Advertisement

Letters & Essays: 1960s

Letters & Essays of the Day

Letter from Lafayette Square

By Lawrence Jackson

One Sunday in February my mom telephones at eight in the morning to remind me that the bishop of Maryland is coming to Saint James at Lafayette Square, the African American Episcopal church where I was baptized and confirmed. There will be a single service at nine thirty. I debate the shower and then don the uniform that hangs on the back of the chair: pants and a sweater with a shirt inside it. My boy Nathaniel rises easily, despite having even less reason to be keen than I had at his age. In my high school class there were a dozen regulars; younger children were taught in the basement of the church, and the upper grades were instructed in a row house on Lafayette Avenue, on the border of Sandtown. Today, he is often the lone Sunday school student in his grade. Most of the time, he sits by my side for the service.

My younger son, Mitchell, remained with his mother in Georgia when I returned to Baltimore with Nathaniel after our divorce. Our new life is in a stone cottage in Homeland, one of the city’s prestige neighborhoods, which was carved out of the estate of a slaveholding family named Perine in 1922 by the Roland Park Company. Homeland’s quarter-acre lots and neo-Georgian houses were near the top of the market even before the company fortified the neighborhood with racially exclusive covenants. My son, studying at the Jesuit high school I attended thirty-five years ago at the dawn of racial integration for my family, lives near white classmates he has known since middle school, and is connected to extracurricular life in a way that I had half desired but had not imagined possible for myself. He casually accompanies young women who are not African American to weekend events, which often require being chauffeured from a pre-party to a dance, and even to an after-party in a hotel ballroom with a DJ and games involving glow sticks. And where in my experience tobacco, beer, and wine were always in a trunk or a pack, his cohort seems in loose confederation with every “mothers against” group.

Two Portraits: Gustave Lerouge and Arthur Cravan

By Blaise Cendrars

Gustave Lerouge, who died several years ago on the eve of the Second World War, was the author of 312 works (in any case, that is the number of his works in my library), many of which were in several volumes and one, Le Mysterieux Docteur Cornelius, was a 150-page masterpiece of scientific detective fiction in 56 installments; others were not even signed since Gustave Lerouge often worked for publishers of the seventeenth order. 

Letters to Ezra Pound

By E. E. Cummings

When through who the unotherish twilight up drops but his nib licks Sir Oral Ne Ferdinand Joegesq’ (disarmed to the nonteeth by lose able scripture befisto-zr-P—nd subjesting etsemina our light written) and him as mightily distant from a fit of the in cheerful as am our hero but naturally encore when the ittorian extroverts Well why not send your portrait of you and your portrait of me? J, says sprouts, it ch’ll bepigged, if only in the name of Adver the Tisement;but will they immaculate it on t’other conception(meaning Brussels) which being respond fully pre answered we thus forth are proseeding.

Swinging The Paradise Street Blues: Malcolm Lowry in England

By Conrad Knickerbocker

On the night of June 26, 1957, Malcolm Lowry pitched forward and died, and his body lay on the floor all night amid a gin bottle’s broken splinters. His big novel, Under the Volcano, had been published ten years before, and somebody called him a genius then, but after the inquest “death by misadventure" only eight people attended his country church funeral. The Brighton Argus ran a few paragraphs under the headline, ’’She Broke Gin Bottle.” The Times did not cover it.

Manolo Secca

By Blaise Cendrars

I am surprised that no novelist of today has yet devoted a work to the automobile, to the modern highway, to road side inns, to gallant adventures of the road such as Casanova celebrated in his Memories, which were full of post-chaises and hostelries familiar to travelers at the end of the Eighteenth century; or as George Borrow in The Bible in Spain wrote of adventures and encounters along the road in Spain at the beginning of the Twentieth century (a little in the manner ofL’Intineraire Espagnol of t’Sterstevens, except that Borrow hadn’t gone to Spain to write a book—that would never have occurred to him—but to distribute the book of books, the Bible, in Spain, and particularly to distribute it—queer idea!—to the gypsies). 

An Anecdoted Topography of Chance

By Daniel Spoerri

In my (Tr. Note l.) room. No. 13 on the fifth floor of the Hotel Carcassonne at 24 Rue Mouffetard, to the right of the entrance door, between the stove and the sink, stands a table that VERA painted blue one day to surprise me. I have set out here to sec what the objects on a section of this table (which I could have made into a snare-picture) (see Appendix II) might suggest to me, what they might spontaneously awaken in me in describing them: the way SHERLOCK HOLMES, starting out with a single object, could solve a crime; (see Appendix III) or historians, after centuries, were able to reconstitute a whole epoch from the most famous fixation in history, Pompeii.