamboat up the current, so far from the opposite bank, you can only tell whether she is a tail wheel or a side wheel; and then for about an hour, hear nothing, see nothing To—only loneliness.”

“We” are Huck and Jim, whose fate as fugitive slaves shapes the direction of the novel, for good (the heart of the novel) or bad (the confusion of the ending). In a passage near the end, when Huck is about to give up on Jim (hence the mess), he “thinks about our trip down the river…I always see Jim before me: in day and night, sometimes by moonlight, sometimes It’s a storm, we’re floating together, talking and singing and laughing… [I] See how glad he is when I come back from the mists; When I see him again in the swamp, where is the hatred; and times like that; and [he] Always called me darling, pampered me, did everything he could think of for me, he was always so nice…he was so grateful, said I was old Jim’s best friend in the world and the only one he had now …”

Twain found more than poetry in reinventing Huck’s voice, thereby freeing himself from the prose conventions he had to deal with during his life on the Mississippi, free to enjoy double negatives and twisted grammar, and to defy all “civilization.” But be careful trying to find poetry in Huck. For example, the punishment listed in the initial notice was: “Those who try to find morality in this narrative shall be persecuted; those who try to find morality in it shall be exiled; and those who try to find conspiracy in it shall be shot.”

graphics vonnegut

Literary Year Chronicle (Thames and Hudson 1984), which I quoted a few weeks ago, paired the birth of Kurt Vonnegut with a typically scathing quote: “This is what I find most inspiring about the writing profession. They allow patient and industrious mediocrity correct their stupidity.” You’d have to go all the way back to Twain to find another bearded novelist/humorist with such a dark view of human nature.exist a man without a country (2005), Vonnegut declared, “Like my significantly better Einsteins and Twains, I have now given up on people.”

Just finished a graphic novel adaptation Slaughterhouse No. 5 Through Ryan North and Albert Monteys (Archaia 2020), I see the bombed, bombed-out roots of Vonnegut’s cynicism. The preface to the graphic edition reads: “The Dresden atrocity was so costly, orchestrated, and ultimately pointless that only one person on the entire planet benefited from it. I was that person. I wrote the book, It made me a lot of money and made me famous, and that was it. Anyway, I got two or three dollars for every kill. Some business I was involved in.” That’s it. And so on and on.

Writing about Vonnegut after his death in 2007, I quoted his apocalyptic message from an interview with Rolling Stone magazine last August: “I’m sorry. It’s over. The game is lost.” In a balloon over his head, he’ll fit right into Roz Chast’s desperate November trio.

Billy Pilgrim’s journey from Bulge Battle, Battle of the Bulge, to Battle of the Bulge, to meat during the bombing of Dresden Compelling graphic visual for the locker shelter, in a style that reminds me of the savage Will Elder/Jack Davis school EC comics I graduated from Classic Comics, Donald Duck, Little Lulu, and Captain Marvel. The painting is bold and brilliant, in stark contrast to the roughness of the composition classic comics version of Huckleberry Finn, One of the most powerful image creations is the cover (pictured).Most Destructive Picture Slaughterhouse No. 5 is a two-page panorama of Dresden, before (“The skyline is intricate, voluptuous, captivating, ridiculous.”) and after (“Dresden is now like the moon, with nothing but minerals. The stones are hot. Nearby Everyone else is dead. That’s it”).

that girl

I first encountered Veronica Lake at Jack Kerouac’s on the way. Sal Paradise is on a Greyhound bus with a Mexican girl he’s just met and already fallen in love with; when the bus reaches Hollywood, she falls asleep in his lap, in a “grey, dirty dawn, like in the photo” The dawn when Joel McCrea met Veronica Lake at a diner, Sullivan’s Travels.Looking out the window, Sal sees “stucco houses and palm trees and drive-thru drives, the whole crazy thing, the broken-down paradise, the fantastic end of America.” In addition to being a great American movie, Preston Sturges’ 1941 masterpiece is one of the greatest American road movies. (The title is about Gulliver’s Travels Created by Jonathan Swift (born November 30, 1667). )

Back at the diner, McRae (born Nov. 5, 1905) plays light musical comedy director John L. Sullivan, fresh from the failure of his first “real America” ​​expedition disguised as a hobo return. As he drank coffee at the counter, Lake’s overcoat-clad tuxedo (known only as “Girl” in the cast list) told the counter clerk, “Give him some ham and eggs,” offering “The Tramp” a Smoke, light up. She’s on her way back East from a flop in the film industry, and Sullivan has had enough of directing films like Hey in the Hayloft; he wants to make serious movies about big issues.” Everywhere It’s all tough,” he tells the flowing, peek-a-boo-haired beauty, thinking about his mission and possibly hoping to start a conversation he could use in the film. “The war in Europe. Strike here. No work, no food. The girl gave him a look. “Coffee while it’s hot,” she said. She paid for his breakfast. As Pauline Kael wrote years later, Lake behaved “very calmly.”

golden november

Contrary to Roz Chast’s comics, November 2022 in the New York area has been all about fall glory. Never mind that the Sunday I’m writing this happens to be gray and drizzly, that’s not enough to tarnish the memory of the golden months. Regardless, literature has plenty of room for Melville’s “wet and rainy” soul and Charles Dickens’s “relentless November weather.” The streets were muddy, as if the sea had just receded from the face of the earth, and it was not a good thing to encounter a Megalosaurus, about forty feet long, wobbly up Holborn Hill like an elephant lizard. “

don’t forget kerouac

Jack Kerouac’s 100th birthday is March 12 and will be celebrated here before the end of the year.in the biography of joyce johnson Sound is Everything: The Lone Triumph of Jack Kerouac, She recalled seeing him for the first time at a Greenwich Village lunch counter in a black and red plaid shirt. She ended up paying for his meal.

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