MISSING FLORENCE KING
Re: Colby Cosh’s Our Florence Nightingale:
Most of today’s Florence King fans do not know some of her best work, notably her (first) 1978 book, He: An Irreverent Look at the American Male. Amazon lists it as “out of stock,” with “used and new” copies available starting at $37. The introduction, at about 40 pages, may be the funniest sustained writing in 20th Century American humor, as it describes King’s own “Dagwood Bumstead” sexual history. (King expanded this memoir to become the later Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady.) It proceeds to an absolute evisceration of a baker’s dozen American man archetypes (“The Michael Man,” “William ‘Bill’ Flanagan,” etc.). Strangely, National Review house ads for various King collections always leave this one out.
— Lawrence Henry
Many thanks for Colby Cosh’s excellent March 26th review of Florence King’s Stet, Damnit! He wonderfully captured a bit of her tone in his appreciation, and it always is a happy occasion to hear of another fan of Miss King’s work and read another sound encouragement for others to discover the depth of her brilliance, both technical in the craft, and observational in selective cultural commentary.
Cosh noted the “King cult” and provided example members as writers and his known “female King devotees aged 75 and 25.” Would you believe another cell of the cult is gay Southern males? Both conservative and otherwise? I once passed a particularly pleasant evening (not for the reasons you think, happily married thank you. Old friend’s dinner party, doncha know), in the company of such a cell, where the entire evening’s conversation was the “divine” Florence King. We all hurled quotes and recollections around the table, and pulled her books open — ready at hand on nearby shelves — to settle arguments. When I asked the obvious question why so many Southern gay males knew about her work, and knew it so well I was met with blank stares and shrugs all around. “We just all read her, and everyone I know has read her.” It was one of the few pieces of empirical evidence I’ve ever encountered that there really is a gay culture distinct from the typical American.
Once upon a time I wrote Miss King a note, asking her a few questions, trifles really. I also, like Cosh, feared she would “snicker” at me if I made an error. You can imagine my astonishment and delight when I received a reply in her own hand, answering my questions in a tone so friendly I nearly wept with joy. She even made an aside that she envied my living in France (her only erroneous view, but another subject). Needless to say, this correspondence now is a treasure.
But Cosh’s review also had a bittersweet quality, for his defense of her leave-taking does not satisfy. “Really it’s no wonder she quit.” Yes, but we miss her just the same. Horribly, painfully, for parting is a taste of death, and it tears at the heart, and reminds us of hell.
One’s instinct is to gush, grovel, and beg her to write more. But knowing she would have contempt for the weakness, we politely acquiesce to the lady’s wish to retire, and instead withdraw to shed a furtive tear.
But oh dear Lord, how we miss her.
Dear Editor, isn’t there something you can do? Please?
And Miss King, if you should perhaps read this, please recall that I remain always
Your obedient servant,
— James N. Ward
I read with great interest the Cosh review of Ms. King’s latest offering the compilation of her Misanthrope columns. As one who is within 12 months of being the same age of Ms. King, as one that grew up in the same area (Ms. King in NW Washington and I a block over the line from NW Washington in Maryland), as one that appreciated Ms. King’s many descriptions of her family and realizing the many similarities with my own (particularly at the Grandmother level), as one who recognizes and celebrates the similarities of life philosophy in each of us, I have been in almost constant mourning since the time of her retirement. I could have dealt with that eventually, but her relocation to the Northwest from Virginia has been altogether too much to handle.
While I admire and share so very many of Ms. King’s views on life and American society, I devoutly wish that I had acquired even half of her knowledge and talent with the English language — grammatically, logically, and creatively. Ms. King, you have abandoned us to the enemy.
— Ken Shreve
New Hampshire (Formerly of the Wash. D.C. area)
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
Re: RiShawn Biddle’s Malthus’s Quarreling Children:
Another wedge issue that could be developed among Sierra Club members is road construction. The economic development angle is a rising consideration in both state and federal departments of transportation. The alleged jobs that roads have a potential for creating puts a few members of the Sierra Club in strange territory. They want to support the program that offers jobs but they don’t want to build anything that might have an economic impact if it simultaneously has an environmental impact. The exaggerated claims of jobs vs. the exaggerated claims of ecological catastrophe leaves the intellectually lazy in an unenviable dilemma.
— Danny L. Newton
FREEPERS OF THE FLAME
Re: Shawn Macomber’s Dean Dumb Come:
I believe the 40 or so Bush supporters at the Democrat’s “Unity Day” Shawn Macomber saw were organized by the D.C. chapter of Free Republic of the FreeRepublic.com website.
The head of the chapter wrote a thread on the site of their efforts and the harassment they received from the Democrat supporters.
At one point they were told they had to move by someone they weren’t sure was a Police officer or just hired security. The reason? He told them that they were inciting violence. When asked how, the man with the gun said because they were agitating the Democrat supporters across the street.
Gee, by those standards I must really agitate them by driving around with a Bush/Cheney bumper sticker on my car. I guess it will be my fault if someone decides to ram my vehicle.
Fortunately, the Freepers didn’t budge. Ah, the never ending stories of the Democrats and how they protect free speech.
— Greg Barnard
Re: Brian Doherty’s Goodbye, Valenti:
How can anyone forget that the very deep thinking Jack Valenti once commented that he thanked God every night that Lyndon Johnson was his president. Not many people can say that!!
— Bill Read
Syracuse, New York
Lacking from this excellent piece is the threat to Valenti’s vision from within. Like so many industries before it, the MPAA, is tied to the big bucks, high production movie type to support the extremely expensive capital infrastructure they must feed. The likes of UA, MGM, TriStar do not fear the consumer theft angle as much as they fear lower supply chain providers on the front end.
This is why the Passion is all the buzz in Movieland. Regardless of the Christian-Jewish relationship issues, the Execs are more concerned of the production angle. Here comes a movie, all of $25m, that will likely out gross all other movies this year at the box office. Holding no real estate, using contracted production facilities and crews and a second tier national distributor, Gibson fashions a block buster. Now if I am the CEO of MGM I would be really concerned. The shareholders are going to ask some pretty probing questions. Like what are we getting out of the multibillion dollar real estate holdings, or why are the production costs so high, or how do you justify your salary Mr. CEO?
So as professional digital systems continue to drop in price, this technology leap is leaving the embedded production companies in tenuous situation. The new production companies can work with lower budgets and slimmer margins. Having a lower production value, their releases can be shown in fewer theaters and still make a profit. The older production companies have a choice, either move up the value chain relying solely on large budget nationwide block busters or adopt the mantra of the new guys and shed the excess financial weight.
Jack Valenti is seemingly standing there laying groundwork so that the MPAA does not need to make a choice. Too bad his foundation sits in an earthquake
— John McGinnis
There is so much that is reprehensible in contemporary culture and politics that one could find himself daily neglecting occupational responsibilities to remark on them and to some extent I have — and I hereby apologize to Spectator on-line readers for my garrulousness.
However, after noting this morning that the Washington Times has celebrated Jack Valenti as its “Noble of the week” (I only can surmise that he has been a drinking buddy of Tony Blankley) I am compelled to bellow — as the immortal John Candy did in the wonderful Second City’s send up of The Tonight Show, “The Sammy Maudlin Show” — in Ed McMahon-like stentorian terms, “The boss [Brian Doherty, in this instance] is so right.” (Actually I know that Joe Flaherty based the Maudlin character and the skits more on Sammy Davis and a talk show Davis once did.)
The preternaturally thin-waisted, Armani adorned, and perfectly barbered Valenti was present at the borning of LBJ’s Great Society and certainly responsible to some extent for the resulting havoc wrecked on every class of Americans — especially black Americans. He then joined the movie industry and shortly afterwards that industry abandoned even a pretense of producing much that was literate (even comprehensible ) and decent. Nevertheless Slick Jack supported his new masters sled length — as we used to say in labor relations parlance — lo these many decades. He was loyal liegeman to knaves like the Miramax producing brothers. He should be consigned to a hell watching The Crying Game endlessly — occasionally punctuated by one of those films in which the screenwriter believed high art was attained by having actors utter “sh-t” and “as-h—” throughout the movie.
— J.R. Wheatley
Harper Woods, Michigan
I hate to carp because Mr. Doherty’s article on Jack Valenti hits a variety of nails squarely on the head. Nevertheless, might he have been referring to Herman Mankiewicz, the brilliant scriptwriter (Citizen Kane) and brother of the late Joe Mankiewicz? If not, I apologize and will go look for Howard’s credits.
— Bill Lannon
Re: The Washington Prowler’s Kerry Alarm:
Mean Old Menino and the Case of the Kidnapped Chorus. Has a ring to it. Not up there with Ted Kennedy’s “Dude, Where’s My Car?” but charming in its own right…
If the Kerry camp really thinks music is a zero-sum game, they probably shouldn’t be trusted with fixing the economy…
— Richard McEnroe
Who needs to embarrass the Democratic Party, they seem to be doing a great job on their own.
— Mike Ward
GREAT WHILE IT LASTED
It was great the way RET exposed “Boy Clinton” for what he was back in the ’90s. For RET to not go after the “Boy Emperor” with the same gusto is more than a little disappointing.
— Michael Faulkenberg