Happy Father’s Day 2013

GC Richards MukdenHere’s a picture of my late father, Grover C. Richards (he dropped “Jr.” when his father died) taken in Mukden, Manchuria, September 1945. He’s on the far right, along with another POW and two of the Soviet soldiers who liberated their camp. Click for a larger view.

Dad was captured on Corregidor in May 1942, after the fall of Bataan. He was awarded the Silver Star for bravery for actions in the Bataan campaign. He retired from the Army in 1961, got his Ph.D., and retired again as Chair of the Psychology Department at Georgia Southern College, as it was then known, in 1981. He died in 1996.

After the Storm

A sharp line of thunderstorms rolled across us about 7:30 last night leaving only minor tree damage in our area and some much needed rain. At around 8:30 I noticed a bright orange glow out our west-facing windows, ran outside into the last tailings of the storm, and took this picture. Ten minutes later, it was pitch black.

Fortunately my iPhone is in a water-resistant case.

After The Storm

My copy of Contempo has arrived!

Just got here today: my February 1, 1932 edition of Contempo. No, the Post Office wasn’t that slow; I bought it off eBay (and the USPS was right on time).

I ran across this footnote in the life of William Faulkner while attending my daughter’s graduation from UNC last month.  Minter’s 250-page bio, for example, doesn’t even mention that Faulkner visited Chapel Hill, much less that he contributed to this journal, and neither does his Wikipedia entry. The librarian at the university’s Southern Historical Collection, learning of my interest in Faulkner, retrieved their copy from the files, and I bought this one from John LaPine in Chicago (5 stars, by the way).

contempo_front_pageWhat is known is that the author visited Chapel Hill in October for at least three days (there is some controversy over the exact length of his visit), stayed drunk most of the time, and upon sobering up, learned that he had agreed to contribute to this journal, published by a couple of UNC students. It was a most unusual periodical, founded by a couple of young communists who also finagled pieces from such luminaries as George Bernard Shaw, T. S. Elliot, and Sinclair Lewis. The primary owner later moved to New York and became a highly successful stockbroker while never renouncing his left wing views. But that’s another story. (Click for a larger image)

The entire 2/1/1932 edition is credited to Faulkner, who gave the publication some poems and a short story that he hadn’t placed in more prestigious (and profitable) publications. Despite his binges, Faulkner was at the peak of his creative powers, having already published The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying, having the manuscript for Light in August (my favorite) with him, and with his masterpiece Absalom! Absalom! only four years in the future. One of Contempo’s editors presciently wrote that Faulkner was “the most creative, most original and most potential writer that America has produced.” Such an opinion of Faulkner was not widely shared at that time, but 17 years later, he would win the Nobel Prize.

I had been living in Oxford about a year when the author died, so it’s possible that I saw him. I have no such memories, but I do have an original of the February 1, 1932 edition of Contempo and that will have to do.

[Note: the information on Faulkner in Chapel Hill and his association with Contempo is from “A week or 3 days in Chapel Hill: Faulkner, Contempo, and their contemporaries,” Jim Vickers, North Carolina Literary Review, Vol I, No 1, 1992. Available on-line from the NCLR site.]

On the Waterfront

A beautiful day for walking around Savannah — temps in the mid-70s and no rain.

Maersk WisconsinAnd it was a busy day on the waterfront. This is the Maersk Wisconsin coming in, passing by the mega-yacht Hyperion, a river boat, and what appears to be a dredge. Click on all pics for a larger view.

tall_ship_savannahThose of you who know Chuck Spinney (or may recall him from Robert’s Coram’s book), may also know that he claims to be cruising the Med with his wife and some sort of dog. But I swear that this ship is a clone of their’s. I must admit, though, that it’s been a few years since I’ve seen their boat, so I could be mistaken. Still …

If you do visit Savannah, you could choose from big convention hotels (e.g., Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott) and several smaller hotels and inns. But Savannah also abounds in B&Bs. Here’s one, the Forsyth Park Inn.

Forsyth Park Inn

And the living is easy

Spring day in the Carolina low country looking out on the golf course at Hidden Cypress. Click for a larger view.

Hidden CypressTaken from an elevated walkway through one of the swamps in our development, Sun City Hilton Head.

Note that the sky is indeed Carolina Blue, which is a little odd because although we’re looking towards North Carolina, the border (at South of the Border) is about 200 miles away. To be entirely honest with you, the sky looked about the same in both places. We did drive past Pedro’s place on the way back here from North Carolina today.

Charleston, where the living is also easy, is only about 75 miles up the coast. Like Charleston, rice plantations also dominated this area, and to this day, gated developments are usually called “plantations.”

Monterey Square

Pulaski MonumentOne of our favorite places in Savannah.

The centerpiece of the square is, somewhat incongruously, the monument to the Polish general and American Revolutionary War hero Casimir Pulaski, who was mortally wounded in the Battle of Savannah, October 9, 1779. The square is named after the American victory in the Battle of Monterrey, Mexico, some 67 years later. (FYI, there was a “Battle” of Monterey, California, during the same war, but except for the mix-up in spelling, it had no relation to this square.)

It’s a breathtakingly beautiful square, one of  22 surviving squares in the city. Many of these date back to the city’s founding in the 1730s, although Monterey is one of the later additions. To make things only slightly confusing, Pulaski Square, also dedicated to the General, lies only a few blocks away.

In addition to the monument, the square is home to the Mercer-Williams House, built for the great-grandfather of composer Johnny Mercer and, facing it across the square, to Congregation Mickve Israel, pictured below right, the third oldest Jewish Congregation in America.

Congregation Mikve IsraelIf you haven’t visited Savannah, it’s well worth a trip. So like its older cousin, Charleston, but so different, with its picturesque squares and somewhat kitschy waterfront. Although it boasts a cathedral to rival any in the US, nobody ever called Savannah the “Holy City,” and it doesn’t exude the studied aristocracy one finds south of Broad.

The city is about a 15 minute drive off I-95 just inside the Georgia/South Carolina border, and easily accessible by nearby Savannah Hilton Head Airport, where Gulfstream bizjets are built. In addition to a Marriott, Hyatt, and Hilton, the squares host a myriad of boutique hotels and B&Bs, and you’ll find the usual assortment of business & tourist hotels nearby (we like the Residence Inn).

A generation ago, you wouldn’t have dared walk around Savannah much away from the waterfront. Then in 1978, the Savannah College of Art and Design was founded, and the transformation has been amazing. We live 20 miles north of downtown and come in about once a month to stroll the squares and parks, stop in at one of the many coffee shops (art colleges seem to attract them), and maybe take in a museum or antebellum home.

Ghosts of Ole Miss

Just caught Wright Thompson’s “Ghosts of Ole Miss” on ESPN. The film documents the integration of Ole Miss by James Meredith in September 1962, an event some consider as the last battle of the Civil War.

As it turns out, I was a student at University High School in Oxford on that fateful night, but slept through the whole thing (as did James Meredith).

Native Mississippian and Oxford resident Thompson did a brilliant job of capturing the social climate that led to the riot as well as the long period of rebuilding and redemption. It’s hard for me to explain what Mississippi was like in 1962 and how far we’ve come: We now have, for example, a black homecoming queen and student body president (both elected by the students).

The film also honored the 1962 Ole Miss Rebels, who went undefeated that fall and whose success played not a small role in helping the university recover.

I have three degrees from Ole Miss and would not hesitate to recommend the school to anyone.

Read an interview with Wright Thompson about “Ghosts of Ole Miss.”

The Casual Vacancy, a casual review

J.K. Rowling’s’ new book for adults, The Casual Vacancy, is positively Faulknerian. No, I’m not talking about the length of her sentences, but in tone and characterization, it reminds me of his classics like Absolom, Absolom! Light in August, and The Sound and the Fury:

  • It takes place in a small town and exploits long-standing relationships among the town’s inhabitants
  • It deals with “the human heart in conflict with itself,” as WCF put it in his Nobel acceptance speech. And so many of them to deal with.
  • There are Snopeses, lots of them.
  • It’s really dark. Few people laugh, and when they do, it’s rarely a good sign.

Fiction is such a personal preference, so I hesitate to recommend specific works to other readers. As for me, I liked it, but then I like Faulkner a lot, too. And such contemporary noiristas as James Lee Burke. Rowling truly lives up to Faulkner’s imperative:

[Man] is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things.

Can Pagford be a 21st Century Jefferson and Yarvil the new Yoknapatawpha? She left enough threads hanging that it should be easy, if she wants to do it, to weave a new tale about them.  I, as a former resident of Jefferson, certainly hope she does.