This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
Opens with remarks by Clifton Fadiman. Followed by historian Bruce Catton, author of several books on the Civil War including "A Stillness at Appomattox" and "This Hallowed Ground." Catton speaks about the position of the American writer in retrospect with a focus on Whitman and Melville, he is somewhat critical of publishing industry but overall believes the USA is still willing to listen to its writers.
Fadiman introduces John Mason Brown, drama critic, author, and social commentator. Brown talks about the present position of the writer in American and his prospects for the future. Talks about Orwell's 1984. "We must admit that there have been threats to individual freedom, often as terrifying as the fantasy Orwell envisioned. McCarthy is gone but McCarthyism may reappear in a different form. 63% of national budget goes to military expenditures. That says more about the present than anything else. Writers hope to make order out of the upheaval of our world."
Fadiman returns with optimistic recap of Catton and Brown. Followed by Jacques Barzun, writer, social commentator., and professor of history at Columbia University. "In light of what's been said, I feel like a quarentine officer before a clean bill of health. How the present looks to me...lets take the pool of literary talent. Literature has disappeared in the glut of information of our day." Danger of the literary talent being associated with the University. Why is the University a refuge for such talent? We are going toward a different conception of the artist. The semi-professional. It has not occurred for literature. Might consider the possibility that around the university it will happen.
Langston Hughes speaks on "The Position of the Negro Writer in America." Hughes talks about the position of the Negro writer in America. My chance to be heard as a Negro writer is not as good as your chance. Once sent out a story about racial violence in the South. Editor said his readers didn't want to read about such things. Another story editor could not tell if the characters were white or colored. Asked that I make them Negro. He did and the story was accepted. Censorship. The Black list. Negro writers have always been on the black list. There are libraries that won't accept our books. Negro newspapers have to be sold under the counter. American magazines that have never published a Negro. Censorship begins with the color line. Hollywood won't hire a Negro writer, no matter how famous. How many colored editors do you see? How many Negro reviewers do you see? If you have a Negro reviewer he's reviewing only books by Negroes. Why don't they send them any books? What happens to the Negro speaker. Tells stories of discrimination on the lecture circuit. Colleges in the border states. Students had to be polled who would dine with a Negro. Northern city where Negro women wanted to attend. Compromised, head of college brought her maid. We have in America today a dozen top flight Negro writers. Isn't it strange that most of them live abroad. Goes through a long list of black expatriot American writers: Richard Wright, Chester Himes, James Baldwin, William Denby, Ralph Ellison, Frank Yerby, Willard Motley. They live either in Paris, Rome or Mexico. Live outside of our country because of stones thrown. Bombs under Rev. King's house. Jim Crow schools. Concludes with poem about a black girl who grows up in the deep south who is brought to a northern city where she sees a merry-go-round and is uncertain about it since she's not used to an unsegregated merry-go-round. Hughes urges the audience to help make a country where every kid will have a horse on the merry-go-round.
Arthur Miller speaks next on the integration of the writer into the domestic and foreign policies of the government under which he lives. He talks about the conflict between the artist's search for meaning and the politician's belief that all should live under the laws established. He notes that the pressure once fell mostly on newspaper writers, but now falls on all novelists, fiction and non-fiction writers alike. Throughout history, the relationship between artist and political power has been uneasy. Our profession has had a higher number of exiles and jailbirds than any other. The welfare of the race must insist on the conditions of freedom. Refers to a recent exchange of letters between C. L. Sulzberger of the New York Times and John Foster Dulles on the State Department ban on American journalists in China. Dulles is wrong, Miller asserts. The punitive power of government should not be used against citizens to stifle political opponents. The State Department has interferred with the distribution of arts and letters abroad. We have - by being silent - allowed this to happen. It's time for writers to make it clear to government that writers and artists are not busiinessmen and soldiers. Free expression of opinion does not come from iron or armies. The news is sacred. The freedom to write is as important as "high policy". It is not a question of rights or complaining. It is purely a question of preserving a free press and literature. We, who are the experts, need to make things clear. I say these things because I have learned them at my cost.
Glenway Wescott, novelist, describes himself as being against "professional writing" because very few writers can survive as "professionals" without cheapening themselves and their work. He speaks briefly because the program is running long and Jessamyn West is still yet to speak.
Jessamyn West author of the books The Friendly Persuasion, Cress Delahanty and To See The Dream, speaks on "women's traditional due, the final word." She notes that the National Association of Authors is not a place to harp upon their differences, rather to focus on their likenesses. History and Prophecy have always belonged to men, women have always preferred the present. She discusses the writer's intent to get something important on to the paper. Some truths can only be told through the arts - they transcend the merely factual
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 5739
Municipal archives id: LT6348
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When he was above it he occupied a kind of semi priestly them I prefer to suppose we test the acoustics of the next hour and a half or so we will hear from a number of well known writers each distinguished in his or her field now I know that everything that they have to say will be interesting but to my mind nothing that they can say is interesting is the bare fact but we are here formally gathered to consider the subject that they will expand the perhaps the word interesting should be replaced by the word dream because it is a strange thing for American writers to come together to discuss their position American writers I say they are on the continent of course but congregations is the have long been commonplace and accepted now in our country and I think we pointed out yesterday it is commonplace and excepted for engineers and business men and advertising salesmen and greeting card manufacturers to need it stated intervals and chart their position relative to the society of which they are a part it is usually an economic charting that occupies them because business convention that part of them that is not concerned with the ingestion of alcohol and the exchange of lavatory wall humor. Deal essentially with money. All of these conventions are basically Ways and Means Committee now our station deal with money too for whatever we may decide this afternoon our position to be it is not a position that can be maintained by taking in each other's intellectual washing. It must be maintained by keeping up our capacity to buy and launder real shirts and socks the striking novelty of this conference then lies in the fact that it presupposes a craft self-consciousness which plumbers and bank presidents are permitted to have but which American writers are supposed to reject and for some time I think American writers have themselves shared this view when I say that up to failure recently the writer occupied one of two positions in American society he was either above it or outside it roughly speaking and I should add that neither Metatron Brown are two main speakers and they share the view it all. When he was above it he occupied a kind of semi priestly semi prosthetic position as Emerson did for example for Emma's and for all his anxious to let the tube for the well being of the American scholar seems to speak not from the floor of the town meeting but from the pulpit of an independent or even an iconoclast ic church on occasion of course the writer has occupied in our country and a an elevated position but his elevation was more or less like that of a mr the boy in a coconut tree like spend his time dropping coconuts on the heads of passers by a the hay the earth except did with tolerant good humor provided the coconuts were not too hard on the heads of the passing citizens who sought Well the dominant tradition then I think in American letters is Bohemian the acceptance of a status more or less outside the scientific. And even such an exception is the proletarian movement of the thirty's we now tend to look upon in perspective as an aberration when we think of our great our forebears and I think we tend to call up the image of the the man in the attic Herman Melville all the man in the pond died what sorrow or even the man in the gutter Edgar Allan Poe we've been from the times of Edward Taylor to the days of Robert Frost essentially a loose collection of solitary even the Literary Club which is so well established in England is with us a forest grows and is generally made up of the second rate or of those who social standing is more firmly established than that genius we have academies it is true but these academies that uneasily rather unsure of themselves not sure of their acceptance the trade union habit of mind which I presume to represent the tonality of these meetings is I think of recent growth now whether our old traditional morose independent or our new one coming in the old team play is to be preferred it is not for on the gentleman to say as you know a cannon is but an extension of the chair one quality being wooden. And after ceremonies as I know from long experience an answer on his is but another Theron monium sell me I shall therefore leave this not a question in the hands of a blue speaker beginning with Bruce Katz the captain began his adult life as a newspaper man. Became a government civil servant later on and now has risen to the rank of being one of the foremost Darrien in our country and as has been said of other good historians he has. Talk to living by reanimating that is major interest is the history of the Civil War on which is written a number of books. All of them solid several of them probably classics for many many many decades to come in one nine hundred fifty three the National Book Award was given to him for his book stillness at Apple Macs and a few months later he won that lesser prize the Pulitzer Prize in one thousand fifty six. He wrote and published this hallowed ground which has had an enormous success and he has extended his labors working for all Americans by editing brilliantly that book magazine I guess it is the American heritage a beautiful job of magazine bookmaking and a constant contribution to our understanding about our own country he and Mr Brown going to share the limelight for the next fifty minutes or so Mr Cattanach is proper for a story and is going to speak of the position of the American writer in record specked Mr Bruce Caton. I am not altogether certain that there is very much point in trying to get a really accurate historical perspective on the writer's position in America by a large and making allowance for the fact that by nature the writer is a maverick if you weren't you wouldn't be a writer it does seem to me that the writer's position ultimately is very largely what the writer himself makes of it we are fond of saying that we live in a country of limitless opportunities. One of these obviously is the opportunity which the writer always has to stultify him self to make inadequate use of his talents to aim at them on the hittable target the workings of into a box from which he can't escape that opportunity is wide open in America always has been and I suppose all this will be that if the writer chooses to be a strict conformist a conformist position will always be available to him if he elects to ram it head against a stone wall on the off chance that some day he will find a wall which is a little softer than his own head this country does offer an abundance of stone walls with a FREE TO field in front of them and hear what the writer wants is simple financial success he might as well make up his mind to the fact that he is simply playing a gigantic and largely in comprehensible slot machine and that the most he can do is pull a lever shut his eyes and hope for the best probably won't most of us really want is some on earthly blend of all three we would like to be well thought of by our associates and by the general reading public which is to say that against all of the odds we would enjoy a touch of respectability especially if that could be attained without too much pain in our weaker moments at least we would like to produce bestsellers at the same time we would like to go forward with the movers and the shakers putting our own individual imprint on the life and thought of our times this of course is asking for a good deal and we probably won't make it so I suppose we finally come down to an examination of the writer's position in the past. Possibly in the hope that if we study it carefully we may find something that will encourage us in the present the most encouraging point seems to me to be the fact that for a good many generations at least America has been a country with a prodigious amount of respect for the written word this is a fact which is quite often overlooked one of the most fashionable of cliches is the long which holds that America is a highly materialistic nation a nation which exalts the money grubber and has a minimum of respect for things of the mind and spirit the writers according to this theory is and always has been an outsider a restless ineffectual person condemned by the cruel customs of society to utter despairing cries from the sidelines or driven by force of circumstance to join the procession and chant in some fear hosannas the values in which he does not really believe. Now of course there's an element of truth in this the serious writer in America are in any other land is very likely to be at odds with this time of the fire that he is apt to indulge in the on the holier reprisal of not listening to him and of withholding from the rich rewards that go to the man who join lustily in the prevailing chorus. Dissent is rarely popular and the dissenter usually gets treated as a dissenter. Nevertheless the fact does remain that ever since the birth of this republic the writer has had a profound and permanent influence on actions taken and on mental and emotional attitudes riveted into the national consciousness he has been listened to in other words. And it is quite possible to make up a rather imposing list of writers of whom it can truthfully be said this would be a different sort of country altogether if these men had not written there was for example Thomas Paine from our present lofty eminent we may if we wish dismiss him as a mere pamphleteer except that a pamphleteer is after all a writer and decided there was nothing mere about Thomas Paine the American Revolution would not have gone just as it did gold without his writing. Within reasonable limits we can say that we or our very existence as an independent people in part at least to the fact that this man wrote and to the added fact that his fellows listened to him this was a special case to be sure but consider the extent to which American thinking has been shaped by the words Thomas Jefferson set down in the Declaration of Independence art of a closely reasoned discussions of constitutional problems embodied in the Federalist Papers. For all produced relatively little and died young but he put an imprint on men's minds that is working today Gandhi might not have been Gandy without sorrow in which case the condition of affairs in India would look very different Emerson certainly had a lasting effect on American thought and attitude Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote a novel concerning whose literary value there still is room for discussion which had lots to do with touching off the American Civil War the whole period up to the civil war may be said to have been wrong which was very favorable to the writer. Gerald Johnson recently remarked that what the writer needs is the ability to work in a society which has a reasonable hospitality to ideas and that hospitality was present certainly I'm hella time of the eight hundred sixty S. that as Mr Johnson has pointed out may have been due to the fact that the country then was in the process of breaking through all physical bounds it was almost literally exploding. Expanding in size at a completely unheard of rate laying its hands on the new techniques in a manner never dreamed of before it desperately needed ideas and apparently it was aware of the fact it was ready to listen to anyone who had anything at all to say including a vast number of quacks and Charlottetown. And despite the immense emphasis which was put on purely material progress it recognized the importance of the right to get paid at least moderately respectful attention to men like John Humphrey noise and ran from Alcott elevated Horace Greeley to the rank of the fear of the prophet and a hard man like Cooper and long felt with such eager care that their writings for better or worse probably put a lasting impression on our mythology with respect to the noble red man an egocentric army officer like John Charles fr├⌐mont could win enough fame to make you make candidate for the presidency not so much for anything he had actually done. Because he is writing about the great West and been read all across the land if the age failed to show our riches upon a Melville or a what month it at least permitted them to have their say. And today we have all been dicked in Leaves of Grass as a result. Now of course it is true that this far as the general reading public was concerned both Melville and Whitman learned during their lifetime was pretty largely relegated to the class of the great unread this is not to say that these men were entirely ignored indeed each one gained if not fame at least a certain measure of notoriety which was not precisely what either of them was seeking but there was nothing resembling genuine popular acceptance and Melville at least was all but completely forgotten in the latter part of his life yet they did write what was in them to write and their impression on later generations has been very great indeed they stand today among the great figures of American literature and their influence on the main currents of the American thought is still profound and I think we must bear this point in mind the impact of the genuinely creative writers as opposed to the out and out polemicist is something that can't be measured at once indeed in the real sense of the word it can't be measured at all it's going to only be estimated on a short term view such a man as Melville could be written off of a flat failure and the land which refused to pay much attention to what he had to say while he was saying it could be set down as a land in which a creative writer could not thrive. But the polemics are just as looking for an immediate effect and the creative writer is looking for something quite different he put something into the national bloodstream and it's of its effect appear very often long after he's gone they are beyond quantitative analysis we can only say that we think and behave differently that our attitude toward our can toward life itself is somehow different because of what he wrote. Considered in those terms both now Bill and Whitman did precisely what they set out to do that their personal problems along the way were very great is unfortunate but really more or less incidental what they had to say is now our permanent possession and it will never cease to work on us I don't see much point in making out a catalog of American writers of the presale war period mentioning the names of their books citing the fame and money which severally they did or did not win and entering into a long appraisal of the effect which they had on their times that may indeed be cause for a gret other writer like Melville could fall on hard times while a Cooper could grow rich it is probably too bad that there was a time when most people considered Longfellow a much greater poet than the footman what actually matters however is that at whatever cost to themselves and in spite of whatever obstacles writers of genuine stature did flourish in those days and permanently enriched the body of American literature at the very worst we must admit that the intellectual climate in those days must have been tolerably stimulating any nation which would make a perennially paying proposition out of a lecture tour by an Emerson was at least a nation which was in a highly receptive mood as far as ideas were concerned after the Civil War Of course there was a change in the moral and intellectual climate the post-war years do not make a period on which it is a pleasure to look all of the pressures which had been accumulating through years of geographical expansion of technological and industrial development of war time anger and violence. Immeasurable opportunity for financial manipulation. All of these burst loose once the war ended and for a quarter of a century we had a time in which all Americans seem to be on the make that goes without saying that this was not a time which offered the writer Mr Johnson's reasonable hospitality to ideas an idea which could not quickly be turned into cold K. was quite likely to be a drug on the market. In the eighteen seventies and eighteen eighty out of that and immediately succeeding generations. There seems to have been born the enduring tradition that the American climate is not favorable to the full development and exercise of the creative impulse of the writer was as we hear relegated to a position of minor importance he got an inferiority complex out of it and the memory of it lingers to the present day some writers deprive the land of their presence altogether and went abroad to work others doing their best in the home environment complained bitterly about the cramping effect of the prevalent worship of the Bitch Goddess success and justified in what they wrote and in the way they lived the harshness of the intellectual climate as writers we ourselves are acutely aware of all of this the memory of what I suspect is deeply colored our own opinion of our American environment even though the environment itself has changed immeasurably since that day as a matter of fact it can be argued that even in the post civil war years the picture was not entirely black that is to say that despite the odds the creative impulse was at work and the intellectual current was still moving and the independent mind did fine chances to have it saved. Mark Twain is often taken as the great example of the gifted writer who was twisted out of shape by the pressures of the Gilded Age the potentially great satirist who conformed outwardly at least to the anti intellectual pressures of his time and who became finally much less than he might have become if the world had just been a little different all of this may be true enough yet it might be remembered that despite all of this twisting He did succeed in Huckleberry Finn in writing a novel which today is ranked very close to the top among all novels ever written by Americans the onus on a big usually is on for all American time the glowing colorful life of the pre-war ery in the Mississippi Valley and to this day an uncommonly gifted numerous will if he seems to deserve the ultimate in praise be compared with Mark Twain How much do we ask of a writer can an arrow which could produce the writings of a Mark Twain even though these writings do include a considerable quantity of trash be written off without further ado as an era in which all the cards were stacked against the writer then there were Henry George Henry George was various things including a candidate for political office but among them he was a writer producer of a book called Progress and Poverty here is a book which made a profound impression on certain aspects of American thought and for the matter of that on thought overseas as well along with everything else it had a good deal to do with the shape the new deal finally took in the 1930's which of course. May or may not be a point in its favor but which at least testifies to the fact of the time this is not deprive all creative minds of the chance to speak to their fellows to say this is not to argue that the latter decades of the nineteenth century were in truth a grand time for conscientious and devoted writers they were not they were not in fact a very good time for truly on truly conscientious and devoted Volk in any walk of American life or they represented an era in which the entire country was adjusting itself to one of the most remarkable explosions of physical energy in the history of the human race and if for a time the things of the spirit were cramped and credulously wrought its not to be wondered at but I do want to suggest that the scene was not one of universal twilight and in addition it might as well be pointed out that it was not lasting in its effect for with the early nineteen hundreds the field in which the writer operates became much more hospitable to a proper exercise of the writer's talents the famous muckrakers for example we're all writers and it is hard to think of any era in which a few in clingers did more to change the climate of opinion from Lincoln Steffens And I don't Tarbell to Upton Sinclair these people were able not merely to say exactly what they thought about the life of their time with them but to find their responsive audience the literature of protest suddenly became important if the Gilded Age had been a bad one and there was a wide rostrum on which anyone who chose could desexed it publicly could say precisely how quiet it was bad and could help to replace it with a better age indeed when you stop to think about it. The twentieth century did bring in a period in which society was quite consciously looking to the writer for a reevaluation of all accepted values the writer responded and he has been responding ever since and which is more to the point society listened to him with considerable attention Frank Norris and Hamlin Garland may have written about a society in which the pressure for conformity was immense but they themselves were not conformists and they painted the way building incidentally in part on the product of another writer from the Gilded Age William Deane halls or the long stream of realistic fiction which is one of the great achievements of American literature there's no particular point in undertaking a name by name catalog running from the early nineteenth hundreds down to the present it may be pertinent to ask if any writer could hope to leave his imprint on the mental and emotional climate of these times more effectively than Sinclair Lewis did to ask if an editor and essayist could have a greater impact during his years of activity than did H.L. Mencken to point out that by the 1930's the writer had come to occupy such an important place in the molding and shaping of American opinion that a major effort of the revolutionary left was to get as many as possible of the novelists the critics and the polemicists into the fold the results of this effort may have been deplorable but the fact that so much emphasis was put upon it simply indicates the high degree of acceptance which the country generally had given to its writing men and women and what we're engaged in today is an effort to evaluate the position of the writer in America. Does he work in an environment which permits him to make full use of these towns. Is there that general air of hospitality to ideas which is essential to the production of creative literature art or social moral are economic pressures which tend to handicap the writer to twist him out of shape to force him to conform to standards not his own pressures do exist of course now as all of us we still live in a business civilization like it or not the man who can write a poem or a novel or anything else that goes on paper between hard covers is that to get less in the way of money influence and exalted social standing than the man who was able to become Let us say the chairman of the board of the great industrial corporation there are those which go to a writer who is willing to assert that all is for the best in the best of all possible country meaning this when are likely to be substantially greater than those that go to the man who feels that the times are out of joint and he wants to say so in public since the end of the second war the pressure for conformity has been especially great simply because all of us have had a bad scare by a monstrous intangible a frightened country does not tend to offer a hospitable reception to ideas that are not pretty carefully screened. The writer who proposes to say exactly what he thinks and who does not confine his thinking to Arthur docs channels may eventually find himself discussing his past with a congressional committee at the very least his sales figures are not likely to be of the kind which will cause publishers to beat a path to his door it would be foolish to minimize the bad effects of this immense You have temporary pressure. It would be equally foolish to let it create a new discouragement or in the end we must come down to the writer himself life has never offered him a bed of roses and this side of the Elysian Fields at any rate it never will it offers him a very hard wearing job accompanied by innumerable discouragements and forever can't seem to put it integrity on the auction block pressure of one's art or another is on him from the moment he put the piece of paper into his typewriter by definition he is the sort of man who can resist pressure if he isn't he isn't much of a writer and the principle question now as all this is simply what does the writer want what the shooting it what makes him tick does he want most of all the approval of his fellow countryman money in the bank a country home in Connecticut a cooperative apartment in Manhattan abundant leisure and a nodding acquaintance not merely live the influential critics but live the head waiters in the most expensive restaurants these are nice things to have if he goes after them he can get them all this provided of course that he has a certain amount of luck along the way there are the fruits of studious conformity and this particular era in American life does offer them in abundance or on the other hand does the writer simply want to write is it the categorical imperative to have his say that really moves him does he above everything else on Earth want to express what is in him to express to lay hands on the dreams in the ideas that have been tormenting him. And by hour after hour of lonely unremitting work hammer them out into a shape that he can resent to other people if that is what the writer really wants and if it isn't there is not much point in our getting together here today to discuss it then I believe America offers a very fair environment to the writer of course you will encounter pressures in numerable voices will constantly be telling him how to trim is sales to the prevailing winds which now and then will rise to gale force he will be by turns tempted and frightened and evil find as all writers worth the name of all this found that his greatest fight will be the fight simply to be himself but what of it I would not hold William Lloyd Garrison up as a model for writers that cantankerous abolitionist may very well have done much more harm than good between the time when he first grasped his pan in the time when he finally laid it down but the little statement of purpose which he nailed to the masthead of these anti-slavery magazine does have in it an element of the determination which is the writing man's final reliance I am in earnest I will not equivocate I will not excuse I will not retreat a single inch and I will be heard it so that I am in earnest and I will be heard that says it not necessarily heard by everyone not necessarily heard by the people who have the richest rewards to give but at least heard my thoughts my ideas my own particular personal way of looking at life and its tremendous riddles reduced to words as well as maybe. And then brought to the Noticed of at least some of my fellow men that it seems to me is the ultimate force that makes a man right obedient to that force the writer does encounter a number of things that are not as they should be some of these things are more or less the Cunard of the present day the machinery of public of publishing is archaic and heavy handed there are times when it seems to be operated with a minimum of feeling for the values which may lie in the written word and the writer's lot would certainly be much easier if publishers were not so often engaged in a desperate search for books exactly like the lungs which you've just appeared on the bestseller list the mechanics of book distribution are perhaps an even worse state and the influence of the great clubs is not uniformly beneficence the state of literary criticism. In America could on questionably be better I suppose each one of us has his own private list be it long would be a chart of critics who really ought to be boiled in oil. It can be uncommonly hard for a beginner to get his book published at all are to have it sold to any appreciable number of people after it is published and ID it is extremely hard even for the veteran a stablish writer to make a comfortable living out of his chosen calling all too often he has to devote valuable time and energy simply to the task of supporting themselves in order that he may be a writer Nevertheless I do believe that the American writer today operates in a fairly hospitable environment by and large this is on the has been a country that is willing to listen it may at times listen with an undiscriminating ear. It may not reward the writer as richly as we who write think it should it may not shield him from the hard knocks of life and it may subject him to all manner of pressures from which he should be liberated but it does give him the chance to be heard it is the kind of society in which a man cannot merely speak his mind but can exert a lasting influence on the life and thought of his times we are still living in a country which does offer a substantial hospitality to ideas as a matter of fact I think that this particular moment offers an invigorating challenge to the writer we have come to a profound turning point in the development of all of human society all of the old guidelines seem to have been erased more than ever before people want to listen to the man with ideas as writers what more can we ask than that. You'll. Our next speaker is equally well known though has made his reputation and somewhat different field. John Mason Brown come from the land of not only good whiskey and beautiful women back horses but a good talk got here as I said something favorable about Brown. I said it came from Kentucky the land of see if I can remember this imperishable sentence the land of good whiskey back horses beautiful women and also good talk. And those of you who have heard Mr Brown on the electric light go on and know that he is nearest thing we have today to Emerson and a darn sight handsomer and funnier to. Those of you who follow his critiques in a Saturday Review and know that for many years he has been one of with the most perceptive dramatic critics and his understanding of the American theater and put in concrete form in many and many a book go back all the way to one hundred twenty nine that's a long way back you've heard him perhaps on television and on the radio and those of you who have read his most recent book through these men published I think last year I know that in the last few years he has emerged not only as a dramatic and the critic but as a social commentator a great keenness and perceptiveness we've asked Mr Brown the bosses who run this affair of ask Mr Brown not I. To speak to us complementing as it were Mr Heston to give us an idea of the present position of the writer and his immediate prospects for the future John Mason Brown. With Batum and Catherine ladies and gentleman and riders. And Mr Cathy and them not merely because he has finished and I am beginning. I envy and for his gifts and his in down months I envy him for his assignment today and his method of covering it the past is the province which is been ceded to him as hist as his historians write the literary future is the outer space to which I've been sentenced for reasons which include be utterly. And I am possible task is to count out Dickens before they are hatched. And I claim no gift for prophecy Delphi is not a place in which I feel at home when it tries comes to trying to cope with the future I would rather babysit any day on night then set on a tripod on the subject of the future however let me say quickly and let me both that I am as authoritative as the next man for about a bit about it and all of us are equally ignorant but how to shed light on the future by bringing to it only the darkness of our ignorance I can't help sympathising with Mrs Malaprop when she says we will not anticipate the past. Retrospectively well all be in the future. But in trying to retrospective future I find myself in an uncomfortable position being by profession a critic I have long been accustomed to following rather than anticipating the work of others this afternoon however the natural order of the parade is were those I our white morning used to bringing up the rear have been ever logically asked to walk ahead of a procession as yellow unfond and of paraders as yet unknown. This amounts to putting the broom before the horse. I start with another crippling handicap I cannot rely on hindsight and associates so helpful that General Marshall once pointed out that hindsight would be a valuable member of any cabinet I approach the future therefore