The contents page of POINTS 20 did not carry a date of publication. The notice of legal filing on the last page is dated the second quarter of 1955 so it would appear that POINTS 20 was published in late winter or early spring of 1955.
Vail remarks in his introductory notes that short story submissions have declined to the point where this present issue contains only three stories. Although he indicates that another issue might be forthcoming in the spring, POINTS 20 was the last and final number that Vail published. He notes that the short story collection was also published and available wherein he had selected fifteen stories from the seventy five that had appeared in the nineteen issues of POINTS published in the last seven years.
Commentary © James A. Harrod, Copyright Protected; All Rights Reserved
(inside front cover)
(inside back cover)
NOTES BY THE EDITOR – Sindbad Vail
THE KITES OF ALL – Al Taylor
FIVE POEMS – Sharon Sciama
EXPERIMENTAL ONE – George Sims
MINERS – Robert Krieger
TWO POEMS – Judson Crews
BLUE GINGHAM – Curt Gentry
ENOUGH ROPE (A Fable) – Charles Keppel
TWO POEMS – P. P. Hyun
THE NECESSARY EVIL – Peter Wells
FIVE POEMS – Andre Davis
LETTER FROM SPAIN – Jean Rabie
THIS AND THAT (Reflections from Paris) – Sindbad Vail
NOTES BY THE EDITOR
This issue of POINTS has been long overdue. As I have said before the tribulations and difficulties of a little magazine are many. It is no good moaning about it but the fact remains that it is very hard to get material of the standard I want. This issue is a bit smaller than the previous one for that reason. I could have put more short stories in but I did not think I had any that were good enough. It has come to the point when I’m including some of my own work, not perhaps that it’s better or worse than others, but it’s fun, will set a contrast in the various styles and of course is cheaper as I don’t have to pay myself.
The amount of poetry this magazine receives never ceases to amaze me. I daresay most of it is puerile and bad, but it does come in in large quantity. I have only published 3 short stories in this issue, and doubt if I had more than a dozen in all I could have even properly considered. I must have received five times more poetry than prose in the past few months. In the end I published more poems than I originally intended. I have read so much poetry in fact lately that I was tempted to dabble slightly myself in that form of writing. For the hell of it I’m reproducing the following work of art composed by myself on a bad Sunday morning, with the kids playing around me and Tchaikowsky’s Fifth Symphony blaring in my ears. Perhaps my readers will say it sounds like it, but this is the way I feel about many poets I meet and many poems I read:
Why do people write poetry?
Is it to be funny?
Must it always rhyme
With every preceding line?
Must poets be romantic?
Vague and frenetic
Drunken and exhilarated
And always wasted.
Must poetry be about love
About the stars above
About peace and a dove
And always of a lost love.
Must poets starve and live in garrets?
Wear old rags and exist on raw carrots?
Must poets be so ideal and so poor
Trampled and ignored
walked on like the floor
And always be so bored.
How about Lord Byron?
He was not spat on
He was privileged and rich
And incidentally a bit of a bitch
Given to debauchery and a bit of a pest
Who did not mind committing a little incest.
How about Alfred Lord Tennyson?
“Into the Valley of Death”
Ancestor of many a noble scion .
To whom riches were not beneath.
Take Elliot, cummings and Pound
And leave them at the “Lost & Found”
It’s easier to make a pun
Than anything under the sun.
So it all boils down
And please don’t frown
Why write poetry like eager beavers
When its easier to make a living selling vacuum cleaners.
Perhaps this poem will never make the Oxford Book of Verse and will outrage many real sensitive poets, but POINTS is still my magazine and its time to have a bit of fun with it.
By the time this issue is out the POINTS SHORT STORY ANTHOLOGY ought to be out too. The book should have appeared many months ago. I could write a long story on the difficulties that occurred during its compiling and the bigger troubles I had with the printers. It languished for over a month, all set for the actual printing for lack of paper. I made the mistake of paying a paper dealer in advance and that paper was never delivered. I could not go ahead until I recuperated the money to order the paper elsewhere. Now that it’s out I hope everyone will order a copy. The book contains fifteen short stories taken from the seventy five printed in nineteen issues of POINTS.
We’ll try and get another POINTS out in spring and may I remind would be writers that I’m more interested in a good story than 23 poems on love, death or even life.
There were some familiar names among the authors published in this last issue. Sharon Sciama had published poems in POINTS 1 & 5. Judson Crews had poems in POINTS 18. Jean Rabie had appeared as Jan Rabie in POINTS 5. Other authors whose stories in POINTS 20 might have been their initial publications include George Sims and Curt Gentry. Short biographies of Sims, Crews and Gentry appear at the end of this posting.
Untwist the rebel eye
The season of your thoughts
We now belong
To the voices of misery
Is our lucidity
Beneath the umbrella
We break no window-panes
The certitude of time
Gradual is the past
Past to begin
Past to forget
With it pain
Drags us through life
Particles of love
And of desire
AGAINST OUR MEMORIES
In the lines of our anger
Falls the snow of our birth
All that we say
Gives us again
A new burden
The mantelpiece drops
A fireplace slips
Where silence and speech
Are not spaced
Against our memories
We raise our daily words
With the hesitation of birds
Life comes in strokes
And in seasons
Where have I met you?
In summer opacities
She opens the purse of death
By the breath of sound
Over each face
In great whiteness
The aprons up and down
The furtive limbs
Deprived of mystery
The bodies light
Beneath the wheels
Bear alone the name
Of a battle field
She closed the purse of death
The dungeon of pyjamas
Striped in their march
The heads in piles
Removed or thrown
In her two palms
Saphir is the stone
That cuts the space
In which I wait
Women wait for Satan
Women wait for seasons
Women wait for magic herbs
Women wait for blood, for water
Women wait for pain
They wait for things to change
I am the woman
I seek fear
By the sea
I seek pride
My eyes are shells
Of their own tears
Oh women who stay
Until the break of day
Women who go away
To darkness and delight
Women who roam
Women who wait
Women from day to day
Sometimes the words of sleep
Break every vow
The night danced with its dream
The valsethat turns
As a wife
She is swayed
Sometimes she hides
Beneath her folded eyes
The water of her dream
Flowed without noise
Upon her throat
She then conspired
With all the hours
Of the night
The segments of his name
© The Estate of Sharon Sciama
A crowd of the old folks had just left the small rear entrance of their canteen and were walking down the narrow path when the X.X. machines went off, making their curious faint popping noises. The old folks were bunched closely together and the wire netting on each side of the path prevented them falling askew so the bodies piled up in neat heaps. With their frail, paper-like hands, their dusty, lined necks and old fashioned clothes they looked hardly human and the medics went about their job quickly and incuriously.
From a distance the piles seemed to be composed entirely of old clothes and at least one of the new medics watching from the gleaming white sanitary trucks found the scene amusing. It was this recruit who first noticed that one of the bodieswas moving. As a bundle of shapeless black skirts was bundled unceremoniously high in the air he noticed underneath a small hat moving from side to side, and two blue eyes looking cautiously about. Forgetting all discipline the medic jumped down from the lorry shouting, “Well lookit”, and soon was pulling at the pile. It was not an easy job because of the confining wire fences but before long he had a little, old man lying on the grass verge. Within a few minutes the puzzled and apprehensive sergeant-medic was helping by going through the pockets of the dusty black suit and finding his papers. They showed him to be John S. White -15.
By this time Mr. White had recovered and was gazing up quite brightly. “One of those X.X.’s?“ he asked. “Well I don’t mind—it’s quite right in a way,” he went on“but they haven’t had them in front of canteen entrances before, have they ?— rather unfair really, and there’s supposed to be a sporting element in it,.” His voice had taken on a querulous, whining tone, but he brightened up: “Never mind—it will teach usto be sharpish—keep our wits about us — as I was saying to Mrs. W…” The sentence tailed off and his face went white. He looked suddenly very small and pathetic. His lips trembled and he could hardly get out hisnext words. “Mrs. W… isshe there?” He did not look round hut pointed behind him. The sergeant had felt the position was slipping from his control by this unusual turn of events but now he shrugged his shoulders: “I don’t know, but we will be checking.” Then he shook his head, for at the back of the crowd of medics he could see one of the X.X. machine operators pointing meaningfully to the old man. Suddenly there was a lot of noise and gaiety about the scene. “Gee Pop—what you made of—Plastic?” “Now that‘s a tough Joe.”
A few workers had started to collect and the sergeant-medic was worried. Any decision was better than dithering. “Into the trucks men — get them bundled up and into the trucks. “ He bent down : “Look here Mr. White you’ll have to come back with us—ride up in front of me.” Slowly, as if his legs were not dependable.White got up and walked towards the truck, looking straight ahead all the time. Two big tears formed in his eyes and ran down hia cheeks. With his foot on the step he turned: ”But Mrs W…?” The rest of the sentence was lost in the noise as the trucks started up, and he washurried into the high cab. The driver nudged him in the ribs and whispered: “Say you’re a modern miracle Pop! Cheer up !… “ He stopped at a look from the unsmiling sergeant. Before they had turned the corner at Main St. the wireless operator was sending in his report.
In the Neuro-Medic building the Departmental Head had been compiling lists all afternoon. A list of things at which he was good, a list of people who genuinely liked him. Then he had been probing at his own little tender lies. His face darkened. What a nest of deceit! He destroyed one list and was going to make another when a message flashed up on the screen: SPECIAL—ALL DEPARTMENTS — JOHN WHITE — 70 — X.X. TO-DAY — IS ALIVE & BEING BROUGHT IN — CONTROLLER WISHES FULL REPORT & ANALYSIS. As he read this Graves’ hand automatically covered histhin, rather cruel mouth as it always did when he was puzzled or embarrassed. The next minute he heard the Controller’s voice on his personal phone: “Sam I want you up here—in fifteen minutes.” Ben Stearn’s voice was quiet as always with a hint of irony.
Graves leafed through some papers. It was odd how the Controller always forestalled the points he was going to raise—but then BS was an unusual man—Head of Advance Thought 11 at 35, Controller of Experimental One at 45. At the top of the pile were a bundle of old manuscripts and letters. The Controller believed that his staff could learn a lot from the stupidities of the past. That was the reason for the marathon film shows which all executives had to attend. In one 36-hour sitting they had analysed three world wars. Graves was amused to see that one letter was from a “poet” : “Regret that I am unable to grant an interview… Pressure of work...” There was a printed comment on this by the Controller: “The WORK was a series of sonnets about himself. “ Underneath these old letters Graves found the report he had been looking for, the one his department had compiled about old folks.
In the truck the sergeant and the driver had been mildly surprised at the change that had come over their passenger in ‘the short drive back. At first he had had his head in his hands but now had straightened up with his eyes twinkling again. Of course Mrs. W. was talking with Mrs. Spencer — “I expect they went out the front entrance. She’s a wise old lady.” The sergeant knew that this was nonsense—if Mrs. White had gone out the front entrance it had been by pure chance and there might have been an X.X. there too. But he did not bother to disillusion the old man.
When they arrived back at H.Q. there was a crowd waiting including the reporter for News Relay… A. microphone was held out to White when he had got down and he was soon babbling away quite happily: “Yes, it’s a wonder… quite fit… ready to take some of you young ‘uns on… the machines were in front of the Canteens to–day.” His last words caused quite a stir among the crowd. While the old man had made his chirpy speech the sergeant-medic had been listening carefully while watching with an ironic expression as his crew handled the old folks bodies. The old fool still didn’t realise all the possibilities. But his optimism was justified after all because an old lady made her way through the crowd and soon Mr. and Mrs. White were embracing, at first silently and then to a repetition of “my dear, my dear.” This little ceremony finished abruptly as Mr. White was hurried off to the observation rooms.
Sam Graves watched Bruner watching White for some moments with a good deal of amusement. Bruner was talking quickly and convincingly, but then he was alwaysmost expansive when one of his theories had been controverted. In the brightly lit room behind the wall of glass White wasbeing put through a series of tests. But already Bruner was explaining the survival. The theory fits many facts thought Graves—and when there are more facts then Bruner will have another theory. Bruner turned, gesticulating quickly —mumbling and nervously looking down as soon as he saw Graves standing behind him. Graves moved off.
One wall of the Controller’s room was a mass of electric graphs and his desk was positioned so that he could take them in at a glance from time to time. There was littleother furniture in the room apart from a couch in the corner, where he would lie for six or seven hours at night but sleep very badly. There were two odd chairs which had been brought in from other offices and not returned—this showed Ben Stearn’s lack of interest in such fripperies. And his great height and bulk made the few pieces of furniture seem like toys. His head and face were imposing still, but since his black, curly hair had become so thin and had to be combed carefully over the very large head he could no longer be considered handsome. His eyes were black in colour and restless always. Nothing held his eyes for long but then nothing could hold his attention for more than a moment although he tried to dissemble this. There were very few things that he wanted. Among the things he valued were correct readings, figures and analyses. He had been going through a particularly interesting report when he saw that Graves was coming in and had to slide it in to the desk drawer. He looked up and his big eyes met Graves’ look frankly: he waved him to a chair.
“Well what news. eh! So much for Bruner’s theories!” Graves crossed to the window before replying, then spoke deliberately, casually: “I’ve been to see White. Ben, he’s a nice old man—I think you would like him. And what a trick—outside the Canteens.” “I know—I know,” Stearn looked up with an expression of almost boyish innocence. “You may be sure it was not my idea. “ He spoke firmly as if he was already addressing a group of workers but as he did so he noticed a scrap of paper on the desk and a frown passed across his face. He leaned forward and crumpled it up quickly. “I tell you Sam—I am real sorry about thisbusiness. But don’t let it throw you.” “But Ben,” Graves came back to the desk and leaned on it, his voice quiet now and disarming, “won’t you see him. I think he might change some of your theories. He looks as healthy as a twenty–year old.”
Two floors below, in another wing of the great building, the healthy appearance of Mr. White was undergoing a rapid change. After only a few minutes of the more rigorous tests hisface had lost its colour. Running up a slope, the angle of which was continually varied, he found very tiring and confusing : indeed he did it very badly, falling three times in quick succession and grazing his legs. A grey pallor replaced the rosy complexion and his whole body was covered with a thin film of greasy sweat. His grey hair was awry and, in his determination to do well, he had assumed a strained, nervous expression. Altogether he possessed little of the dignity of a human being and once he wasisolated in the observation chambers the observers had few qualms about intensifying the tests. But when he had been seated in the wind tunnel and his skin was being blown back behind him in great flaps the enthusiast in charge of the experiment had to be restrained from suddenly doubling the known maximum force which could be faced without disfigurement. This young impulsive scientist, Mr. Dolmen, thought that as White was impervious to X.X. then his resistance to other strains would be abnormal. Dr. Bruner insisted that thiswas not necessarily so and urged restraint.
Despite White’s display on the slope three of the observers, Dolmen, Fisher & Hawtrey, continued to have faith in his potentialities and watched every move with great interest. Hawtrey from the Neuro-Medic Dept., had had a brief conversation with him and found it enigmatic and quite intriguing in its ambiguity. Already he had worked out an analysis showing various meanings and laying stress on what had not been said. Stopwatch in hand he had timed pauses and now he was whispering in Bruner’s ear… But the next test had begun. White had been shown a little stairway, consisting of five shallow steps, and told that he would have to walk, blind-folded, down it fairly quickly (agile movement was essential. in this response test). Once he had been blindfolded the stairway had been slightly moved, to the edge of a platform three feet high so that depth formed the last, surprise step. Then he was assisted on to the top step. Left alone, poised on high, the old man wavered a little and hisnude grey body and uncertain movement made a bad impression on all onlookers. But still Fisher was noisily exuberant (behind the soundproof wall) of the outcome of the experiment. In his excitement he stuttered: “He ww… will ss… sense it I know. Some ex…tra ss sensory reaction… He will jump the last step quite gaily,” he finished triumphantly. But this was not to be so for Mr. White went very slowly down the steps (completely ignoring instructions), obviously counting them to himself. The observers could see his mouth slowly forming the numbers. As he reached the fifth step a curious, cunning looked replaced the nervous tension lines about his mouth and nose. He took a firm step forward and reached to take off the blindfold. He fell badly, face forward on the floor.
In the Controller’s office Graves seemed to be making a little headway with his argument. He pointed to the main efficiency graph with ‘its bright green light winking near the top of the frame : “look Ben, 93%, 93% steady. Doesn’t that allow a little margin…Couldn’t we slacken off on the old folks ? “ Stearn smiled pleasantly and shook his head slowly: “No—I’m afraid not, Sam. I expect you are too young to remember how it was before we had X.X. Can you?” There was no reply but Stearn went on: “Well you can have no idea of the waste then — we were being strangled by the old folks. Vast homes of them all over the place, taking up living accommodation, eating food uselessly. And, more important still, taking up useful workers’ times.” He smiled at Graves again but showed rather more of his large, strong, yellow teeth this time—he seemed to have too many teeth and this gave him a momentarily wolfish expression. “Apart from that Sam, what a force the old people were against progress. They were always in groups, like ants, like black ants, grumbling about changes, harping on about the old days. Always saying that everything was getting worse whereas the truth was that they were being left behind. “
Stearn’s face was flushed now and he was talking very quickly, excitedly. I tell you I couldn’t bear to see them about... My personal feelings didn’t influence me… But when the idea wasfirst suggested in Advance Thought — I was working for them under Reynolds — well you won’t be able to understand how we went for it.” Stearn had completely lost his usual conversational, ironic tone — and a nerve was working in his cheek. Suddenly the nerve was so active that the side of his face moved violently and he had to put a hand to stop it.
For a few minutes there was an uneasy silence. Stearn was waiting for a reply but Graves was embarrassed, looking down at his feet.Stearn stared thoughtfully at the younger man’s downcast expression, then went on: “But I can understand how you feel about the old chap… well I can arrange for him to be moved… to a remote part of the country where there is—confidentially—very little X.X. going on. He deserves it. What do you say?” Graves‘ mouth was pursed in a determined expression. “It’s very nice of you. But won’t you just see him.” “I know,” Stearn nodded vigorously, “your group report on the old folks.” He looked reflectively at his desk drawer. “You think that seeing him might back it up a bit. All right, then… I’ll see your not so young protege. But hurry it up. “
Graves,hurried out of the room without another word and ran down to the ground floor. He went down a long, quiet corridor opening door after door to find Mr. White but he did not see him till he had got back to his own department. He found Hawtrey sitting immediately in front ofthe old man, who looked strangely tired and worried. Hawtrey looked up and commented: “He’s told me an ingenious set of contradictions.” “Never mind that,” Graves said, “send down for his clothes. He’s going to see the Controller.” Mr. White’s eyes opened very wide and he stared at the wall with an open mouth. Sympathetic as he was Graves could not help noting the particularly stupid, played out expression. But he let the impression slip and took hold of the old man’s hand. “Well how do you like that for an opportunity. It’s a chance (hisvoice became serious, confidential) to put a good word in for the old folks generally. I’ll say no more than that just mow.” Mr. White’s eyes twinkled knowingly again. “Can Ruby come too?” he asked. “Who’s Ruby?” Mr. White stood up and pointed, in a rather bewildered way for he had completely lost all sense of direction.
“It’s Mrs. W.Sir—I expect she’s outside waiting for me.”‘ “Yes all right—I expect that can be arranged—but we must hurry.” Hawtrey had the phone in his hand: “It’s Reception. They are querying letting the old man have his clothes back before all tests are completed.” Graves snatched the phone: “Head N.M. here. Mr. White is to have his clothes right now. Direct order from the Controller.“ He replaced the phone without waiting for any reply and turned to Hawtrey impatiently. “Now get him dressed as soon as possible. I shall find Mrs White myself and meet you just outside the Controller’s office. “
In less than five minutes the nervous and rather over-whelmed old couple were being shepherded into the roombefore Stearn’s great body. They took two seats (two narrow, high stools which had been brought in specially) and perched awkwardly and self conscioualy on them. Graves moved to a chair by the window where he could best watch without getting in the way. AB he sat down he could take in Mrs. W.’s appearance—before he had been so rushed that he had hardly noticed anything about her. Under close inspection her clothes seemed very old—indeed, mysteriously old. From head to toe she was dressed in rusty black — with just a scrap of yellow lace as a collar. Though it was a fine summer day she wore a coat and clenched a long, black umbrella tightly in her hand. She looked very odd on that stool ! She was.Graves judged, about 70, too—yes that would be right, -10. As he stared at her Graves was more conscious of the noise the old people were making with their breathing than the jocular remarks with which Stearn was putting them at their ease. They were both breathing through their mouths —a particulary loud, laboured breathing—it sounded as if they were both greedily trying to take advantage of a rapidly decreasing supply of air. He noticed too that when Mr. White was not grinning that his face lacked all expression : Mrs. White’s expression was one of nervous anticipation overlaid with the strain of constantlylistening. Graves realised with quite a shock what a strain it must be for some of the old folks now that hearing appliances were no longer available for them.
Stearn’s voice was more serious now though he was still smiling. “Our young friend behind me has insisted that I see you—and glad I am to do so. I can tell you that he feels that our X.X. scheme should be modified. And yet… and yet…” He got up and addressed the room in that quiet, well modulated voice so reminiscent to Graves of other speeches he had heard in other rooms. “Yet I have no such theories. And I, my frienda, am 55, only +5. And I can tell you another thing. There has been some wild talk. “ He gestured wildly. “Some people have suggested that we executives should be immune from X.X. But I should resist that. I should resist that strongly. “He was standing with his back to Graves but turned to shoot a quick guilty look at him before continuing. “What we have to bear in mind all the time is the community’s welfare as a whole. What is‘ best for the whole community. Some of us, indeed all of us, in turn, must make a sacrifice for the community’s good. But,” he gestured self-effacingly to the centre of the room, “I don’t want to do all the talking. What have you got to say Mr. White?“
The old man on the high stool had nearly fallen asleep despite his precarious position. The excitement, the unusual physical exertion of the tests, the well heated rooma had all had a soporific effect on him. When Stearn turned towards him it was as if he had been suddenly woken. He opened his mouth wide (showing a set of metallic false teeth which looked more like a small independent machine than anything human) but could not at first gather his thoughts. Then he was off, speaking quite rapidly, eliding some letters in his excitement. “That’s good enough—that’s good enough. Those the words that spell trouble. In my early days—forty-five years in the Shop you know—we gave…our Best. None of… that’s good enough for us. “ The old chap didn’t know how to continue. Graves had been fascinated listening to the click clack of the false teeth and paidlittle attention to the opening sentence but he soon realised how hopelessly the old man was lost—tied up in some generalization which had probably been hisset piece in the old days of capitalist/socialist argument. Graves realised that an intervention would be frowned on by Stearn but could not bear to hearWhite rambling away, fumbling for words. He leaned forward eagerly, hishand flashing up to his mouth, and tried — though without much real conviction: “But you do think, Mr. White, that some of the old folks could still do a good day’s work, play some part?” The Controller turned round, his face sardonic.
The old man rallied, sliding off the stool. “I do—I do think that Sir. Give us the chance. Not with the new machines, but the old way — slow and sure.“ He was standing, moving his hands as if he was working at a bench. Immediately Stearn leant forward, intent. “What’s that you are showing us, Mr. White—what are you doing now?” “Joinery, Sir, cabinet making…” “But surely,” Stearn moved his hand gracefully in a final gesture, “that’s been discontinued for some years now?” “Yes, fifteen years,” While’s reply was sullen, hopeless“that’s why I am -15, instead of –10.'” “Oh so you’re -15.” Stearn regarded the old man thoughtfully for a minute and then his face lost all signs of interest. He turned abruptly. “And you Mrs. White how do you feel?” He spoke quietly and the old lady did not hear a word. Graves stared hopelessly at the musty old clothes — their smell of camphor and decay filled the air. Stearn repeated hisquestion, “Mrs. White—what do yon think of the country’s needs ?“ She smiled knowingly and spoke as if to a child: “The meals?—they’re all right—as far as they go, but not like the old days. What meals then—Sausages…Roast Pork…” she tailed off into odd, sucking noises.
Stearn got up quickly — his huge figure towered over the old couple—”Well that’s all I think. Thank you.” He ushered them to the door and stood aside to let Graves follow them. Graves looked round questioningly as he went out and Stearn moved his head finally, slowly from side to side. After they had gone he reached into the drawer for the top folder. It was titled Secret. Analysis of Efficiency :N.M. Dept. By G. Hawtrey. He regarded it thoughtfully before re–opening it.
Genius in a helmet is sound and private;
Miles down through Plato’s shaft
I have watched them go, slightly stiff,
Deep as rock will enter them,
With no more cargo than loud air,
Where neither sun nor outcries may infect them,
Thinking: like moles, such apartness is apparent,
A lone and pale and probing light,—
Still seeing strong enough to write
With iron pen, tapping under us inhumanly.
Then, the same idea comes, saying,
Below, if so they should decide,
Disdaining a common upfor private down,
They can remain in brilliant dark.
Lacking faith, there is an inner screw devised:
Foul lamps blow out, light goes black
And ends all feral sight. They lay away iron pens,
And sit, forequestionersin rock,
Waiting a time their mind may shuttle them;
—Closed in bright helmets, wholly cerebral.
© The Estate of Robert Krieger
THE GREEN CANYON
Its jaws gaping
and I was lost there-in among
plethora of fauna
night nymph and lung
hammelcainthis was the season
feet-webbed I was carried along
Lame rooted weathering the berries
beam larderedover the thrashing cranes
skirting the myth-polluted rivers
into the twilight I came
Pipes rumbling against the lull
Lil saying that tents had been sighted
she had lolled in a hammock
smoking her pig-stiecigars
her kidneys floating in ginger
touched, as I thought, with the heat
Level we came to the waters
the overhand secrets had been coded
I lighted the fuse amidst shouting
and we braced ourselves for the jar
We sailed with the quinine still throbbing
and the deck awash withthe brine
Lil said the sailors were boisterous
but she was drunk with the muse
ADMONITION TO LOVE
how short our aim
lamed in our central core
protesting our will to harm
how short our aim
The muzzleof the small deer
the wind there on the flower
I did not seek a star to fall
but it fell in my open hand
I kissed your palm, your throat
I offered you a star
but I came from the front the day before
and you saw the blood in my hand.
You saw it blot the season
darker than a sky of rain
I did not kill my brother
the bullet fell short of its aim
© The Estate of Judson Crews
by Curt Gentry
(Copyright, 1955, by Curt Gentry)
“I know what you’re trying to say. You want to say. ‘There is so much goodness and beauty in the world, all around us, and people don’t appreciate it.’ Is that it?”
She nodded her head gratefully in mute agreement. A slight smile crept from her lips and slipped almost unseen to her cheeks, dabbing them with a spontaneous crimson.
You’re blushing, Thad thought happily. Blushing because we’re walking hand in hand down the streets of San Francisco in the spring, but it could be any city or season in God’s world. “We’re in love and we’re happy, and neither of us hasreally ever been in love before have we ?What a wonderful world this can be when we’re together !
She paused before a shop window, squeezing his hand quickly with her mood. A lone finger touched her lips, and he stared at her, realizing he’d never seen her quite aslovely as she was at this moment. He stood beside her, his pants neatly pressed, but frayed at the cuffs despite the many darnings; shirt also frayed but freshly laundered; shoes worn, but shining with a hard earned gloss. He saw himself, not old but young and strong, reflected in the ‘large cool glass. He also saw her image beside his, etched in clear instant focus, and she was prettier than all the hard cold models in their expensive dresses. He looked at her directly now, no longer needing the reflection.
Why did she always bring her finger to her mouth when she was excited or pleased? Because that was a part of her, answered his own silent question. All her movements were those of a beautiful small child, one as yet untouched by the evil and cruelty in the world. But she was twenty, he remembered.
These gestures were parts of her, he decided, questioning no further, as if additional doubts would dissipate the dream standing beside him. The finger on the thin unpainted lips; the clean, clear skin, ruddy from soap and water; the long, thin hand in his; the soft faded blueness of her dress, so many years out of style but so perfect for her; and the ever present white ribbon, holding her long brown hair in one soft flowing stream; these were all parts of her. To some she might be old fashioned. To them she would also be plain. But they were those who couldn‘t see beauty, even with the wealth of it in God’sworld around them.
They walked on, neither speaking. He wag accustomed to this now—his limbs no longer ached atthe end of each day—accustomed to the long walks, through near empty parks, along busy streets, beside the sweaty warmth of factories, past the clean freshly washed windows of endless wonders, they could never afford. Yet they were wealthy. Wasn’t love itself the greatest kind of wealth? Didn’t they have more now than they would have had hispockets been filled with a paper richness?
He was accustomed to it now. At one time he hadn’t been. Then, when she had squeezed his hand with a gentle pressure, he hadn’t wanted to stop, for stopping meant looking, and looking meant seeing things which belonged to her but she would never have. She had had imperfections then, but they were small ones.
But that was before he really knew her. She had been so fresh and quiet and mysteriously silent then, like a dream forming into life from the drifting fog, and for a long while he couldn’t believe that she really existed. Was there a woman in this huge enormous world who would look twice at him? A woman who really mattered?
There was. And the months had brought them closer. The mistiness was gone; each of her moods followed a pattern and he could almost recite them by heart. He knew her now, better perhaps than anyone before him had known her. There was no need to repeat to himself the wordshe had said when he first met her, but he did. “I believe God sent you to me.”
She hadn’t laughed, hadn’t even appeared startled. She had just smiled shyly, as if to say ‘You are right, for you have said the words,’ or maybe her smile said, ‘Yes, God sent me to you, and you to me.‘ It was as simple as that. She was there, he was there, and they were together, as it had always been written it would be, “somewhere on a parchment thin long Book of Life.” “A Higher Power had intended it thus.” She had agreed with these wordstoo. In nearly all things they were in agreement now.
They resumed their slow steps, both smiling now, both catching quick glimpses of each other from the corners of their eyes. They waited, then boarded the bus, and their glances continued. The others would never be able to read those glances, for they were smiling over a very personal secret. They stood together, wedged between an ohese man and an obese woman, but they didn’t mind. It just added to their private smile. Things like this, small inconveniences which had once irritated him, didn’t anymore. He knew why too —because he was in love.
Rocking with the motion of the bus he thought back over it all, as he had done so many times. Usually, he knew, when you kept recalling a memory it became shopworn and tired and wasn’t so pretty after all. That wasthe difference being in love made, for thisparticular memory wasalways clear.
He’d stood on one of the many little hills above the beach, watching the breakers fizzle out as they reached the shore. They had been so big moments before, but now they were tired and the sea was pulling them back, claiming its own. They tried so hard to travel up on the land, but they couldn‘t. They had spent all their roaring force. It had died when they needed it most. They were dirty, white breakers, and be didn’t really feel sorry for them, but for himself.
He had been very depressed that afternoon. He walked the whole way back from the beach, thinking it was best to save the carfare. And he was very tired. The waves had tired him, for they were his image. He had tried so hard to succeed but Mr. Jenkins had said, “I’m sorry but younger men, machines, younger men, machines, younger men, machines.“ That had been finalenough. He just wasn’t needed.
And so he had walked to the beach, hoping to recapture the something he had lost there, but it was winter, and the waves had lost that something too. Now he was, in very simple words, broke and out of a job.
He had been tired when he entered the diner, almost too tired to eat. The friendly waitress wasn’t there and he wondered why, but was too tired to ask. He knew it wasn’t her night off.
“Just coffee. I’m not very hungry.”
The cook wasn’t interested in his troubles he knew. The cook for some reason didn’t like him, though he didn’t dislike the cook. Someday he’d ask the waitress why.
And then she had entered, sat down on the stool beside him, smoothing her dress quickly, hastily, as one does after coming into warmth after the rain. But it hadn’t been raining that night. That single strange gesture had drawn him to her, made him aware that she existed.
He drank hiscoffee, waiting for the cook to take her order, just to hear the sound of her voice, but the cook was busy frying eggs for another customer—a Mr. Simpson; he remembered the waitress had called him that once — and couldn’t be bothered.
He finished the coffee, put down the shiny thin dime, and their eyes met.
“Goodnight,” he had said, and she had just smiled. That night he lay on his bed, sleepless, remembering, piecing the day together. Mr. Jenkins and she just didn’t belong in the same day together, he decided. She was so sweet and shy and Mr. Jenkins was bitter and withered, and he couldn’t think of them together. So he tossed the little piece with Mr. Jenkins on it away, and just thought about her. He fell asleep thinking of her and the next morning he wondered if shehad been a dream or if she was really real.
That night lie watched the clock. At seven he found his best shirt and tie, and by eight he was walking slowly up the hill toward Broadway, hoping he had not been mistaken about the time. For some reason he had no doubts she would be there. The thought never occurred to him that she had simply walked into his life and might walk out just as easily.
He sat in a booth, hoping he would have courage enough to ask her to join him. The cook brought the coffee and returned to the kitchen sullenly. His waitress still wasn’t there.
He sipped the hot coffee and waited. And moments later she entered, the same as he had imagined she would. Now he knew she was no dream.
He stood, uncertain, and she smiled, a shy but comforting smile. “Please, join me. I’m alone, and I’d like to talk to you.” She sat, brushing her dress into place. It was the same dress—blue and white checked gingham, starched, closed at the neck, perhaps to keep away the chill. She was the same as he had remembered her. Her small breasts were developing against the stiff fabric, tiny but noticeable. Her hands were long and thin and bony with so little skin over them, but they were young hands, not old and wrinkled like his. And her hair was long and brown, brown like her eyes, which alone made her look her age.
“What’s your name? Mine’s Thad, short for Thaddeus; hideous isn’t it?” And they both smiled now; they had a joke, their first, and they were sharing it. But instead of speaking she reached into her small purse and brought out a gold pencil and a small red leather notebook.
My name is Frances, she wrote, and he was startled. The question hadn’t reached his lips before she continued writing with a fast though beautiful scripL
Yes, Fm mute, but I think it’s so much more fun talking this way.
Don’t you ?
He had grinned, awkwardly at first, afraid to really be happy, although he was. And yet he was sad too, for he knew then he would never hear her voice, as pleasant as he imagined it to be. He reached for the small pad, momentarily caught in the aura that surrounds all the deaf and dumb, the self–experiencing of their inadequacies.
She laughed soundlessly and wrote on.
You don’t need the pad. I do. Now talk. I want to hear your voice.
It has such a nice sound.
The buscame to another stop. They edged toward the exit, knowing the next stop would be theirs.
He had said many things that night, even the words he remembered best, “I believe God sent you to me.” And her eyes weren’t startled, and she hadn’t laughed or written anything because she believed it too.
He moved slowly down onto the bottom step, waiting for the automatic release to work. The door opened. He stepped out first and took her hand. She really didn’t need any help, for she was young and there was a graceful lightness to her beautiful to behold. Some of the passengers stared, and he was proud as the bus pulled away and they walked hand in hand up the hill. Others envied him, and he was proud knowing it. He squeezed her thin hand extra hard with the thought.
The bus stopped, started again, stopped a block later. The obese man spoke to the “obese woman; he’d wanted to for several weeks but hadn’t found the right conversation-starter.
“How can a poor man like that smile ? It makes you wonder at times.”
The woman grinned, almost lewdly he thought.
“Him ?A-a-a-h, the guy’s bats ! Really gone. I wastalking to the bus driver about him the other night; the goof always pays for two fares. Insists on it mind you! And I suppose you noticed he talks to himself, not just mumbling like most old men do, but real conversation, with himself no less. He’s real bats!”
She wasn’t so interesting after all he decided.
“Isthat so? I’d better ring the buzzer. This is my stop coming up.”
The obese man edged his way to the door where Thad had stood minutes before, stepped down onto the automatic release in much the same way and then, when the door opened, down and out into the street. Except the obese man didn’t smile.
(Copyright, © 1955, by Curt Gentry)
THE MAIDEN’S HEART
the maiden’s heart
is like a spring turf
the maidens heart
is like a glass-bell
if wind blown
if thrown away
THE MOON ALONE
the moon alone my pal is
night after night
a silver carpet spreads
upon my groveling path
the moon alone my pal is
night after night
like a proud king stride
upon my shining path
the moon alone my pal is
night after night
dream of a thriving dawning
upon my starveling path
P. P. HYUN
© The Estate of Peter Hyun
THIS & THAT
REFLECT10NS FROM PARIS
Here we are in the depths and gloom of another Paris winter. It gives one time to think. It also makes me think that this issue of the magazine needs an article that is not too academic but nevertheless serious. So let’s be original and have a sort of “Letter From Paris”; after all no other magazine has ever done that. There is also a “Letter From Spain” in this issue, so our readers will be inundated with reporting and unbiased (every reporting is biased) impressions which cannot be found in the huge circulation newspapers and magazines. The big disadvantage we have though, is that by the time this magazine is printed and on sale, the topics discussed might well be past and stale.
It is no point going into all the literary activities over here as I do not know about half of them. Madame Simone de Beauvoir won the Prix Goncourt, but this news will be very old when this article is read. There are many literary prizes over here and one is apt to lose track of them. How much easier to vote for a “Miss Rheingold”, or a “Miss most likely to succeed in snaring a rich husband”, than to wade through pages of written words. Life is much simpler in some countries.
One can talk about M. Mendes-France, as one presumes he will still be Premier of France in two months. Everyone has been talking about M. Mendes-France, and quite rightly too. The most dynamic Frenchman to attain the premiership since the war, and there have not been too few to have achieved that feat. The Premier, as everyone knows climbed into the highest office of the land, after a score of his predecessors had managed to muddle France into a position of dormant sterility, which had no doubt lost for the country the respect of friend and foe. Why, even the Communist deputies voted for M. Mendes. The straw that broke the back of the previous government, (M. Laniel, Premier & M. Bidault, Foreign Minister) was the fall of Bien Den Phu in northern Indo-China. This military disaster was termed by some cynics as the first German defeat since the war, as the Foreign Legion fighting in Indo-China, was composed mainly of ex Wermacht and SS troops, many, refugees from war crime trials. After that defeat, M. Laniel to show the Reds he could not be pushed around cancelled the appearance of the Soviet Ballet in Paris, for reasons of “national mourning”. The previous month the Comedie Francaise (French National Theater) had been wined, feted and applauded in Moscow and Leningrad.
Well anyway it is now history how M. Mendes-France concluded a truce with the Vietminh at Geneva and further enhanced his popularity at home by trying to do something about the grave situation in Tunisia.
Up to this point no one in France dared openly criticize the new premier. He was popular with almost everyone, except the members of the previous government, who kept quiet. Trouble started in August 1954 when the EDCtreaty was rejected by the National Assembly. M. Mendes-France saw clearly enough that this pact was unpopular both in Parliament and the country. He made no effort to save EDC but brought it rapidly to a vote, where it wasrejected, and where he knew it would be. His predecessors incidentally also knew this and had always managed to put off its debate and censure.
For a little while all this gave hope to the enemies of any sort of German re-armament, which by the way included not only the Communists, but deputies from every other political party, except the MRP. (M. Bidault’s Mouvement Republicain Populaire, which is Catholic) It is rather odd that the only predominantly religious party in France should be entirely for returning weapons to a nation so free in their use of them. However and alas, it now looks as if we will have a new German army. The Paris agreements (on West Germany re-armament) have been put to vote and squeaked through. Over 70 deputies abstained, and this vital matter was actually passed by only 45% of the house. Thistime the MRP abstained or voted against the bill, not because they were suddenly against German re-armament, but because they disliked the premier so much that they would not vote for a thing he had created. Of course they would have voted “pro‘” had the vote been in doubt. It is indeed a sad state of affairs when French deputies treat such an important matter as a political wangle. M. Mendes-France, after the rejection of EDC, surprised and disappointed many, by cooking up and sugar–coating a new way to re–arm Bonn with the other western powers. It was felt that another big power conference should have been held with the Russians before that fatal step was taken, rather than afterwards. There seems to be little left to discuss now with the USSR, both sides will merely re–arm their allies to the teeth.
Of course there is in this country a large section of the population violently against giving even pop guns to the Germans. This section though is led by the Communist party, and there is a tendency to damn anything they are for or against just because of that reason whether the reason be right or wrong. This is very negative, but that is the way things, are. The reasons against rearming Germany are much better than those for. The West does not need half a million German soldiers. Everyone knows that if the Soviets advance a step westwards in Europe that American bombers willbe dropping bombs on Moscow within a matter of hours and a general nuclear war would be unleashed. No one wants that. A new German army can only encourage German nationalism, can only encourage the Germans to demand the return of “lost” territories. After all the Germans do deserve to lose something after the last war, they started it and finally lost it, so why not give what they lost to the nations who suffered most from her aggression, (e.g. Poland) Russia has not attacked Western Europe and there was no German army to prevent her, but there is the slight chance that Russia in desperation might physically try to prevent the creation of a new Wermacht. It seems easy to forget that the Germans almost reached the Caspian sea in 1943, were at the gates of Moscow, were in Stalingrad, and were occupying, looting and ravaging all of Poland and a large hunk of Soviet territory. Any inhabitant of an occupied country can testify to the brutality of the Germans. We have all heard of Belsen, Dachau and Auschwitz, we have heard of Lidice and Oradour. Can one forget and forgive in ten years? Will the Germans really change? It’s too much of a chance to take. One is often reading in the press about the resurgence of Nazism in Germany. Look how von Neurath was feted and hailed when he was released from prison. One hears of Jews being insulted and beaten up and asked how they managed to escape cremation under Hitler, and that next time they would not be so lucky. Re-armament is too dangerous a toy to play with. Fortunately one also hears of a reluctance by many Germans to re-enlist, and that most of the prospective volunteers are ex-officers and NCOs and not ex–privates. It appears “obvious that an army has to have more privates than officers, barring the U.S. Air Force.
There are some cynics who claim that Germany must be re–armed for economic reasons. In spite of big unemployment across the Rhine, Germany is outproducing its European neighbours. A bit of the money and energy going into all that will naturally put a brake on some of the production of cheap consumer goods and take care of many of the unemployed. It is significant that in spite of all this German prosperity we hear so much about, that the standard of the German worker is still lower than his French counterpart, and no one here will claim that the French worker
is well off or that business is booming. The mere fact that the German worker“ is willing to work so hard and so well for so little remuneration is in itself terrifying. So docile a class can be led into any mad venture, asAdolph Hitler proved.
The English vote in the House of Commons on German re-armament was regarded with mixed feelings over here, ranging from glee to disappointment, depending on how one felt. As the British Labour Party could not agree within itself on whether to vote for or against German re-armament, it simply abstained. It somehow reminded the French of their own Socialist Party, which always manages to never commit itself on matters of importance until they can see where it will do them the most good, or least harm. For a party with such a small following, the French Socialists garner a surprisingly large vote, and even though in the last election they had just about half as many votes as the Communists, which is the largest party in France, they have more deputies in the National Assembly.
The recent announcement by the Chinese that they have sentenced 13 American “spies” to various terms of imprisonment raised eyebrows here on all but the most doggedly left. Everyone knows that everyone spies on everyone else, but the Americans certainly would not choose uniformed white airmen for the job. It is all very irritating and stupid as no one knew that the Chinese had the airmen anyway and the action was rather a spoke in the wheels of co-existence. The feeling here is that the Chinese would have been smarter to keep their mouths shut. Of course the American refusal to recognise China is considered idiotic over here. Recognition does not imply approval. The present Chinese government came to power through a bloody civil war, which they could not have won without major popular support. It was not foreign aid that won the civil war, as Chiang certainly did not lack American equipment and advisors. China and its government exist. Spain under Franco exists; he is recognised, even lionized, but one can’t say his regime came to power through popular clamour. America recognises many countries it does not approve of, so why not the biggest. To logical Frenchmen it seems ridiculous to call Formosa “China”, and permit that American protected island to have a seat on the Security Council of U.N. Formosa would not be Chiang’s if the U.S. Sect were not there. The only solution is to recognise China, admit her to the U.N., and if to be generous allow Formosa to be also, in U.N. as another country.
In France we are used to being treated as squabbling spoilt brats by various American senators and “fact finding missions”. We are pictured as decadent, indolent, shiftless and godless. The only thing I like is the latter. Yet we are not prone to listen to such lunatic cranks as McCarthy and Knowland. They could not be taken seriously here. Knowland’s plans for settling the situation in Asia give everyone the creeps. President Eisenhower’s answers to his senate leader, and his avowal not to do anything rash have been widely appreciated in France; even by the left. It has been a long time since an American president’s statements have been universally popular. The general feeling is that the last great American died with FDR. The recent American congressional elections have left most newspaper readers quite bewildered. Apparently some Democrats are “left of center”, some are reactionary and some Republicans are “left” or “right”. Some Democrats are for the President who is ostensibly Republican, while some Republicans are against him. As far as one can make out the only sure thing is that all the politicians are for God and home, Mom, apple pie and free enterprise and no government interference in business, unless the business is doing badly. As far as I’m concerned there is no more difference between Democrats and Republicans than there is between, French Radical Socialist (who are neither radical nor socialist) and French Radical Socialists.
One reads in the American press that is available in Paris, particularly Newsweek and the financial section of the New York Herald Tribune that Europe is booming. It appears that buildings, even in France, are going up everywhere. In a way this is true, but no other facts are given. In France at least, employment is high, that is there are relatively few unemployed, but then salaries are meagre, and profits are very high for certain big companies. There are lots of new apartments going up all over Paris, but the rents asked are the equivalent to a whole month’s average salary. or the purchase price of a flat is the total of several years work. The shops are bulging with goods because most articles are too expensive to buy. The government has never been successful in taxing incomes, especially non-salaried ones. Therefore the government taxes every conceivable commodity one is required to buy. Gasoline for example is taxed 300%, and that goes for other “luxuries’‘, such as tobacco, coffee and liquor. One does see more money spent and more people taking holidays in expensive resorts. But the class of people who go to these costly places always had money, but instead of saving it in the good old approved French way, these moneyed classes are spending as the Franc is so unstable. There are still individuals who sleep in the metro stations at night during the cold spells, who cannot afford the beautiful new modern apartments. Still France is better off than Italy, Spain or Greece.
Time magazine recently came out with its “Man of the Year”. According to that publication this award is given to the person who did the most during the year, whether for good or bad, to influence and change the course of world events. Mr. Foster Dulles was chosen. The U.S. Secretary of State perhaps did contribute the most last year to keep the clock of history and progress still. For better or for worse the man who did influence current events the most in 1954 was M. Pierre Mendes-France. Time magazine though is at least consistent with itself in backing reaction and lauding the past. In 1950 Timechose Churchill as “Man of the Half Century”, when to any unbiased follower of history the award should have gone to Lenin. Even the staff of the European Edition of the New York Herald Tribune, announced as much. Remember the award is given to the person who affected the course of history the most, and may not necessarily be the man one agrees with or admires the most.
Looking at the future from now (January 1955) one wonders what will happen. In France troubles loom. The Premier’s position in parliament is becoming more precarious; however should he fall one can’t see where his replacement will come from. The betting here is that M. Mendes-France will be deposed in Spring, but will return more powerful than ever to clean up the mess his antagonists (the old gang) will have created. France faces grave problems in North Africa. Something has to be done there. Right now there appears to be a brutal repression of all forms of Arab nationalism which can’t forever be stifled. Also the economic situation must be revised. Salaries so long dormant, or minutely raised must be increased. Many little businesses will have to be ruthlessly wiped out. There are in Paris on the average three cafes and three baker & grocer shops to every little street. There are too many little enterprises that are hardly solvent. There are too many middle men taking their rake-offs. Big co-operative shops will have to be created to enable most of the middle men to be sent packing, improve efficiency in marketing, distributing and selling and thus lower prices for the consumer. It will take time, be very difficult and make the man who does it unpopular for a while. It is the only solution unless all salaries are doubled or tripled, and only the salaried people want that.
In spite of it all it will soon be spring. In Paris spring is special. The cafes sprout their outdoor tables. The men shed their overcoats and scarves and the women look more beautiful. No corny song about “Paris in April” or “Paris in Spring” is untrue or exaggerated. No other city seems to be as affected by the seasons. In Paris things never look quite so miserable or hopeless when the trees begin to blossom and the girls skirts whirl around the innumerable bicycles & motor scooters. Even this city with its violent mass of traffic can‘t be hushed and controlled in spite of all the new one way streets and the impossible but rigidly enforced edict against hooting and honking. The Parisians said that the Prefect of Police could never stop the automobile horns, but he did in two weeks flat. Now it seems they are going to stifle the exhausts of all the two wheeled put-puts roving around in and out of the traffic. They will succeed too; so nothing in Paris is impossible and there is hope.
And as I said before, it will soon be spring and then nothing is hopeless, just impossible.
[As feared by actual publication date, some of the article is obsolete, yet the opinions arguements have not changed.]
© The Estate of Sindbad Vail
Obituary: George Sims
THE INDEPENDENT, London
TUESDAY 09 NOVEMBER 1999
THE SON of a successful shoe importer and wholesaler, the bookseller and writer George Sims was proud of his grandfather’s more plebeian role as a policeman on the beat in a tough London district. Born in Hammersmith in 1923, and educated at the John Lyons School in Harrow, Sims was in his last year there when he met Beryl Simcock, the girl he married in 1943 and who later worked with him in his bookselling business. After a brief apprenticeship in Fleet Street, part of it with Reuter’s, he was called up and served in the Intelligence Corps for the latter part of the Second World War. Even 50 years after, he scrupulously observed the provisions of the Official Secrets Act and revealed scarcely a thing about what he did at Bletchley Park, though it was known that he was liasing with a Phantom Signals unit which was behind enemy lines.
On demobilisation he wanted to be a bookseller, not a journalist, and went to work at Len Westwood’s bookshop in Harrow before starting a business on his own account from a room in his father’s house nearby, whence – as G.F. Sims – he issued the first of his always readable and highly informative catalogues. Then as later they were devoted to first editions, letters and manuscripts by writers of the last hundred years, especially some of the more recondite authors about whom and about whose books he could weave stories that sold the items under review. In 1952 he moved to Peacocks, a 1603 black-and-white cottage on the outskirts of the village of Hurst, between Wokingham and Twyford, which was to remain his home until he died.
Although Sims had many friends, especially among writers and his fellow booksellers, he was essentially a private and reclusive man. He had an offbeat sense of humour and could be a devastating mimic of mutual acquaintances. He did not suffer fools gladly: indeed it has been said of him that he refused to suffer them at all. One American dealer, constantly rebuffed whenever he tried to arrange to pay a second visit to Peacocks, once asked in exasperation, “How many times a year can Sims be having his bookroom painted?”
Sims put the well-being of his family first, second and third, and if this occasionally caused him to cut corners that was too bad. For example, for many years he kept a manuscript album in which visitors were asked – even pressed – to record their likes and dislikes. Then in 1981, without asking permission or giving a thought to questions of copyright, he produced Likes & Dislikes, a small edition of selections from it. Contributors who thought they were making private statements suddenly found their prejudices trumpeted abroad. Not all were best pleased.
As a writer Sims published several collections of poems and a dozen novels, the sales of the latter arguably suffering because the books were not easy to categorise. It was simple to dismiss them as thrillers, but they actually offered much more. Some won high praise from such excellent judges as H.R.F. Keating, Maurice Richardson, Roy Fuller (a friend) and even Evelyn Waugh. Common to a number of them were heroes, plots and backgrounds based on the world of rare books. Indeed his first novel, The Terrible Door (1964), was virtually a roman-a-clef, various characters being based on adaptations or amalgams of well-known book-trade figures of the day.
Sims researched his geographical backgrounds meticulously and his travels, whether for business or for pleasure, were carefully recycled in his novels, trips to Majorca, Grenada and California, as well as expeditions to less glamorous places such as waste processing plants, all serving their purpose in his fiction. When hearing of his next holiday destination his friends used to nudge one another and lay bets on the setting of the next novel.
He could convey scenes of menace very effectively. When one of his heroes was trapped in a blind alley by a bruiser representing the book’s Mr Big, the heavy pulls on an old glove and says in a low, gravelly voice, “I’m going to hurt you, sonny.”
Sims could write with a lighter touch too, a particularly funny piece being an exercise in wishful thinking about a typical day in an antiquarian bookseller’s life as the bookseller might like it to be. He brushes off approaches from glamorous movie stars wanting him to build book collections for them regardless of expense, and then buys and sells two or three legendary rarities, all before going to lunch. Again, in “A Collector’s Piece” (published in No 16 of The Saturday Book), the ultimate naive collector begins his boastful account of his assemblage of unrecognised forgeries and fabrications with the words, “I bought my first Shakespeare letter on July 1st 1954.”
Also successful were Sims’s four volumes of memoirs, beginning with The Rare Book Game (1985) and ending with A Life in Catalogues (1994; Sims was primarily a mail-order bookseller). The series was based on a lifetime spent hunting for rare books and manuscripts in out-of-the-way places. It chronicles his good fortune in stumbling on manuscripts by such writers as A.C. Benson and F.W. Rolfe (self-styled Baron Corvo); his dealings with various members of the Powys family and their circle; his visits to Richard Aldington in Montpellier, and to Eric Gill’s widow and daughters.
His work and his enjoyment were closely bound up. Thus he loved taking long walks over the Dorset cliffs near the cottage of Alyse Gregory, surviving partner of Llewellyn Powys. Julian Symons became a friend after Sims bought from him papers of his brother, A.J.A. Symons. To a large degree the kinds of books he traded in were the kinds of books he read and reread for pleasure. He was interested in the lyrics of popular songs and would sometimes argue that Lorenz Hart was the folk poet of the 20th century. He was a serious student of the cinema and once planned a book about William Holden.
On his first visit to Dublin, James Walsh, of the booksellers Falkner, Grierson, asked him if he had been to Trinity College to see the Chester Beatty manuscripts. Apparently finding Walsh’s well-meant advice patronising, Sims pretended to be a Philistine: “I didn’t know they were for sale,” he quipped.
George Frederick Sims, antiquarian bookseller and writer: born London 3 August 1923; married 1943 Beryl Simcock (two sons, one daughter); died Reading 4 November 1999.
THE TAOS NEWS
Judson Crews, Taos poet, dies at 92
Photo by Mark Weber
Posted: Saturday, May 22, 2010 12:00 am
By Chandra Johnson
Taos poet Judson Crews wore blue jeans and, like much of his life, it set him apart from everyone else.
“He wore them before anyone else did. And denim jackets, too,” daughter Carole Crews said of her father, who died Monday (May 17) at age 92. “He was very different from most people. Very ahead of his time. I remember seeing his college photograph. He had a beard and underneath it said, ‘One in a million.’ ”
Born in Waco, Texas, in 1917, Crews found his way to Taos in 1947, after living in Big Sur, Calif., near his friend and “Tropic of Capricorn” author Henry Miller. In Taos he met and married photographer Mildred Tolbert. The two settled in a large hacienda on Valerio Road that cost $2,000 “in those days,” Carole Crews said.
The two enjoyed a 1950s bohemian lifestyle of perfecting their crafts, being parents and partying with their fellow artists.
“It was amazing and fun to be around so many artists and writers,” Carole Crews said of her childhood.
But it wasn’t all play — Tolbert, who was a prolific photographer, worked diligently, while Crews worked for 18 years as a printer for El Crepúsculo — the newspaper forerunner of The Taos News — scribbling at night and on weekends.
“He could write 20 poems in an afternoon,” Crews said of her father’s output.
Crews’ writing was so natural that when he and Tolbert divorced after 25 years of marriage, Crews took a trip to Africa and did what he did best — he wrote about it.
“He wrote reams and reams and quit about halfway through. He just couldn’t come to terms with his marriage,” Carole Crews said.
In the 1970s and ’80s, Crews began honing the writing underground with what he called “the littles” — small, intense, self published poetry books and magazines he famously illustrated with black and white photographs of nude women.
One of his most famous magazine endeavors was known as “The Naked Ear,” Carole Crews said. Some of these magazines published some famous American authors like Charles Bukowski.
“I think he loved poetry because of the rhythm. He loved to make up words,” Carole Crews said. “Drumble was one. I don’t know what it means.”
“The littles” made Judson Crews something of a cult legend with local Poets, including writer Mark Weber, who wrote a blog article about his friendship with Crews in Albuquerque when they met in 1991.
“We were drinking buddies,” Weber wrote of Crews. “Back then the little poetry magazines were on fire. They didn’t have huge print runs and circulation was spotty, but somehow we all read them. Judson had been a mainstay of the littles for decades.”
Fairleigh Dickinson University Prof. Paula Mayhew wrote on Weber’s blog about Crews’ pioneering practice of dumpster-diving one afternoon in the early 1990s.
“We sat down to drink some serious vodka. What impressed me was his declaration that he was a ‘dumpster diver.’ He regaled us with dumpsterdiving stories throughout the afternoon,” Mayhew wrote. “It was fabulous. Whenever I see a dumpster, I think fondly of Judson.”
Carole Crews said a fence was installed to indulge her father’s other luxury: Nudity.
“He was sort of a nudist. He loved sunbathing like that,” Crews said. “We had stockades around the house so he could lie in the sun in the nude.”
Crews’ final resting place, his daughter said, would be a sun-soaked plot in the Tres Orejas Cemetery. The family burial took place at sundown Monday evening.
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