Unusual Books, Rare Books, Used Books, Book World News Books, Little Magazines, Authors, and Book Collecting Subjects are featured in each issue of THE BOOKLOVER’S ANSWER, giant bimonthly magazine for book collectors. ALSOin each issuea valuable guide to old book valuesfree catalogue offers interesting articlesaddresses of leading used book dealers. Back issues are still available. Hurry! Introductory one year subscription $2.00 The Booklover’s Answer, Webster 1 1 , New York tOltEtrbilt ITEM! The ItookhAer’s Iosuer COtittiatS I y Roy Bedichek The late Roy Bedichek, the naturalist, ‘made a rare public speech on his friend Frank Dobie at a dinner honoring Dobie in connection with the Texas Folklore Society meeting April 23, 1955, in the Driskill Hotel in Austin. Bedichek said: In the five to seven minutes which the totalitarian dictator of this otherwise pleasant occasion has allowed me, I must undertake the compression of an inconveniently expansive subject. I have wanted for a long time to try to clarify in my own mind the personality which provides the theme for this gathering of folklore folks. I have been associated with him a good deal since 1914. I have observed him at long-range addressing the public in speech and in print, and at shortrange in man-to-man conversation. For twenty-five years we have both attended a bi-weekly discussion club where opinions are kicked about in free-for-all and sometimes more or less heated disputation. Again, I have listened as he has turned on the charm with audiences, retailing the folkways, folk-wisdom, or the folk-tales of an environment in which we were both brought up. I have been received time and again into the tree-shaded, flower-bordered home, nested in a crook of Waller Creek, and experienced, as many of you have, the lift which genuine hospitality gives the flagging spirits of man. Moreover, I have read his books and magazine and newspaper articles and have been surprised now and then into guttural gurgles by a pregnant phrase or turn of homely wit, or by the quaint humor of situation, pleasantly contrived. I have envied the ingenuity with which he extracts considerations of startling significance from the ordinary and the commonplace. I, have talked often with his friends about him and occasionally with his enemies. 28 The Texas Observer Surely I should know something worth telling about Dobie. Therefore, when commissioned by the aforesaid dictator, I lost no time in taking to my typewriter to do up in a sevenminute package the quintessence of Dobieism. Presently, I had 12 pages. Then it occurred to me that I was not the only person on the program. My egotism had undertaken an unnecessary responsibilty. Others will have their say. Had we gotten together beforehand and parceled out the victim, there would be less duplication, better coverage, and more thorough dissection. Realizing at last that I was not to sit in solitary grandeur at the speaker’s table, I crossed out all except what’s left on the next two pages. I find that .it deals with only one characteristic; but at that, one which more than any other seems to me to illume what is dark in Dobie while perhaps rationalizing actions and pronouncements often misunderstood by his nearest friends. DOBIE IS SINCERE. His wellknown, because outspoken, abomination of pretense in life and art is only the reverse side of his passion for sincerity in his own life, personal and public, and in his own art. The other day a charming woman, a famed hostess, was inviting Dobie and . me to dinner, after which she engagingly promised to show us some slides she had made of her trip last summer. “I’d like to come for the company blit I sure as hell hate pictures,” drawled Dobie in reply. Later this lady with a lovely tolerance said to me, “Now wasn’t that just like Dobie.” To an invitation to join a literary club, Dobie replied, “Dear Bill, I can’t work up any enthusiasm about a literary club. I wouldn’t want to hear anyone read his writing for an hour or two.” Just like that no weasel-words, no cushioning phrases. Still, I suppose in the last 30 years, he has read sympathetically and criticized with the patience and tenderness of a skilled surgeon doing an operation hundreds of manuscripts of young, unpracticed, but aspiring writers. This comes of his sincerity as a teacher. Many forget that Dobie is first and last a teacher, and one who takes his teaching seriously. They say he .is a rebel, at least, a nonconformist. He is a “controversial figure,” which means during the present hysteria to keep your mouth shut or else if that which you think is in any way critical of the status quo. A few years ago a managing editor told me that the Big Boss made him drop Dobie’s column because he continually flouted the policy of the paper. Yet he has the art, should he choose to exercise it, of glossing over his real convictions and exhibiting them in a diorama of protectiye coloring. But again his sincerity interferes. I heard an old friend of his boyhood apply an epithet to him which signified the worst of the worst, the damndest of the damned, in those circles Where the bigotry of race-prejudice reaches: fanatical intensity. Dobie knows how his freely expressed opinions on race-relations are received among some of his oldest. and dearest friends. But he disdains compromise and camouflage. Dobie is sincere. His refusal to conform has deprived him not only of friends and position, but has affected deleteriously the market for his literary output. We shall all have to admit it. He is a “controversial” figure, and homo gregarius loves conformity because it provides pleasant dozing in comfortable inertia. But, I ask you, do we sufficiently realize the blight put upon art by this present-day mania for orthodoxy? Does even a culturegroup such as this realize keenly enough the importance to the maintenance of our traditionally American way of life of an individual whose sincerity forces him to speak out in defense of it? A HUNDRED YEARS AGO John Stuart Mill saw the paralyzing stric. tures which an industrialized society was throwing about the individual to restrain in him every impulse of a spiritual nature likely to thwart the so-called “march of industrial progress.” Listen to the words of England’s greatest social philosopher of the last century, addressing himself to this very theme: “In our times from the highest clasi of society down to the lowest, everyone lives as under the eye of . a hostile and dreaded censorship. . . Thus the mind itself is bowed to the yoke. . . . In this age the very example of non-conformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee of custom, is itself a service. Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. . . . That so few now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of the time.” And, I may add, a danger grown vastly more menacing in our own land and time.