This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
Maurice Dolbier introduces attorney and author Louis Auchincloss, who discusses his the publication of his recent book of short stories, "Tales of Manhattan." Auchincloss discusses some of his works, including a fictionalized story about his uncle, who was briefly the director of the Metropolitan Opera and introduced German opera to New York. He describes the book as a blend of fact and fiction.
Next, Dolbier introduces William Atwood, former ambassador to Guinea, and author of "The Reds and the Blacks." He describes "trying to tell the truth about something most people know little about." He notes that many people's conceptions are very inaccurate. He states that he found less racial tension in Kenya than he found in the United States.
Finally, Dolbier welcomes Leo Rosten to speak. A humorist and author of "The Joys of Yiddish." He jokingly describes his book idea, which is the plot of "Pygmalion" by George Bernard Shaw. He make many other jokes about current authors and books of the day, noting that the best way to become a successful author is to write a best seller.
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 71372
Municipal archives id: T1883
This is a machine-generated transcript. Text is unformatted and may contain errors.
I've been watching Mr Hocking class from time to time during this lunch and he's not seemed to be using the time between courses to work at the writing of a novel or a short story. Now in the last twenty years Mr Hawkins tosses written sixteen books. This does not of course approach the productivity of a seaman on a narrow stand they got nothing. But it matches and even better the average output of a full time professional writer on the basis of his published work both in quantity and quality must often classes surely entitled to be called a full time professional writer. But during most of this period he has also been a full time practicing lawyer and his responsibilities in this field have been increasing as a partner in a busy and important Manhattan law firm. Very well it's hard to believe and you may have to bring Einstein into this somewhere. But let's say that Mr talking class has two full times this is not all he has time to devote to his family he has time to lead a highly active social life he has time to devote to such to the endeavors as the presidency of the Museum of the city of New York all this in a city where as everyone knows there is never enough time another remarkable tale of Manhattan ladies and gentlemen Mr Levy articles thank. You Morris. Publishes always discouraged at the prospect of having to sell a volume of short stories although people read these in large quantities in magazines there is an evident reluctance to consume them between hard or even paper covers I am sure that the reason for this is that readers find it tiring to keep changing gear as they read a book but. I. Know I find it so myself. And it takes an effort after all to transport oneself from a rain soaked island in the tropics to a politician's smoke filled room or from the discotheque in Greenwich Village to the College of Cardinals but once the book of short stories has a common denominator The provides a bridge from piece to piece it can become as popular as a novel as witness to some years back by the great sale of a book called Mr Roberts for my new book The Manhattan I borrowed this idea but with a difference the thirteen stories have a common denominator of Manhattan Island but that is obviously too big a common denominator to be very helpful they break down into three more maintainable groups five told by a narrative of who works in an auction gallery foretold by partners of a law firm what trying to write a history of their firm and for others about New York make friends who Mr Webster shocked us called my cups of high society. In the first group which is the major part of the book I selected the theme of the auction gallery because it seemed to me to be the symbol of Manhattan's artistic preeminence John candidates recently confirmed my impression in a column where when he says that New York is not really the capital of art museums nor even the capital of artists but the capital of dealers and distressing is this evaluation maybe just sound like bad news it could be grist to the novelists mill. I have always been fascinated by the East the drama inherent in the story of the change of ownership of a work of art in its proven OS in its shift from collector to collector with all the complications of the different motives and that would inspire the need to acquire and possess and even handle beautiful things it is I suppose a peculiarly and a dangerously one thousand century theme for short stories Edith Wharton James Hoffa on and most of the French novelists of the last century love to write perfect little lacquered tales on this theme and indeed my reviewer in last Sunday's Times properly accused me in these stories of lack of passion. Indeed So had there been any passion in these stories I would have taken it out. What on earth would it have been doing there is the no place left in life for the Gothic tale. Welcome Madison Avenue on any Saturday and see the past being purchased in huge quantities by crowds it may not seem up but it inescapable eight is why after all do these people buy. The second part of the book the stories the deal with a lot are rather different proposition they are grave are in the sense of being true or seemingly more true to life I had long projected a book possibly a novel I thought that was to be modeled our take the form of one of those many volume and privately printed histories of law firms that the big firms downtown love from time to time to get out usually written by retired partners so once I made my homework to where labor Froome all of these available works in a very tedious job it was for they all stand for that curiously insistent belief that printed praise can assure some small degree of immortality of course what it guarantees is total oblivion. Well I decide to be too great a stretch of the reader's imagination. To posit a novel in the form of one of these histories entertainingly written or even amusing so what I had to do was to discover a big idea and put these stories in the form of the notes for firm history that my thick tional partners had meant to write but then it decided not to write and this became an exercise in writing first person fiction now many modern reviewers are against this some of them seem to believe that they have stated that if they are simply stated that a book is in the first person form they have stated one strike against it. Great reliance is placed on the fact that Henry James The God of modern fiction argued against its use although he himself in his early years often use the device and with great success that it was a favor device of the great novelists of the last century. Is too obvious to be mentioned you have only to think of David Copperfield of Jane Eyre of Henry Esmond infinite numbers more but it is objected that the device is artificial and that it cramps the author in what he can tell that the devices is artificial is obvious but then what device is not some writers go to Great Plains to pains to explain why there their narrative there are person happens to be telling his own tale they say that he is writing in his autobiography or some kind of report or history or answering some sort of judicial inquiry but I hardly think of this to be necessary that I have somebody tell his own tale in the first person seems to me the most seemingly natural of all ways to tell a story and once the personality of the narrative has been firmly established I see no reason for limiting the style to just the words or style that such a narrative might have used I believe that most readers having embraced the personality who is speaking will accept even highly artificial methods of speech the objection that it limits the author to the narrative point of view which is not really an objection but a hurdle for the offer to get over and with the enormously increased psychological awareness of the times we live in it is possible for a narrative to have many more accurate speculations about his own virtues and his own defects than has been true in the past. So one of my now it is in these legal stories is able to discuss perfectly lucidly his own psychological obsession amounting to a kind of love affair with his own fern people today know themselves to their own sorrow more than they used to. But coming to the last part of my book the part of my matrons or carbs I inserted in this category my first published player. I have the precedent of including a one act play in a book of short stories in no less a pre-disaster the neatest Wharton who did so in a first published volume some years ago I had a period of play writing and I wrote four full length plays none of which was ever produced here and there a bit of interest was shown in them but when it came to the real task of raising money for production everything fell to pieces I then decided that I had to get hold of myself that asked by itself a few basic questions was Iran ping around in this new medium because it was a natural way for me to express myself or had I simply been spit and by the vulgar desire to be a produced playwright to see my name in lights I decided that the latter was the true outside and I resolved to return to my fiction like the great James in the eight hundred ninety S. for you so splendid a comparison but without Thank heavens the public humiliation that he had to endure after the disastrous performance of guy don't build when he was here just ten years went happily by during which I didn't write a word of theater and then one day when I was reading one of the published monologues of Ruth Drake by one of his great admirers I had been and hearing that remarkable voice again in my memory I had a sudden desire to write a monologue it would be on a roof drapery subject. The problem of a woman who had grown up middle aging children but no deal of her grandchildren discussed with her friend and to provide photographs for her Christmas cards as I started the monologue a form in which I had never embarked I suddenly asked myself if this was not the most private of private communications Nobody produces monologues anymore so there was no likelihood of a production and nobody publishes monologues Ruth great post being only of value to those who remember exactly her tone and facial expressions so there was no conceivable outlet for it did I like the idea that I was doing it for myself alone and I decided I did not so I dropped it until but it kept coming back to me and I finally married it to one idea that I'd had ever since my Yale days in the late one nine hundred thirty S. when I'd been three to three nights in succession to watch mazuma play Mrs Alving in ghosts and there was once a scene in of the in the first scene of the first act of goes through a scenes famous scene where Mrs Alving tells the pastor of. The true nature of her marriage and the true personality of her deceased husband. There is no action in the scene and there was no drama in the ordinary sense of the word because of the pastor was not motivated to do anything by listening to this tale it is mostly simply the communication of a woman who has never communicated this fact to somebody else that I thought was some of the get made at the most dramatic moment that I've ever experienced since before or since in the theater. So I decided to do the play of my woman talking opening it talking to another woman and then when I wrote it I wrote the one act play in a few hours with no revisions a tore it seemed to come out all at once as if my small dramatic facility had been thinking what to do every month in the intervening decade it was published by Esquire and taken by Channel thirteen for production on the same day that Esquire appeared on the stands it was later done down in the village by Edward our bass player writes incorporated and I found the sensation of hearing my own language absolutely intoxicating. I went to every reformers and I learned what Google once told me that if you want to enjoy a play it was right one of. The Wagnerians the last story in the book represents a direct translation of fact into fiction I was once asked to do a piece for opera new although I protested that I knew nothing at all about opera but I was indebted to the operatives people for something and I said I would try and the only thing I could think of that I knew about opera was the story of a great uncle of mine who had been briefly but not very successfully director of the Metropolitan Opera in the early eight hundred ninety S. up and it was promptly and kindly furnished me with all the information that existed on the subject of this gentleman and I tried to shape it into the article but it would not come it simply was not interesting enough my great uncle introduced German opera before New York had been ready for it you have spent too much money on it and the brief period of his directorship was considered something of a disaster I thought I could make out a theory behind these facts but it was nothing but speculation and I had no business speculating with opera history in print while I was struggling this my mother niece of the director in question suggested why must you do it is a nonfiction piece that isn't your field anyway. And released from the encore to facts which being a lawyer was more and to me that it is to some of us I was able to escape into my own past and speculate on a fictional character who without any musical background fell in love with Wagner's music and was burned up like Brunnhilde in his premature flames. And so take it was a Manhattan like most fiction is a blend of fact and fantasy to reflect my own vision of the New York I like to view the jacket which was designed by my wife expresses the conception of the book around an almost eerie a tight glimpse of the island's cold blue tower as is the warmth of a Tiffany glass setting old fashioned largely gone but lingering in every store and under every auctioneers gavel Thank you. The decision is made in several instances by recent administrations to name journalists to ambassadorial posts have had favorable consequences when these men go abroad they made good in that it was when they come back they write good books. That was true John but not Martin who was a speaker of the early luncheons of the season and it is true of our second speaker this afternoon William Outwood who is now editor in chief of Kohl's communications incorporated including a close look magazine was a Stevenson Democrat who was selected by President Kennedy to be ambassador in Guinea and later served President Johnson as embassador to Kenya I used to call it Kenya like everybody else until I read his book. These were highly important jobs in two of new Africa's most important and most volatile new nations both of which the Chinese and Russians were seeking to win over their respective brands of communism. That they failed was due in some measure to their own grievous errors both in actions and attitudes but also to American policies of aid and friendship and to the candle and conscientiousness with which Mr Atwood perform his duties as a better dog and Mrs Atwood hers as an ambassador as wife I am honored to present to you the distinguished author of the Reds and the blacks the ambassador whose African friends when he was about to take off from Nairobi airport waved at him a sign reading Yankee don't go home Mr William outward. Thank you. Mr. Stephen Stevenson used to say the flatteries all right if you don't inhale and I'm not inhaling a day I'm barely breathing full of Dristan and buffer and I also have a bad knee humiliatingly caused by swinging a paddle tennis racket I think my own leg with it by if I sink below the podium you'll know what the reason the weight on the wrong leg. Unfortunately unfortunately for me very fortunately I'm going to talk about another book I've been talking about the Manchester book all winter and you may would you may