Wednesday, September 5, 2012

September Cabbie Reading Corner: Mary Wollstonecraft, Ernest Hemingway & An Amazing Poem About the American Japanese Internment

Both my eyes and nose have been stuck in many books ranging from 100 year old poetry books to examinations of neuroscience.  Perhaps my most exciting discovery was a newspaper clipping of a poem obviously written in the early 1940s sarcastically commenting upon Executive Order 9066.  I'll include that poetical historical relic at the end.  I found it in the pages of "Magic Ring, A Collection of Verse" revised edition published in 1937 and edited by Ruth A. Brown.  An even older book I've been reading nightly is something published in 1909, volume VIII Poems, The After School Library, edited very warmly by Mary E. Burt, the series put out by the The After School Club, Philadelphia.  It contains many old favorites and cost me 25 cents.  Last night I read that very important essay concerning women, "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" by Mary Wollstonecraft, she being the mother of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly, the author of "Frankenstein."  Given who her mother was I am thinking that perhaps that famous horror novel is more allegory than anything else, the monster representing the typical male?  I could see the connection.  What is amazing about Hemingway's "Indian Camp" is how much story is contained in a mere 2 1/2 pages.  One might question his sentence structure but not his craft. The story displays the ability of the veteran journalist which he was. I am also reading something written by David Eagleman, "Incognito, The Secret Lives of the Brain."  Good and interesting and important information.

Just who is Will Grozier, that book reading London cabbie made famous by NPR's Scott Simon? All I can find are his recommendations, nothing about the man himself.  Most recently, just prior to this year's Summer Olympic games, Mister Simon had him on demanding that he give the world the definitive book list concerning London.  Why Grozier would be expected to be an instant expert on anything and everything say more than I wish to know about Mister Simon.  I am interested in Grozier because his vocabulary is not typical of cabbies let alone the average Joe and John or Judy and Mary prancing down the boulevard.  Though I can say from personal experience that the well read individual carries a workable dictionary in his or her brain.  Ask me for definitions but not the spelling.  I could never be that quotable insect, the spelling Bee!

The internment of the Japanese will forever be an insult to American democracy.  What happened in 1942 and 1943 cannot ever be repeated.  Did you know that those Japanese Americans who failed to answer yes to questions 27 & 28 on the internment questionnaire were sent to Tule Lake, Nevada, a real and actual concentration camp complete with machine guns pointed at the residents?.  Question 27, asked of young and old alike was whether if drafted you would serve in the armed forces of the United States. This was asked of 80 year old women.  Question 28 asked would you disavow any and all loyalty to the Emperor of Japan, this of many who were born in the United States.  I have always wondered what would have happened if these kinds of questions had been asked of my grandparents, all of whom originated from AXIS countries.  Would they have asked my Sicilian grandfather Blondo if he held any loyalties to LL Duce (Mussolini)?  They probably would have found him very suspect given he couldn't speak English.  That makes you an instant spy!

Now here is the poem by Barbara M. Harvey.  Don't wince at the title as in the first half of this century in the United States the word "Jap" was part of general usage and practice, part of the colloquial  lexicon.  Before I end I find it important to note that today is the birthday of Arthur Koestler, author of "Darkness At Noon" perhaps the best book ever written about demented Communist authoritarianism.  If you haven't read it, read it.  You will be glad you did!  

                                            Oh, to Be a Jap, Now That Spring is Here!

                                            I would like to be evacuated, in the Demo-
                                                   cratic way!
                                            To go to some quiet valley, for the dura-
                                                    tion to stay.
                                            I would like to be part of a trekking
                                            (You betcha, with all expenses paid.)
                                            Oh, I would like to travel, as a guest of
                                                    Uncle Sam:
                                            To live, and do a little gardening ) on the
                                                    American plan.)
                                            Away from air raids and sirens, tax in-
                                                    stallments, and tireless automobiles.
                                            Back to the farm! Depending on good old
                                                     wagon wheels.
                                            For springtime on the  desert is the time
                                                     I long to be:
                                            Seeking new landscapes beyond each dis-
                                                     tant tree.
                                            Mother Nature beckons her children:
                                                     bring your easy-rocker and stay.
                                            Up here you don't have to worry about
                                                     the F.H. A!

                                                                           Barbara Harvey

Nothing like realism.  If I find out anything about Harvey I will tell you soon.  As a London cabbie might say, Good Reading!           




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