Today would be Valerie Fletcher Eliot’s 90th birthday. I’ve been thinking about the reserved girl whose schoolmates I’ve visited in different parts of England over the past two years. I have met wonderful old ladies whose energy and vivacity gives me hope for my own future decades. None knew Valerie well. She was that quiet girl in the back of the picture, shadowy in memory and only memorable now because of her marriage to a famous poet in 1957. In this school photo, which I found in an album kept [...]
Valerie Eliot agonized about writing anything. It drove me crazy. There was, for example, a footnote about a reference to “charflappers” in a letter from T. S. Eliot (TSE) to his American publisher Scofield Thayer that she rewrote, or rather we rewrote, dozens of times. I’d think we had put that question to bed, and a day or two later she would say, “Remember that footnote, dear, the one about charflappers?” I don’t think I ever showed my impatience, but that kind of fussing was definitely one of the reasons [...]
Once upon a time, an author looking for information had to advertise in the paper. She or he would place a notice in the New York Review of Books or the Times Literary Supplement, saying that he or she was working on biography of so-and-so and would like to speak to anyone who knew him or her. I tried to get a notice like that printed when Sophie Mumford was 96 and we were starting to put her notes and memories together for a book. It was 1996 and I [...]
I don't know anything about zombies, but I promise that I am not using the word just to increase my blog's search rankings. It's my kids who like zombies, and love forcing me to try things I am sure I will not like
Footfalls echo in the memory Down the passage which we did not take Towards the door we never opened Into the rose-garden. My words echo Thus, in your mind.
A year ago I wrote one of my monthly e-letters about how I've moved between literature and science, and I'm glad now, as I revisit the Eliot story after the death of Valerie Eliot, that I recorded some ideas about my work on the Eliot letters and about the "two cultures." I was quoted in a number of articles last week: