Claremont Insider: Literary Ramblings

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Literary Ramblings

Daily Bulletin columnist David Allen, who spent the first quarter of 2008 reading Moby Dick, last week wrote in his blog about another of his literary journeys.

This time, Allen talks about reading novelist Larry McMurtry's memoir Books, in which the author describes his time as a bookstore owner. Allen related one bit that tied things back to Allen's earlier Melville reading:

As McMurtry tells it, the British edition of "Moby-Dick" had always been published in three volumes, and a certain editor, one Charles Reade, had been tasked with reducing the novel by two-thirds to fit into one book. The copy McMurtry viewed was Reade's working copy, the book he had marked up with passages for deletion.

Such deletions began on the first page.

"Charles Reade was not a man to be intimidated by a mere American classic," McMurtry wrote.

"He began his editorial work by drawing a bold line through 'Call me Ishmael.' "

McMurtry's usually a good read. Watching how the social and local government scene unfolds here in Claremont, we find ourselves thinking often of The Last Picture Show. Though we're about as far as you could get from McMurtry's Thalia*, Texas - culturally if not quite physically - sometimes it seems as if a flock of Jacy Farrows (that's the Cybill Shepherd character in the Peter Bogdanovich-directed film) swooped in here from West Texas and never left, becoming now-stodgy, clucking 60-year-old duennas, guardians of a self-created town mythology.

We've always felt more kinship with the Ruth Poppers of the world (Cloris Leachman to you movie fans). There's much to be said for enduring, even if you occasionally want to chuck that china cup and coffee pot against the wall out of frustration, anger, disappointment, or fill-in-the-blank. You get past it, whatever "it" may be, the way an oyster gets past an irritating grain of sand by enveloping, enclosing, walling it off.

"Never you mind, honey. Never you mind...."

As an Amercian novelist of another era once wrote, "The lowly and invincible of the earth - to endure and endure and then endure, tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow."

*[In the 1971 movie version Anarene for some unknown reason. ]