This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
Irita van Doren introduces Maurice Dolbier, who introduces Mark van Doren, Irita's brother-in-law. Van Doren talks about his book "Don Quixote's Profession."
Dolbier introduces Fadiman, who does a mathematical magic trick and talks about his book "Fantasia Mathematica."
Dolbier introduces Snow, who talks about "The Conscience of the Rich," part of the "Strangers and Brothers" series.
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 71278
Municipal archives id: LT7961
This is a machine-generated transcript. Text is unformatted and may contain errors.
We have had these luncheons over the years this is the twenty first year you know we have had over these on the ice beaches and these luncheons generals and naturalists and college presidents diplomats and statesman mountain climbers nuclear scientists biographers dramatists and of course poets and novelists But this is the first time so far as I can remember when we have had a luncheon at which three speakers belong distinctly to the literary world the. Poet critic novelist and it has occurred to me since we have been here today that incidentally that all three of their wildest songs the literary world so this is a particularly literary luncheon and I should like to introduce to you now to carry on this not Tennyson after ceremony is another literary man he is a grammar test is a storyteller he is a book critic of The Herald Tribune Maurice don't feel. Like I'm a stranger. I also carry more things in my pocket than any man in New York. This is and then is remarked upon one unusual feature of today's luncheon programme it's I'm broken literary line. After the selection of the speakers certain other discoveries were made Mr Van Doren Of course teaches English at Columbia where he received his mam Ph D. Mr Perelman is a graduate of Columbia where he received his being and he began his career as a teacher of English Columbia as one of the many American universities where just last night was been lecturing. He was a fellow and a tutor at Cambridge which Mr Bandar and some trials also attended Mr Van Doren was for a period literary editor of The Nation with development was for a period literary editor of The New Yorker. Giles was the editor of the magazine discovering and as an influential book critic for The Sunday Times of London there are other interconnections that will be noted as we proceed. In one hundred thirty nine Mr Van Doren wrote a work on the plays and poems of Shakespeare Mr Vandeman praised it as a wise and distinguished book in its introduction the author described Shakespeare in words that students and readers might well turn about and apply to Mr Bandar himself a man in whom the balance is well nigh perfect between understanding and observation. Between intellect and instinct between vision. And sight this is the balance the Mr Van Doren keeps in his fiction in his poetry a collection of which won the Pulitzer Prize in one hundred forty and in his criticism as a critic he is devoted neither to the narrow word by word analysis of text No they Nero's is by neurosis psychoanalysis of the all his criticism is of great appreciate or a lot of the criticism that is so necessary as generation succeeds generation if the classic works of the past are not to remain gathering dust on the shelves with freshness and clarity he reports on the continuing revelations of the world's great literature and by Him We are encouraged and enabled to share in those revelations too. In his latest book which we will discuss today he tells of Dunn picks up a novel that he says he almost feared to discuss formally because he loves it so much. I present the president the American Academy of Arts and Letters to mark run during. Developing And ladies and gentlemen I'm very happy to have the opportunity to come today and speak for a few minutes about my favorite moment or if not my favorite both about one of my favorite books and they're not too many of them. This book. I have talked about for many years as a teacher and as a friend talking to other friends about it is one of the most famous books in the world I'm happy that both my sister in law and chairman. Of its heroes is English name which is down quick so. I'm always a little unhappy when I discover in our day that a great many people are trying to say his name as if he were Espanol. He was of course the Spaniard and his author is the most celebrated of all Spanish writers but for three hundred years that has been a possession with English speaking people at it has been a possession of French speaking people German Russian speaking people it has been the possession of the human rights and I think it's all to the good that we decided his name as the French do and I thought call him down he shut up and the. People to. Take liberties with his name they meant the case that they acted as they thought he belong among their friends. In a very few minutes of course it's impossible to say all that can be said about this book but this is what I have selected to say that. It's all if hero is interesting and has been interesting everywhere since the book contains him appear. If he really is interesting because he tried to do the most difficult of all things to be perfect in this world to be perfect in the imperfect world that we all know to exhibit that we are citizens. It is very easy to be perfect in a perfect world that's to say to be a kind of dream man in a dream world as the heroes of the romance the picture had read but then it was very easy to be a knight in the book I'm a decent goal it was an easy to be a knight in the romance of Saddam with Mallory as children we find it easy to imagine someone being a knight in the works of our part because in those romances in those books in that ideal world but the opposite of them created somehow everything was a set that for a night the world seemed to be made for night and nobody else. It was a profession which one could. Quite easily and quite naturally and then set about living and everything in the world of romance gives way before the night that everyone seems to be expecting a night to come along even the words even the hills and even the sea somehow seem to be sitting there as a kind of ideal landscape across which he can write and within which he can speak and areas on voice I could back them everywhere around him but I'm quite sure that living in a certain country very hard very realistic country which had no knight and which literally believe that might have ever existed although to be sure they had his books done quick to decided to be one in that world. He did something very strange. He didn't think he was in one way or misrepresenting this book is to say that if hero is mad is under delusions after his identity thinks he is a month there's no indication in the seventy's as must be that was the case our hero merely had read the book the ideal books about the ideal figure of the night and he decided to represent it in his own place in time he decided to be a knight as well as one man could be decided to dress the part and we see him dressing the part see the side of a horse with a name that would be proper He decided to have a mistress for the name of every property he decided to go forth and talk and everywhere he went as if he were a knight he didn't think he was one but he thought he could act the part and the story isn't how he acted the part either without success its audience did not accept him no one ever believed him and then after three attempts to go forth in the world and play this part after three attempts he comes back gives up a tired rather old discovery and not but what has he been doing. In the book other than acting like I think he's been doing nothing else than that and that is a great deal to do he did as I say the supreme the difficult thing to do something is difficult as Jesus did it Jesus came in that an imperfect world and acted as if it could understand him if he spoke the language of perfection it did not understand it and still does not understand that did not prevent him from doing it Socrates and I thought that a very strange and quixotic thing this word quixotic of course applies to all truly great men. SOCRATES decided to act as if it were a natural saying and an expected saying that a philosopher should walk about being truly a philosopher thinking all the time and talking as if he thought all the time he seems even to have had the idea that he could make the world over in a world of philosophers he seems to have thought that my thinking Well and speaking well and I mean by well to the limit. Because somehow or other changes I think we all know that he failed and we would not respect Plato a play that did not tell us that he didn't fail that we would not leave the story a story that's told us that a man walked in to this idyllic philosophical world and made the most of it can never be that this is we will not believe the New Testament it's all that Jesus had succeeded these great men succeed because they think they succeeded only in making it remember forever what they had wanted to do what they had decided to be like what they had decided to represent in their lives not in their words not in the case in the books they wrote not in not that's not on them but all of the time and seriously in their lives now are a friend on quick as I said Right forth into the world acting as if he thought it was ready for him to appear he didn't write down the road such as we find in the streets on this mother and this of God on our pile there were no roads like that in Spain and never had been and they never have existed anywhere else he wrote mainstream. He wrote down Highway Code that's full of military pre going somewhere full of soldiers coming back from somewhere he stopped in wherever innkeepers and innkeepers done this and why and so I just like the men and women of this world he rode through a world with seven base knew how to make it as real as any world has ever been made in a test as real as the world we all know. And one reason we love seven pages of the never fails to show the people of his time as exactly like the people of our time or any other not their best but people are imperfect and they don't know what to do with a perfectionist who appears among the down ballot they are angry they are outraged outraged they are scornful sometimes they are merely I mean. And sometimes they decide just for the fun of it to play along a little vial with this person who is playing with astonishing role so in this book we find many persons hoping they think that by pretending to be the kind of people that he expects to find I personally do not believe it is hoax I think I think you see through all those hoaxes they fatten him a little bit at the spectacle of the folly that there is in the world now he wants to keep on being seeming to be and talking and acting like. A perfect man and ideal man the title of my book profession refers to a way the word profession means two things that means the perfection that might it also means the perfection of access. I believe ever just because I think he knew he was doing all the time I think he was being a professional actor an excellent one even though there was no audience that was going to pay him anything. And that. Brings me to my final point about him that he is human. In the richest sense of that word that all men are. All the world the state of every human being from his childhood on. That doesn't mean he's dishonest when the father of a son like a man is not asking him to be dishonest I think he's asking him is not effectively honorable in the highest sense of the word about all we can ever do in this imperfect world as if we were perfect means we have to talk that way and then to think that way and we have to move in that way so. The world does not accept the world laughed at him less that him still and yet he remains I think in all of that it's a devoted tonight for one night that we can only understand the world that we can see as clearly as if we can feel. It remains I think actually the perfect man. To compose an introduction. Is rather like being asked to conduct an operation on the famous. Analogy less discomforting to the subject to present a cake the last of the local. Mystified a man who has mastered more ceremonies than anyone except George Jessel. Although in one particular set of morning Mr Jessel is way way ahead. And. And that's a friend of mine is just like famous by his introduction of everyone from the kids to Fox enough to Tolstoy tomorrow afternoon at the hotel Commodore he will be presiding at most of them on it the presentation of this year's National Book Awards which department was born in New York City went to a Columbia as think it taught English Ethical Culture high school and became an editor at TIME and interest a lot so I went to Columbia for ten years starting in one hundred thirty three he was the book editor of The New Yorker American radio grew up one night in nineteen thirty eight when asked about him and sat down at a table with Oscar Levant and Franklin Pierce Adams and John Kiran and asked for information. It's about a man has continued his radio employments with conversation at the Metropolitan Opera intervention interviews is aiding the production of penetration with television shows he's writing to children's books a study just on dials read in the black the treatise on cigars he has just published an anthology of stories dealing with mathematics he writes a monthly column for holiday magazine is a judge of the book of the Month Club and he lectures and presides I'm not doing much really most about it and said a few months ago in my youth I never had less than twelve jobs at a time I was a little we may sympathize with Mr Vandeman as a victim of under-employment he did strike a chord of fellow feeling when in a collection of familiar essays called any number can play the input of these called meditations of a mathematical moron unlike the rest of us mystified a man was not content to let matters remain that way for twenty odd years he says he has found it a rewarding hobby to read about mathematics and mathematicians Shipley voting every equation that looks at him to stand like. Some of those rewards along. Fantasia Mathematica will not enable any of us to handle calculus. Admits he still can't handle it although he does understand what it does do is. Enrich the imagination of non-mathematicians. Ladies and gentlemen. Is a connection. Charles myself so I made you along that line about twenty five years ago I made one of several weekends at the country. Mr Van Doren among the other guests was. A distinguished one and flies many other trades and among these other trades interested in mathematics is written a delightful. Little book called Poetry mathematics which being an excellent book is no longer in print the. You might want to search for a second hand bookstore sometime they're interested in poetry or in mathematics. One sunny Saturday afternoon. Showing us mathematical tricks. With your kind permission I am now going to repeat most of us are under the impression I presume that a piece of paper. Never paper. And. I will. Pencil. The pencil along the side I would have to turn not have to turn this piece of paper over in order to continue the pencil. We take this piece of paper and. A single piece off I've given it a little twist. I should ask