Typewriter of the moment: Noir novelist David Goodis

July 7, 2014

Somerset Maugham at his typewriter.  Image from Jon Winokur's

David Goodis at his typewriter. Image from Jon Winokur’s “Advice to Writers”

What a writer’s desk!  A manual typewriter (Royal? I think so); a fountain pen and a bottle of ink; a solid cigarette lighter and a half-full ashtray.  Judging by the papers on the desk, I’d say he’s working on a screenplay (from the format), and the buildings outside the window look a lot like the Warner Bros. studio lot.

Jon Winokur’s Tweet with noir novelist David Goodis at his typewriter noted Somerset Maugham’s classic statement about writing novels:

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

Did Winokur think the photo was of Maugham? (I found the photo also at an article on Maugham at Oz.Typewriter; I left a comment for Robert Messenger.)

Who is David Goodis? He wrote Dark Passage, which is probably famous mostly for the movie version starring a young Humphrey Bogart.

David Loeb Goodis (March 2, 1917 – January 7, 1967) was an American writer of crime fiction, noted for his prolific output of short stories and novels epitomizing the noir fiction genre. A native of Philadelphia, Goodis alternately resided there and in New York City and Hollywood during his professional years. Yet, throughout his life he maintained a deep identification with the city of his birth, Philadelphia. Goodis cultivated the skid row neighborhoods of his home town, using what he observed to craft his hard-boiled sagas of lives gone wrong, realized in dark portrayals of a blighted urban landscape teeming with criminal life and human despair.

“Despite his [university] education, a combination of ethnicity (Jewish) and temperament allowed him to empathize with outsiders: the working poor, the unjustly accused, fugitives, criminals.” [1]

From 1939 to the middle of the 1940s, Goodis wrote perhaps 5 million words in stories for pulp fiction magazines, an output rivaled by few, if anyone.  Unlike his contemporaries, Dashiell Hamett and Raymond Chandler, Goodis’s work escaped reprinting.

During the 1940s, Goodis scripted for radio adventure serials, including Hop Harrigan, House of Mystery, and Superman. Novels he wrote during the early 1940s were rejected by publishers, but in 1942 he spent some time in Hollywood as one of the screenwriters on Universal’s Destination Unknown. His big break came in 1946 when his novel Dark Passage was serialized in The Saturday Evening Post, published by Julian Messner and filmed for Warner Bros. with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall heading the cast. Delmer Daves directed what is now regarded as a classic film noir, and a first edition of the 1946 hardcover is valued at more than $800.

Arriving in Hollywood, Goodis signed a six-year contract with Warner Brothers, working on story treatments and scripts. In 1947, Goodis wrote the script for The Unfaithful, a remake of Somerset Maugham‘s The Letter. Some of his scripts were never produced, such as Of Missing Persons and an adaptation of Raymond Chandler‘s The Lady in the Lake. Working with director Delmer Daves, he wrote a screen treatment for a film, Up Till Now, which Daves described as “giving people a look at themselves and their [American] heritage”. This film too was never made but Goodis used some of its elements in his 1954 novel, The Blonde on the Street Corner.[3]

Goodis is also credited with writing the screenplay to The Burglar, a 1957 film noir directed by Paul Wendkos that was based on his 1953 novel published by Lion Books. It was the only solely authored screenplay to be produced by him. The film was written and directed by Philadelphians, as well as being shot in Philadelphia. Dan Duryea and Jayne Mansfield were cast in the lead roles, and The Burglar still stands as one of the greatest heist films ever made. It was re-made in 1971 by Henri Verneuil as the French-Italian film Le Casse, starring Omar Sharif.

 


Typewriter of the moment: E. B. White, in rural Maine

June 6, 2014

E. B. White writing in his boat shed overlooking Allen Cove, 1976, using a portable manual typewriter.  Photo by Jill Krementz, from  her book, The Writer’s Image.

E. B. White writing in his boat shed overlooking Allen Cove, 1976, using a portable manual typewriter. Photo by Jill Krementz, from her book, The Writer’s Image.

Someone much more familiar with typewriters may be able to identify the machine.

Don’t you love the way the water looks as though it’s a painting, a work of art, hanging on the wall?

Turns out White was very fond of Dachsunds.

E. B. White at work, with his Dachsund looking on.

E. B. White at work, with his Dachsund, Minnie, looking on.

More: 

Below the fold, the Tweet that inspired this post, from Jon Winokur.

Read the rest of this entry »


Quote of the moment: Education is knowing what you know, and what you don’t

March 31, 2014

Commenter Robert Lopresti mentioned a book assembled at the Library of Congress, to assist Members of Congress in creating speeches on important issues, with accurate quotes in accurate context: Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations.

One might wonder if anyone in Congress even knows the book exists.

You can buy the book, at Amazon, or from the Library of Congress Gift Shop, and Bartleby has it online (public domain already?).

My first use of the online version, I looked for education, and found this from William Feather (1889-1981), describing  just what “an education” is:

An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don’t. It’s knowing where to go to find out what you need to know; and it’s knowing how to use the information you get.

When and where did Feather say that?  Things get murky — according to the list at the Library of Congress:

Publisher and writer William Feather, photo by William Feather III

Publisher and writer William Feather, photo by William Feather III. Can we trust a bon mot attributed to such a jovial and scholarly looking fellow?

Attributed to WILLIAM FEATHER.—August Kerber, Quotable Quotes on Education, p. 17 (1968). Unverified.

An honest assessment that we don’t know for certain that Feather said exactly that. This book could be a valuable resource!

Who the heck was William Feather?

William A. Feather (August 25, 1889 – January 7, 1981) was an American publisher and author, based in Cleveland, Ohio.

Born in Jamestown, New York, Feather relocated with his family to Cleveland in 1903. After earning a degree from Western Reserve University in 1910, he began working as a reporter for the Cleveland Press. In 1916, he established the William Feather Magazine.[1] In addition to writing for and publishing that magazine, and writing for other magazines as H.L. Mencken‘s The American Mercury, he ran a successful printing business, and wrote several books.[2]

Feather’s definition appeals to me.  Educated people know where to find the facts they need, and they know when it’s important to search for those facts, rather than stand on ignorance.

Compare it with the Hubbard/Rogers advice, that it’s what we know “that ain’t so” that gets us into trouble.

How could any test, ever test for that?


The mighty pen, revisited

October 30, 2013

Before we completely forget about October 29, and events that occurred on that day of the calendar, let’s pause for a moment to remember the introduction of the ballpoint pen.  We do this because the ballpoint pen was such a symbol of modernity after World War II.  And we do this because hand writing utensils seem to be losing fashion, as does handwriting itself.

Let’s not lose all the history.  I wrote this first back in 2006, commemorating the ballpoint.

2006 was the 100th anniversary of the Mont Blanc company, the company that made fountain pens a luxury item even while fountain pens were still the state of the art of pens.

A Reynolds rocket; this is claimed to be the first version of the ballpoint pen sold, on October 29, 1945, in Gimbel's Department Store in New York City.

A Reynolds rocket; this is claimed to be the first version of the ballpoint pen sold, on October 29, 1945, in Gimbel’s Department Store in New York City.

October 29 is the 68st anniversary (according to CBS “Sunday Morning”) or 69th anniversary (see Wikipedia) of the introduction of the ballpoint pen in the U.S., at Gimbel’s Department Store, in New York City. (I go with 1945.)  It was based on a design devised in 1938 by a journalist named László Bíró. Biro produced his pen in Europe, and then in Argentina. But in the U.S., a businessman named Reynolds set up the Reynolds International Pen Company and rushed to market in the U.S. a pen based on several Biros he had purchased in Buenos Aires.

On October 29, 1945 (or 1946), you could purchase a “Reynolds Rocket” at Gimbel’s for $12.50 — about $130 today, adjusted for inflation.

1946 Reynolds Rocket ballpoint pen, from the collection of James P. Reynolds

1946 Reynolds Rocket ballpoint pen, from the collection of James P. Reynolds

Today I continue my search for a ballpoint or rollerball that will write in green, reliably, for grading.  (Turns out red marks panic a lot of kids; some write in blue, so blue won’t work, nor will black; green is a great grading color.)

I use a Waterman Phileas ballpoint, a Cross Radiance fountain pen, a Cross Radiance rollerball (Radiance was discontinued about a year ago), a full set of Cross Century writing implements, a lot of Sanford Uniballs in various colors, and a lot of Pentel Hybrid K-178 gel-rollers, and some Pilot G-2 gel pens (though the green ink versions are unreliable). I also keep several Marvy calligraphic pens for signing things with a flourish. I have a box of $0.10 ballpoints in a briefcase for students who fail to bring a writing utensil.  (Since 2006, I’ve added a Cross pencil similar to the old Radiance design, and another Cross ballpoint in black (the Waterman is blue); the most reliable green-ink pen I’ve found is a Pilot Bravo, but they are tough to find these days in any color, and green is even togher; plus, they are bold-line instruments.)

Jefferson probably wrote the Declaration of Independence with quills he trimmed himself. Lincoln probably used a form of fountain pen to write the Gettysburg Address, but he had no writing utensil with him when he was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865. President Johnson made famous the practice of using many pens to sign important documents, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964; he made gifts of the pens to people who supported the legislation and worked to get it made into law.

And, who said it? Brace yourself.

Beneath the rule of men entirely great,
The pen is mightier than the sword.

Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Baron Lytton, wrote that, in Richelieu, act II, scene ii, a play he wrote in 1839.

Yes, he is the same Bulwer-Lytton who wrote the novel Paul Clifford in 1840, whose opening line is, “It was a dark and stormy night.”

The first ballpoint pen was sold in the United States on October 29, 1945, a few weeks after the surrender of Japan that ended completely the hostilities of World War II.  It was a good year, and a good time to be writing.  Still is, today.

More:


MzTeachuh’s secret to getting to know students (a life hack everyone should know and use)

August 23, 2013

MzTeachuh posted this last year, and Tweeted it this year – it’s good on the first days of school.  Quoting the entire post (links added here):

A Writing Prompt to Really Get To Know Your Students

“Three Things I Want You To Know About Me.”

Jim Abbott of the Yankees, pitching a no-hitter.

I came up with this prompt while teaching high school, but it works with younger kids, too. It gives the students a choice of what to comment on, and allows them to use their own voice to tell it like it feels. You may learn a lot about music, sports, and their dog; but sometimes you will also learn about very serious topics like family crisis or illness. And at times the school can help the families. But you will know the students better, especially if you actually read the essays and comment on them. The kids feel very validated, and more willing to write the remainder of the year no matter what the topic.
Jim Abbott of the Yankees, pitching a no-hitter.

I especially enjoyed when the students shared their dreams for their future. You would be amazed how many major league baseball players (of the future) were in my seventh grade classes. Far be it from me to say otherwise. Who knows, anyway? If Jim Abbott, who had only one hand due to a birth defect, became a major league pitcher, shouldn’t I be like his grown-ups and be filled with

- See more at: http://mzteachuh.blogspot.com/2012/09/a-writing-prompt-to-really-get-to-know.html?spref=tw#sthash.taTaa9nj.dpuf

I told MzTeachuh:

Stealing this in its entirety.

As a reporter, I got a lot of mileage from politicians, or anyone involved in a controversy, asking “what should readers know about [you/this issue] that most of us don’t know now?”

With grownups, it’s quite educational to find people who haven’t thought beyond the shouting.

Open questions are the best; open questions that get kids to write in class are the cream of the best. If not exactly the path to truth, it is clearing the path to knowledge that leads to truth.

More, maybe related stuff:


Quote of the moment: Rachel Carson, on why her nature writing sounds so much like poetry

June 14, 2013

Rachel Carson said:

“If there is poetry in my book about the sea, it is not because I deliberately put it there, but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.”

Cover of The Gentle Subversive, by Mark Hamilton Lytle, for Oxford University Press.

Cover of The Gentle Subversive, by Mark Hamilton Lytle, for Oxford University Press.

Bug Girl wrote a fine review last year of an often over-looked book on Carson, The Gentle Subversive: Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, and the Rise of the Environmental Movement  (Mark Hamilton Lytle, 2007. Oxford Univ. Press.)  It’s worth your click over there to read a nice piece on Carson, on women in science, and on nature writing.

Bug Girl spends the necessary time and space answering critics of Carson, of Silent Spring, and those few odd but incredibly active and loud advocates who claim we can conquer disease if we can only spread enough DDT poison around the Earth.  Go see.

I find it impossible to stand in a place like Yosemite and not hear John Muir‘s voice — and it’s probably that John Muir found that, too.  Or stand on the shores of Waldon Pond and not hear Henry David Thoreau, or stand on sandy soil in Wisconsin and not hear Aldo Leopold, or sit on a redrock outcropping in southern Utah and not hear Ed Abbey.  They probably heard similar voices.  But they had the presence of mind to write down what they heard.

Writing wonderful prose, or poetry, must be easier when the subject sings of itself in your ears, and paints itself in glory for your eyes.

If Carson’s prose borders on poetry, does that add to, or subtract from its science value?

More:

U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt (left) and n...

U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt (left) and nature preservationist John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club , on Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park. In the background: Upper and lower Yosemite Falls. Wikipedia image


March 4, National Grammar Day 2013

March 4, 2013

Are you motivated to do something about grammar?  If you’re lucky enough to subscribe to the Chicago Tribune and you read the paper today, you probably know where this is going.

Every year on March 4 (also known as march forth! which will make sense in a second), language-minded folks raise their grammartini glasses and drink to National Grammar Day.

Established in 2008 by author and editor Martha Brockenbrough, who also founded the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar, National Grammar Day is a celebration of words in all their written, spoken, tweeted, texted splendor.

Grammar police

Grammar police visited this sign — for National Grammar Day? Photo: the_munificent_sasquatch

Probably the best place to start would be Motivated Grammar:

It’s National Grammar Day 2013, which has really snuck up on me. If you’ve been here in previous years, you know that I like to do three things on March 4th: have a rambling speculative discussion about the nature of grammar and/or linguistics, link to some people’s posts I’ve liked, and link to some of my posts. Unfortunately, I’ve been so busy with dissertation work lately that I’m a bit worn out on discussion and haven’t been adequately keeping up with everyone’s blogs. So I hope you’ll forgive my breach of etiquette in making this year’s NGD post all Motivated Grammar posts.

Well, not entirely. Everyone in our little community gets in on National Grammar Day, so let me mention a few good posts I’ve seen so far. Kory Stamper discusses her mixed feelings on the day, as well as on correcting people’s language in general. Dennis Baron looks at the abandoned, paranoid, wartime predecessor of NGD, “Better American Speech Week”. And from last year, but only better from the aging process, Jonathon Owen and goofy had posts asking what counts as evidence for grammatical correctness or incorrectness, and why we’re so often content to repeat grammar myths.

Yeah, yeah.  He said “snuck.”  You and I know he should have said “sneaked,” but he’s probably go the new dictionaries that caved on the issue.  I think this breach of common sense and moral standards of grammar is the cause of our present political trouble in Washington, the Stupid Sequestration, and the Great Gridlock.

The rest of the post is pretty good, though, especially the debunking of ten more myths of grammar.  Go see.

An actual National Grammar Day website exists, courtesy of Grammar Girl, I think.

Excited yet?  Go back to that Chicago Tribune article:

A highlight of the holiday each year is the haiku contest, in which contestants are urged to tweet grammar- or usage-based haikus. Judges include Ben Zimmer, the Boston Globe language columnist and executive producer of Visual Thesaurus, Martha Barnette, who hosts a nationally syndicated public radio program called “A Way with Words,” Bill Walsh, a copy editor at the Washington Post and author of “Lapsing into a Comma,” and, of course, Brockenbrough.

Last year’s winner was Larry Kunz, a technical writer from Raleigh-Durham, N.C.. His winning poem:

Being a dangler,

Jane knew it would have to come

out of the sentence

Runners-up included this gem from one Charlie MacFadyen:

Wanted: one pronoun,

To take the place of he/she

“They” need not apply

And this, from Tom Freeman:

People shouldn’t say

“I could care less” when they mean

“I could care fewer”

The holiday is not, planners says, an opportunity to scold.

I understand Grammarly runs an annual photo contest.  I haven’t found it yet.  Will you let us know in comments, if you find the photos?  (This isn’t it, though there may be overlap).

(But, no, Dear Reader, I had not been aware of National Grammar Day, either, until just about an hour ago.  March 4th/March Forth!, is the link, I suppose.  We’re ten days away from International Pi Day, too:  3.14.)

Also, let me interject one of my favorite sentences.  In a long, sometimes bitter discussion about grammar and social reform way back in 1957, there were people who argued that grammar is essential to meaning, and that correct grammar could carry the entire meaning.  To that idea, Noam Chomsky came up with a rebuttal in the form of a sentence that, though completely correct grammatically, means absolutely nothing.  Watching politics, life and organizations, you will discover Prof. Chomsky’s sentence applies in way more places than it should, or than you can stand.  Chomsky’s grammatically perfect, though meaningless sentence?

Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

More:

 


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