Saturday, January 21, 2017
Self on the Shelf, 1
Almost all of our bookshelves are jammed with what they're supposed to be jammed with--books. But this one, in my study, right behind me where I now sit typing, contains as well as some books a variety of items (okay, clutter, flotsam and jetsam and lagan) from my life and career. Let's proceed from left to right and see how far we get today before you or I get bored.
To the far left you can see the spine of a paperback book--It's The American Short Story, Volume 2 (1980), a collection of stories which appeared as films on a PBS series (same name) that ran from 1974-80. The stories were generally American classics--this volume contains by, among others, Hawthorne, Twain, Cather. Joyce and I both used the stories and the videos from time to time in our careers. And--as I look in the book today--I see something I've forgotten: That after the text of the story is the screenplay based upon it.
Next is a bookend (one of a pair), showing an American Indian looking ahead--warily? (I'm not sure where the other bookend is?!) I think my older brother gave me this for a present once upon a time. But I can't be positive. It always reminds me of my Cowboy Phase that began as soon as I learned what a cowboy is and continued until ... well, now. (I still love Westerns. In ways, I remain The Oklahoma Kid)
Behind the bookend is a photograph of my father, Charles Edward Dyer (1913-1999). It's a photo, obviously, from later in his life, and I believe it was taken to be included in his church yearbook. At that time, they were living in Pittsfield, Mass., and attending St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, the same church that Melville had (rarely) attended, the same church where my mom met another member of the congregation, poet Richard Wilbur. And when I discovered that, I sent her some Wilbur books for him to sign--which he graciously did. I love Wilbur's work, have memorized a handful of his poems.
Lying right in front of the picture of my dad is a meerschaum pipe, an item they bought for me when they were in Greece during a visit in the early 1960s. Dad was a pipe-smoker--had a rack he'd acquired somewhere, a rack to hold probably twenty-five pipes or more. For years, I associated the smell of pipe smoke with him. I'm not sure when he quit, but it was quite a bit later in his life. Anyway, they gave me that pipe when I was in college, where, among other things (like literature and art and history and biology and drinking) I had learned to smoke. Cigarettes--Pall Malls my favorite. Dad and Mom thought cigarette-smoking was bad (perhaps even evil) and that pipe-smoking was a more--what? cultured? respectable?--habit. Thus, the pipe. So I became, for a bit, a pipe-smoker. There is even a photograph that has survived from my college years (see below) that shows me on my twenty-first birthday at Hiram College. Some friends have brought goodies to the Student Senate room, where I was "on duty" that night. I'm cutting cake with one hand, holding my pipe in the other, and I look so ... professorial? Right? (More like a pretentious jerk.)
I don't remember when I gave up pipe-smoking, but I'm pretty sure it was after less than a year. (Cigarettes took a few more years, I'm afraid.)
TO BE CONTINUED ...