Vastly rewarding over the years in our amateur journalism has been the occasional activity of such as Edna Hyde McDonald, Ernest Edkins, Burton Crane, and Robie Macauley – to mention a few ajays whom it has been my special privilege to know.
We might add others: Certainly Sheldon Wesson’s rollicking “Triumphal Entry” in Campane 21 is one of the outstanding bits of humor seen in AJ in recent years. That alone would have “made” an issue – made it worth saving, that is; worth showing to non-AJ friends.
Since Bill Danner spectrified himself off to fantasy fandom AJ has been lacking a “bubble buster” for inflated egos. Now comes J. Tawdry (de T’ird) Coolidge’s Lowbrow to deal in serious “small-talk and whale-spouting.” At last, one who can define Lindberg’s wordy manurings as “well-aimed gribbets.” JT (de T’ird) has the taste to aim for a laugh. Bravo, friend; too many papers seem replete with “spiritual fare”; after that Ides of March fleecing by Uncle Sam, leave us have at this pinfeather singeing. We expected the “The Biography of a Bat” would have to do with some amateur, but were pleased that it was not the remains of Mr. Whitbread which “spattered in a gory arc across the ceiling.” That glorious cartoon be-scoffing the Lowbrow heading must not be wasted on one lone issue. More, Cousin Tawdry, more!
Current AJ has few vehicles for lengthy efforts. Most amateur papers find fiction or articles of over 1000 to 1500 words difficult to handle. Yet Viola Payne Autry has won space (and obviously, editorial approval) for two short stories of 2500 to 3000 words apiece: “Transition (Far Afield 6) and “Yellow Headed Woman” (Victorian 16). Distinctly Texan as chili and goatmeat, these flashes of West Texas life may appear ultra provincial to the settled gothamite. “Transition” seems the more smoothly developed, more pleasing; an outstandingly fine bit of fiction.
The title of Thomas’ semi-annual effort, Far Afield, is explained in footnotes to his father’s letter, “Away! Holiday from Silver Peak.” What a contrast to modern life – either in city of afield! – are those 28-mile rides by horse or buggy. “I stopped for an hour and allowed my horse to graze while I examined the beautiful mountain wild flowers.” Can you imagine today’s tourist wasting that long – apart from gas-and-oil or sandwich stops – from his daily 400 to 500 mile “vacation” trips. “Walking… seldom more than 20 miles a day – except Sunday hikes when we could let ourselves out.” Saints preserve my fallen arches! Did people really walk that far, BC – before cars?
After a winter of sparse fare the March bundle gives more promise. Even Doc Noel’s March Seattle Amateur is beefed up with notebook scraps from Helen Middleton and Dora Moitoret. Claims Dora at 4:30 a.m. in “Indecision at Dawn,” “My mind, alert, skips about like a three-year old.”
Meg Gawthrop graces Martini 15, derisively needling the well-worn laments of poets.
Encouraging it is to find Tom Whitbread stealing time from college to print Locus 7 on Ed Cole’s press. Poetry rarely changes my pulse, but the eight lines of Cliff Laube’s “Crystal” draw highest praise.
Even more thrilling is news of Verle Heljeson’s candidacy for NAPA official editor. We have long considered Verle one of the most capable and logical candidates available.
Marjorie Sumner’s “My He” in Lit News 333 is a well-turned picture, good for a chuckle on each re-reading.
Format of George Haney’s Thin Spaces could be a boon for handpress printers. In four pages George printed over 1000 words – twice as much copy as in a paper like Twigs 8 – a third more than Lexy Rosbrook’s In Between.
We don’t necessarily favor small type, but handprinters might choose to set more 8 pt. type per page rather than print extra pages of 10 or 12 pt. type.
Mere quantity of pages is a false criterion.
We weary of the effulgence of that Stack-Blower Supreme whose caterwauling thru three full 24-page Cats (72 – count them – 72 pages and covers, plus color – a total of umpteen hundred words (all of which could be stated better in a single sheet, Leaves-size) merely proclaims and underlines his opinion, “I Been Had.”
If brevity be the soul of wit, need one define verbosity?
In December colors The Coastliner features an interesting review of past Michigan conventions. Townsend’s factually accurate precis of the ‘36 affair in Grand Rapids is absolutely spiritless. Can this be the type of reporting some members clamor for in tirades about verbose convention minutes? We recall Grand Rapids ‘36 as one of the most enjoyable conventions in two decades.
Lawson’s explanation of the 1925 Detroit battle deserves study (and space in the official organ). Here, clearly reviewed by one who was present nearly 30 years ago, is a picture of one of the disputed facets of amateur history. Together with Spink’s “The National Election Procedure” in Pro and Con 2 this should be required reading for all new members. It helps explain why we maintain restrictions on voting.
Most appealing of Anita Kirksey’s verse in Blue Skies (Spring ‘53) was her pen portrait of the sleeping “Susan.” Will Anita’s Susan grow into John Smith Kendall’s “Susan” (Far Afield 6) of whom he wrote: “Susan is a city lass, City born and city bred. All she knows of tree or grass Grows in one small garden’s bed.”
We repeat, mere quantity of pages is a false criterion. That we must bear in mind in all discussions of the official organ. Referring reverently to 40-page issues and 140-page volumes, Whitbread’s worthy review of “The National Amateur” in our March o.o. infers that we need a lot of pages. We don’t. What we need most is official editors who edit!
Once in a while someone turns a phrase that sticks in your memory, like Whitbread’s “I dislike being preached at by sectarian God-vendors.” So also A. Walrus’ “adenoids looking marinated… gall stones clinking in a glass.” Or Tibbetts’ “relentless, surging turmoil of our modern ways.”
This 53rd issue of Weaker Moments is a rather tardy acknowledgement of some NAPA papers received and enjoyed by R. Babcock, Great Neck, N.Y., before 5/53.