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We’ll “BUG” Your Printing . From the front door thru delivery we’re Union: Contracts with OPEIU No. 298, ITU Local No. 138, PPAU Local No. 143, Bookbinders Local No. 18, and of course the Rooters, Rushers and Expediters Local No. 1 IIIFFUTURA PRESS i.c Hickory 2-8682 Hickory 2-2426 1714 SOUTH CONGRESS AVENUE P. 0, BOX 3485 AUSTIN, TEXAS What if these arty literary types found out that I wouldn’t know existentialism if I saw it playing third base? Willie tried to perk me up. He pointed out that I, myself, had sold prose for money in the asphalt jungles of New Yorkto some of the world’s most discriminating editors which, he noted, included him. He further noted that my very own first novel, The One -Eyed Man, would be available no later than June 20th at your friendly neighborhood book store, and that it would be an absolute steal at $5.95. Willie said I had credentials enough to walk with confidence among men of letters anywhere in the , world. Besides, they were just a bunch of Ole Country Boys. “But Willie,” I said, “besides you, the only Famous Arthur I ever met was Bill Brammer.” “You met Jay Milner,” he corrected me. “But what,” I asked, “of MacGregor?” Willie shuddered. Malcolm MacGregor is an Ole Country Boy from El Paso. He has served in the Texas legislature, practices law, and attended Texas A&M back in a time when he aspired to be either an animal husbandryman or an Infantry officer. He is more sophisticated, however, than I make him sound. He reads books. Sometimes a man can read too many books, maybe. For when Malcolm MacGregor visited New York City a while back, he’d read so many books that Willie Morris took him to a cocktail party that was one-part Greenwich Village, one-part Madison Avenue, and three-parts literary intelligentsia. MacGregor got introduced to Norman Mailer, who knows a lot of things that nobody else does, and whose temperament is such that he once challenged Sonny Liston to a fistfight and once wrote a magazine article modestly claiming sole credit for electing John F. Kennedy. MacGregor was duly impressed, but not so much that the cat got his tongue. “Norman,” lawyer MacGregor said, with all the confidence he’d have if approaching a bail-bond broker, “I want you to know that I think From. Here To Eternity was the greatest book to come out of World War Two.” “So does James Jones,” Mailer snarled. “He wrote it.” IMIGHT have calmed myself before the Famous Arthurs appeared had not Willie kept asking me if I’d go over the names of the guests, and the books they’d written, just one more time. Nothing personal, he just wanted to be sure I had it down pat. Tension mounted. My wife came out in pincurls and a mudpack to ask if I thought she’d look funny at the party if she wore her green jodphurs, the red blouse with “Legalize Pot” stitched across the back, and carried a yellow parasol. I said funny wasn’t the word for it. She slammed the door when she went back inside, muttering Mickey Spillane’s name in a way that smacked of blackmail. The Great Men arrived. In the beginning, introductions went smoothly. After my host had uttered the special magic of my name, he added: “I want you to meet Vann Woodward.” I shook hands with C. Vann Woodward smoothly enough so that nobody hurt a thumb. Pleasantries were mumbled without a hitch. AhI thoughtI shall do well. Confidence swelled and soared within. My turn in the direction of the reigning Mrs. King was pure beauty, carrying with it a faint hint of the ballerina’s pirouette. My sweeping arm gradually presented my lady. “Dear,” I said, in resounding tones, “shake hands with Van Johnson!” After they’d mopped up the tears, Vann Woodward manfully assured me that it was all right. Don’t give it a thought. He didn’t mind, him being lust an Ole Country Boy from Arkansas. I tried to think of something to say to the great historian about the Civil Wara comment that would at once mark the commentator as a student of history and a witty conversationalist. “It sure is nice weather this time of year,” I said, “in Gettysburg.” Muttering that he was glad to have met me, Vann Woodward joined some folks across the room. Robert Penn Warren is every inch a gentleman. Take the way in which he treated our discussion of Thomas Wolfe’s You Can’t Go Home Again. Did heI asked Mr. Marrenfind that when he went into the Tidewater Country of Virginia that he really felt he had not come home again? Yes, Mr. Warren said, he truly did feel that way. But then, perhaps that was because his home wasn’t in the Tidewater Country of Virginia. His home was an Old Kentucky one. So he was just an Ole Country Boy, himself. He thought maybe it was Mr. Styron who came from the Tidewater Country of Virginia .. . Mr. Styron confessed this was true. But as far as that theory of Tom Wolfe’s that You Can’t Go Home Againwell, he didn’t know much about a lot of high-falutin’ theories. Being just an Ole Country Boy like he was. “But,” I protested, “what about what you reveal of feeling ties to your heritage in Lie Down In Darkness? That part where you said, ‘My son . . . always remember where you came from. The ground is bloody and full of guilt where you were born and you must tread a long narrow path toward your destiny. If the crazy sideroads start to beguile you, son, take at least a backward glance at Monticello.’ Now, doesn’t that indicate a definite opinion on Wolfe’s philosophy? Doesn’t it say words of things about roots and origins and regional loyalties? If not, what did you mean?” The man whose prose has been judged “lyrical and singing” by the world’s hairiest literary critics gazed into the wreckage of his introductory libation. “Aw,” he said, “you know how it is_when you sit down in front of the typewriter late at night.” Five minutes later Willie Morris was playing him some “fine old down-home EUR OPE An unregimented trip stressing individual freedom. Low cost yet covers all the usual plus places other tours miss. Unless the standard tour is a “must” for you, discover this unique tour before you go to Europe. EUROPE SUMMER TOURS 255 Sequoia, Dept. JPasadena, California numbers” by the Stamps Quartet on a hand-cranked victrola. “Say,” I heard Styron ask, “you got anything by Ernest Tubb?” I CONSOLED MYSELF by thinking that surely we’d get down to the literary nitty-gritty during dinner. Then the collected masters would reveal their most intimate secrets of art. Would open up new worlds by giving me deeper insights into the creative processes: make me clearly see letters that I had overlooked in the alphabet. No doubt they would regale us with personal anecdotes involving Faulkner and Hemingway and possibly Bill Shakespeare: never-before-told and surely unpublished gems. When they passed the ham, it kicked Red Warren off on a story about Kentucky blue grass. That made Vann Woodward recollect a certain ole swimmin’ hole. Styron took us on a verbal walk through his boyhood hills, where beauty lurked all ’round. Willie Morris rhapsodized over the total joys of country living until you would have thought he was selling rural real estate. They talked of pie suppers, goat-ropings, brush-arbor religious revivals, and the seasonal joys of the Monkey Ward catalogue. They swapped poor boy stories and offered to bet on who’d had it the toughest. While I yearned to hear of inspirations in Madrid, Berlin, or Istanbul, they toured the memory lanes of Little Rock, Jackson, Louisville, Richmond, Baton Rouge. They exhumed the political ghosts of Huey Long, Gene Talmadge, Pappy O’Daniel, and Ross Barnett. Against great odds, I finally swung the table talk to things literary. I volunteered my opinions on writers ranging from Chaucer to D. D. Eisenhower to Maude Shaw. Explained the varied techniques of constructing prose. Recited Poe’s “The Raven” and Othello’s lament over the dear, dead form of Desdemona. Pettily carped at Truman Capote for making so much money. Bragged that I knew Bill Brammer. The very fine bunch of Ole Country Boys didn’t interrupt me when I advertised myself. Only Willie Morris objected when I tried to read a couple of chapters aloud from my Work-in-Progress. The night took on a shining luster. I felt more camaraderie around me than Governor Connally in a convention of the Texas Manufacturers Association. So cozy did the little gathering become that I confided old fears; set ancient secrets free: Playboy, June 24, 1966 11