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Resurrecting Old Books

February 11, 2020
“Eyeball” gave me this in 1970.

February 11, 2020

I’ve been checking out some of the more obscure books in our house.  One example:  [Thomas] De Quincey’s Works.  Copyright 1877 by Houghton, Mifflin & Co.

When I was in the Marines a fellow supplyman, Lance Corporal Ziewall, gave me a fat little volume by the above-mentioned De Quincey.  I liked to call him “Eyeball.”  He always called me Stork.  

Ziewall claimed to be a genius, not boasting.  He understood the computers of our day (the late 1960s).  He explained to me about the differences between programming languages like COBOL and REBOL.  I didn’t quite understand.  He said a great example of analog computer was the automatic transmissions another Marine, Corporal Eddy Bonk, rebuilt in the hydraulics shop during his lunch hour.

In turn I told him about the I Ching, translated by Wilhelm and Baynes. I dwelt on the mathematics and probabilities, the primal images of earth and sky, parents, siblings. Landscape features, skyscapes too.

I never did get very far into De Quincey, but Wikipedia said he was an English essayist who became famous for his Confessions of an Opium Eater.  This heralded a kind of drug-use literature that blossomed during the so-called hippie era.

Then I spoke to my sister, who will be 81 next week.

Do you know who Louis Untermeyer was?  Maybe you do, but you might not.  We knew who he was at our house when I was a kid because of a hefty book in the living room bookcase.

We Struckman children grew up with Modern American and British Poetry.  Untermeyer edited it.

My brother Tom memorized several poems including Vachel Lindsay’s The Congo.  Published in 1912, The Congo is overtly racist, so has rightly met with derision and condemnation.  Fortunately, times are changing.  However, in the seventh grade I also learned a lot of it when our teacher had us recite poetry.  

I could also recite Gentle Alice Brown, by W.S. Gilbert.  Actually, I memorized several in the seventh grade by Mr. Gilbert because some were sort of gruesome and, I thought, therefore naughty.  

Anyway, Mr. Untermeyer was a poet, anthologist, editor, and critic.  He was branded a Communist in the early 50s by the House un-American activities committee. 

He was friends with publisher Bennett Cerf and Untermeyer appeared with him on the TV show What’s My Line? until he was fired.  The sponsor of What’s My Line? (a company that sold Stopette deodorant) was picketed by military veterans.

Our mother heard Untermeyer speak when she attended a teacher’s union conference in 1966.  I remember she told me about it.

The reason I mention him and the book is my sister Carol and I have been mailing it back and forth to each other on our birthdays the past few years.  I sent it to her yesterday.

One can read about Louis Untermeyer in Wikipedia.  He died in 1977.

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