Bennington College

Letter from Reginald "Doc" Cook to Peter Stanlis

Show simple item record Cook, Reginald "Doc" 2018-03-21T17:04:25Z 2018-03-21T17:04:25Z 1942-02-02
dc.description.abstract Dear Peter, Once in a blue moon one receives a letter like yours. It was a splendid one, and the tardiness of my reply is not in the least attributable to lack of appreciation. But you guessed it - the reason why you have not heard previously from me. I have been digging in to try to beat what might happen to curb my work out here. I did not receive your letter until after [the...punch”] at Pearl Harbor. Then I thought there might be immediate changes. There were a few; we had some realand some “phony” blackouts, and much preparation for things to come. In January we broke camp at Palo Alto, where I had been working in the Stanford Library, and struck out for southern California and a little of the much-wanted sunshine. We got it and out of a good [] we’ve had only two light rain neither of which would do any more than curl a baby’s hair and a few day of [...] blown inland from the Pacific. The rest has been clear, resplendent sunshine, so strong that objects stand out boldly; the kind of sunlight Cezanne liked down in Provence; the kind the artists have around taos, New Mexico. We are in a little town, which luckily we discovered, that lies just at just at the base of the San Gabriel range, along east/west broad-shouldered range whose highest point is Mt. Wilson (eight miles up the winding trail that starts a hundred yards from our front door). Below us is the San Gabriel Valley, perhaps five or six miles wide and at its westernmost point touches the Pacific. And at this point is Los Angeles and its multiple suburbs Glendale, Burbank, Long Beach, Santa Monica, Hollywood, etc. But before we reach Los Angeles we pass through Pasadena just seven miles distant and it is in a suburb of Pasadena - San Marino that the big [treasure] house - the Huntington Library - is located. This is, of course, why we have come down here to be near the Library and to get a little more work done. The University of Southern California and the University of California at Los Angeles are both on the outskirts of the city, or so it seems, and consequently are inaccessible. We have to worry about this constantly and bit by bit we feel as though our life was growing more and more hemmed in since the 7th of December. As I sit writing this letter to you the sound of a mocking bird in a [...] bush outside my wide window is almost dizzying in its intensity; poinsettias are brilliantly turning by the green hedge, tall cedars and unusually attractive palms line the border of the walk. Outside, the Acacia trees are in bloom and the bees are madly alive in the eucalyptus trees. When I go for a hike on the mountain trails I pass [...] Quail and deer are abundant in the hills, and the kind of hawks Robinson Jeffers is so passionate about that stretch all of a [...] on the top of the air column and ride them so gradly. Of an afternoon [...] I walk along the twisting trails. I hear a scream from the [...] a few more twists in front of us, and sure enough by looking wildly I will catch a glimpse of the hawk on outstretched wings. Once as I was turning a bend on one of the trails, high up, I came upon a hawk that I might almost have touched by stretching out and it was then riding a pillar of air which rose from the ravine deep beneath. The hawk was a brown fellow with a curiously small beak and with short blunt wings. But he rode that air like nobody's business, his wings [unbounding], which below in the [channels] of the ravine the wild pigeons broke [corn] from one holly cluster, and flew with a pigeon's desperate abandon toward another holly cluster, their wings a perfect flutter of motion. Gerard Manley Hopkins would have liked these hawks; perhaps the wild pigeons also. Then, too, there's the [...] along the trail from the mesquite as the hot sun draws its heat upon it and the light inland breeze blows the scent upward. Day by day the sun grows hotter and it takes little perception to see that by June this country will be intolerably hot. But now the sun impacted air is tonic and the green orange groves in the valley below are enlivening. Back there in Middlebury it must be different and either you are [...] by the clean, continuent cold or you look forward for the showing grasses and the songs of birds. There are many times when I think of Middlebury and of the people there. I have the intensity of reaction which comes best when I am a little distant from the object of my contemplation. And the degree of intensity sometimes depends upon the greater or lesser distance. Three thousand miles is just about right in this case, and I feel the intensive kind of reaction, one, by the way, that should not be confused with nostalgia. I could be dropped anywhere in the United States and feel at home so greatly have we traveled on its surface. It all seems familiar; I eat it like bread and drink it like wine. The different feeling - one of strangeness - was felt strongly while we were in Mexico. The brilliantly beautiful tropical and subtropical landscape fascinated us and the shy, little, withdrawn brown people interested us very much, but there was a smell to the land and an atmosphere characteristically Mexican that put us off and we felt only this mysterious strangeness exhaled like some strong pungent scent from an unstopped bottle. By way of contrast with the American scene Mexico was a revitalizing experience. We saw flights of green parrots rising from the tropical river beds and this was like [...] in the Congo or Gauguin in the South Seas or Theodore Rousseau even. And we saw Goya-esque bullfighting in Mexico City, and honest-to-goodness Riveras and Orozco's - dozens of the [former’s] paintings and murals, in Mexico City and Cuernavaca. We saw the brilliant [...] from Taxco just before the [usual] mid-morning [...]. And I say to you, Peter, that for the good of the art which you nourish [that] you should try to see Mexico. And I think you should not read any books about it. You should come to it when very very tired and you should just move within its' rhythm - the rhythm of [...] - of the little brown people who in themselves are many-faceted. The Pyramids of the Sun, the Spanish-like landscape, the wide fields of maguey, the [...] river, the plantations of banana and lemon, the sugar cane [...], the buzzards circling the skies in the clear weather, the bamboo huts with the turkeys and dogs and goats and the wild-[...] people in them, the orchids and multi-colored butterflies would be just as enchanting to you as they were to me. This was the country that stimulated Hart Crane and before him Katharine Anne Porter (do you know her Flowering Judas?). There are many artists around and it is not difficult to explain their presence. When you are choked with [...] hike to Mexico. Perhaps it was our seeing Mexico after the west that made the trip all the important interesting. But to think to [...] and not see the Louisiana Delta country or the Big Bend country in Texas or the sawgrass country of Southern Florida or the Monterey Peninsula of California! Each one is a [...] or writer that is inexhaustible. Talk about America! We mean the many Americans. What might happen here in December to come makes my hair stand up; not in fear either. If we can see this present time through and restore some measure of justice and reason and tolerance, we shall have all the more conviction about our common ideals and all the more justification for the literature we write in terms of our experience. But I would not separate the person from the times. The writing should carry in its [grain the annual...] of a common national experience. That is why I rate The Brothers Karamazov (which is about Russia and much of it is about one family, and about man as much as it is about family) and The Magic Mountain and War and Peace so highly; they do not dodge the issues of their times or epochs. They are right up smack against the biggest sort of [adamant]. So with my eyes looking over the Big Bend country and my heart embedded in its grazing plain, I reach out to [...] the issues of a world which lacks political unity and whose economic status is immeasurably more unified. The whole meaning of the fight right now seems to me to be centered on one point, whether or not you can or shall have only one way or two or possibly three ways of life. And the Americans or allied powers no less than the axis known are agreed on one point: that there must be only one way - either the democratic or the totalitarian. The world is no longer satisfied apparently with the anarchy of independent autonomy; it really wants unity not [diversity]. And to us the [slave-unity] of the Germans is vile and detestable, while the integrity-[subjecting], democratic unity of our people is laudable. What books will be written to this [...], books that will do with the air what Moby Dick does with the sea, books that will be written as Emerson said of Dante's Divine Comedy in "colossal cipher". We are being moved by strange and power forces in our day. The other night I heard Sandburg in the Los Angeles Philharmonic Auditorium. Well, he didn't get out very far [...] in very deep but he said something that I think really hits home. He said that an interesting thing happened to him while he was working on his Lincoln study, after the long long study of newspaper files, diaries, etc, etc, it came over him gradually that the people of Lincoln's day had no real sense of what was happening. They had no feeling or intuition about the deep underground channels operating beneath the [...]. There were those, like Sumner, who had no sense of the deep and underlying streams. Sandburg read 18 volumes of Sumner's works and on nearly every page there was nobody home. "Yet the things Sumner thought he [...] that time has proved not to be true!" But there were a few - a minuity - whose utterance stands good today. And such were the writings of Alexander Stephens and Robert E. Lee and Abraham Lincoln. Sandburg's remarks impressed me deeply. I think, Peter, that he said something - really said something. How many of us realize in all the complexity and in all the [import] those forces which are at work in our time! And it is not an [intuitive] realization which historical analyzers of Spengler, Toynbee or Beard only help to make more emphatic? But we have to feel it the way T.S. Eliot said so brilliantly that the writer has to write "not [merely] with his own generation in his bones, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer and within it the whole of the literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order." We have to feel with that depth, with that range of feeling and understanding - sentiently, intuitively. I am terribly afraid you will find this crabbed handwriting stern going; perhaps you will not get this far. It is one of the chief deterrents to letter-writing for me. Yet I cannot tell you how much such letters [or yours] mean to me. I think you know a little of how much strength and quality I think you have; much, of course, remains to be done. The [proving] up is a day-in, day-out sort-of-thing and there the patience and persistence counts for more than inspiration. I say this to you for the post-college days: The hell with the book for awhile: get out, see your country, bum around, soak up experiences [external] to you - the objective world, and keep away from [adulation] and [...]. [More posts have been doomed in ....than in all the ..of all the open ... of all the world.] The hell with the [...]; stick with the real fellows, like Robert Frost who got [them], or the case may be, on their or his own. Do let me hear from you. I shall try not to keep silence as unbearably long again. Let me have a copy of Directions. Test your [...] and then by writing a little. Get ready for the big work. Would you also send me Mr. Frost's address and if you see him you know what regards I send him - he's really up there, and "all the [...]" in watching his climb there poem by poem, book by book
dc.language.iso en_US en_US
dc.publisher Bennington College en_US
dc.subject Cook, Reginald "Doc" en_US
dc.subject Stanlis, Peter en_US
dc.subject Robert Frost House en_US
dc.subject Frost, Robert en_US
dc.title Letter from Reginald "Doc" Cook to Peter Stanlis en_US
dc.type Image en_US

Files in this item

This item appears in the following Collection(s)

Show simple item record



My Account