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ANDREW ELIOT’S DIARY 3 ñòðàíèöà
After another quarter of a mile, he succeeded in twisting their arms.
Then the talk got around to principals. They started with passionate unanimity. Not only did they all agree on Zero Mostel, but the star himself had already consented merely on the basis of the novel.
Casting the female lead proved more difficult. Danny had what he thought was a sensational idea. He had written the role of Molly — who is a professional singer even in Joyce’s book — for someone with real vocal ability. So he proposed what was to his mind the supreme voice of their time: Joan Sutherland.
“An opera singer in a Broadway show?” Edgar Waldorf cringed. “Besides, she’d never do it.”
“First of all,” said Danny, “I got to know her when I conducted Lucia at La Scala. She’s a terrific lady. And she’s got the courage to take on new challenges.”
“Look,” reasoned the ever-reasonable Edgar Waldorf, “I would be the last person to knock Miss Sutherland’s talent, but opera and Broadway don’t seem to mix.”
“What about Ezio Pinza in South Pacific ?” asked Stuart.
“A fluke, a fluke,” said Waldorf. “Besides, what made that show was Mary Martin. And anyway we can’t afford Sutherland. No, I say we’ve got to go with someone used to doing eight shows a week. Someone who’s a proven draw — magnetic, vibrant, exciting —”
“And also big tits, maybe?” Danny asked facetiously.
“That wouldn’t hurt either,” said the producer, trying to act ingenuous.
Danny Rossi stopped walking, put his hands on his hips, and stood like a small colossus in the sand of Martha’s Vineyard.
“Listen, Edgar, I would rather die than have Theora Hamilton in a show of mine. I have my principles.”
“That goes for me as welt,” Stuart added.
“Easy, boys, easy. Nobody’s going to compromise anybody’s principles here,” mediated Harvey Madison. “There are a million talented ladies in the American theater and I’m sure we can come up with someone who meets everyone’s specifications. Now, why don’t we all start back? It’s already a half-hour past cocktail time.”
When the quartet returned, Maria Rossi, busy lighting a charcoal fire with Nina Kingsley, looked up and asked, “Well, gentlemen, did you settle all your problems?”
“Absolutely,” said Harvey Madison. “The great minds are all in sync.”
And there in the growing twilight on that lonely beach, Edgar Waldorf proclaimed, “It gives me great pleasure to tell you that Manhattan Odyssey , under the direction of Sir John Chalcott, will begin rehearsals on December twenty-sixth. And commence its pre-Broadway engagement at the Schubert Theater in Boston on February seventh.
“By the time it opens in New York on March twenty-fourth, it will undoubtedly be sold out for a year. Since not only is it geniusly written, but it will also have the incredible one-two punch of Mr. Zero Mostel —” He paused for effect.
“And Miss Theora Hamilton.”
The authors’ wives shot startled glances at their husbands, whose expressions were strangely resigned.
Chitchat continued during the barbecue. Then they all left the beach quickly to sit silently in front of the television. And admire the pitching virtuosity of Sandy Koufax keeping the ball away from every single batter of the San Francisco Giants.
“How did he convince you?” Maria asked as they were driving home.
“I’m not sure myself,” Danny confessed. “I mean, he used so much sophistry that my head is still spinning. I felt like General Custer. Every time I fended off one of Edgar’s attacks, he was behind me with another tomahawk.”
“But, Danny,” Maria insisted, “you’re the artists. Surely you and Stuart should have the last word.”
“I did have the last word.” He smiled sardonically. “It’s just that Edgar had a few thousand arguments after my last word. All of a sudden Zero wasn’t enough to sell tickets to anybody. He was a ham. The audience had enough of him after Fiddler . His arguments were endless.
“According to Edgar, the only thing that could possibly save us would be the mammiferous presence of the untalented Theora Hamilton. Look, I’ll just cut down her role so she won’t be an utter embarrassment to us.”
“But couldn’t you have agreed on anybody else?”
Danny looked at her sheepishly and confessed, “Edgar seems to be finding resistance to James Joyce among his investors. And it would be hard to find another female star whose husband is willing to put up half a million bucks if we give his wife the role.”
“Aha,” said Maria, with a mixture of surprise and disappointment. “Well, they say that Broadway plays always rise like Venus from a sea of compromises.”
“Yeah,” said Danny, now unable to hide his frustration, “but this is the last compromise. The very last.”
Within mere hours of Ted Lambros’s rejection for tenure at Harvard, communications began to pour in from every important university center of the United States.
Some were simply to express condolences. Others to inquire if it were really true. The subtext being that if Lambros had been shot down, there might be a possibility for them at Harvard. But perhaps the most astounding calls were from those who presumed to know the secrets of that fateful afternoon’s proceedings.
When Ted and Sara returned from the Whitmans’, he had passed beyond depression into a kind of postmortem euphoria. A paradoxical feeling of being “high” on disappointment.
Walt Hewlett from the University of Texas called to convey the inside dope. “Teddie, I know the guys who screwed you were the ‘garbologists.’ ” This was Walt’s term for archaeologists, whom he viewed as mere rummagers in the trash cans of ancient civilizations.
“What makes you so sure, Walt?”
“Listen, those guys have an incredible animosity for anything written in a book. They only trust pornographic graffiti scrawled on Roman urinals. So I guess you’ll be going to Berkeley, huh?”
Ted was stupefied. He had no idea that everybody in the world of classics knew everything.
“I’m not sure,” he answered cagily. For today’s experience had taught him a great lesson in the laws of the academic jungle. “Hey, Walter old friend, I’m really touched that you called. But it’s past midnight. And just because I don’t have tenure doesn’t mean I can skip my nine-o’clock class tomorrow.”
He hung up and looked at Sara, who, by now, was also giggly. “This is a farce, Ted. We should take the receiver off the hook and go to bed.”
That instant the telephone rang yet again.
It was Bill Foster from Berkeley.
This was not a voice Ted had hoped to hear after midnight, when he was tired and semi-sloshed. But mercifully Bill did all the talking.
“Listen, Ted, I know it’s late back there, so I’ll make it short. We really want you here and look forward to getting your written acceptance so we can list you on our prospectus.”
“Thanks, Bill,” Ted answered, trying to sound both sober and sincere. And having difficulty doing either.
The next day was the most painful of Ted’s life. Not only because he had a terrible hangover. But because somehow he had to muster the courage to walk into Boylston Hall. To go to the Classics office. To say good morning to the secretary, as if nothing were different.
And, still worse, to have to confront the senior professors and exchange bland cordialities, suppressing all the curiosity — and violent anger — he felt inside.
As he entered the Yard and passed John Harvard’s statue, he was even anxious about running into John Finley, fearing that his idol might resent him now that he was a “failure.”
But he realized that he had to go through the motions of normalcy. He could not sulk like Achilles in his tent. Certainly not, especially since he was no longer a great hero — at least in Harvard’s eyes. He had been blackballed. Rejected from the club.
From nine to ten he walked like a somnambulist through Elementary Greek. And then deliberately tried to preserve the numbness he felt as he went to pick up his mail in the department office.
Mercifully, no one else was there, so all he had to do was exchange perfunctory salutations with the secretary. Ted could not help but marvel at her ability to camouflage her awareness — for she really did know everything — of yesterday’s events. It was, he joked inwardly, a quality that departmental secretaries probably shared with undertakers. They had to keep an affable demeanor in the midst of catastrophe.
But on the way to his eleven-o’clock lecture, the adrenaline began to flow in him again. What the hell, he thought, I’m not going to give these kids a bum deal just because those bastards kicked me where it hurts.
Fortunately, he had a subject he could dig into — Euripides’ tragedy Hippolytus . He could speak about the injustice of the gods.
Ted took the podium and gave one of the most stirring lectures of his life.
The students applauded — a rare occurrence in the middle of a semester.
Screw the garbologists. I’d like to see those fogies set a class on fire like that. No, dammit, they may have crumpled my career like a paper cup, but they won’t crush me.
His son greeted him at the door. Here, Ted thought, is at least one guy who still thinks I’m terrific.
He kissed Sara, and while she prepared dinner, went through the ritual of putting his son to bed. The high point was Ted’s off-key rendition of “Nani to moro mou, nani ,” a Greek lullaby.
Then he sat down at the kitchen table with Sara and gradually removed the mental armor he had worn all day.
“Do you feel wretchedly terrible, or just terribly wretched?” she asked gently.
“Well, I got through the first day of being a nonperson without punching anybody or throwing myself into the Charles.”
“That’s good,” she said, smiling.
The telephone rang.
“I’m sorry, Ted, I forgot to take it off the hook when we sat down. Let me get rid of whoever it is.”
But Sara did not hang up immediately. “It’s Robbie Walton,” she called out. “I think you should speak to him. He’s really upset for you.”
Ted nodded and went to the phone. When Rob, the first graduate student whose thesis he had directed, had left Harvard to begin an instructorship at Canterbury College, he had vowed eternal gratitude.
“How could Harvard do this to you?” Rob said with anguish.
“Listen, it’s the breaks of the game. Let this be a lesson to all of us.”
“Anyway, I’ll bet you’ve got a million alternatives. At least you deserve to.”
“I’ve got a couple,” Ted answered noncommittally. “How are things at Canterbury, Rob?”
“Not bad. Some of the kids are really bright — and the place is unbelievably gorgeous. The Classics Department is a little quiet, though. I mean, they haven’t got anybody like Ted Lambros.”
“Maybe that’s because they haven’t asked,” Ted replied, only half in jest.
“You mean you’d actually consider coming up here?”
“Frankly, at this point, I’m not really sure what I want. I’m gonna just play it by ear for a while.”
Suddenly Bobbie grew excited.
“Hey, listen, if you’re at all serious about Canterbury, I’ll tell the dean first thing in the morning. My God, he’ll go bananas!”
“Well,” Ted answered casually, “it might be interesting to see what would happen if you mentioned it. Thanks, Rob.”
“What kind of Machiavellian mischief are you up to now?” Sara asked when he sat down again.
“Honey, that little maneuver is called keeping your options open.”
“I’d call it dirty pool.”
“Sara, haven’t you learned by now? ‘Dirty’ is the only way to play the academic game.”
Robbie called two days later. He was exultant. “I knew it,” he effused. “I gave your book to Tony Thatcher — he’s Dean of Humanities — and it really turned him on. He told me to arrange a date with you for a guest lecture. How’s Wednesday the fourteenth?”
“Fine,” Ted replied, trying to underplay his satisfaction, “that sounds fine.”
In the next few days Ted devoured all the information he could obtain about Canterbury College. Founded in 1772, it was one of the oldest colleges in America. And unlike Harvard and Yale, which acquired their names from mere commoners, it had a noble cachet. The college was established on the order of Frederick Comwallis, Archbishop of Canterbury under King George III, to train ministers for the colonies.
But to Sara, Canterbury had always been merely a football rival from the wilds of Vermont. Though she had heard how pretty its campus was, she had never heard particular praise for its classics department.
If she had dared to speak with total candor, Sara would have confessed that she actually liked Berkeley even better than Harvard. But the idea of going to Canterbury seemed to lift Ted’s spirit so. After all, here he would be the undisputed king of the mountain. Sara’s only misgivings — unspoken, of course — were about having to live on that mountain.
After a leisurely afternoon drive, they checked in at the rustic but elegant Windsor Arms and went immediately to sit on its front porch to gaze at the fairyland spread out before them, Directly ahead, across the lush town green, stood Hillier Library, its white Georgian tower stretching proudly toward a cloudless sky.
“Gosh, Sara, it’s even more imposing than Eliot House, isn’t it?”
“No,” she replied, “but it is beautiful.”
Just then Robbie arrived and greeted them effusively. He was wearing an orange blazer, white button-down shirt, and rep tie.
“I’ve been designated your official guide,” he said. “We’ve got plenty of time for a thorough tour and a cup of tea before your lecture.”
Rob was an ardent convert to the Canterbury way of life.
“Breathe that air,” he urged. “It’s the purest stuff you’ve ever had in your lungs. No city pollution out here.”
“No city, either,” Sara added matter-of-factly.
Later, as they neared Canterbury Hall, Robbie grew uneasy. “Uh — Ted, I — uh — I hope you don’t mind if there isn’t a huge crowd.”
“That’s okay. I’d be happy to talk just to you and Sara.”
“You may well,” Rob mumbled, now patently embarrassed. “I mean, I announced your talk to my own classes, but they didn’t get the posters up till kinda late.”
“How late?” Ted inquired.
“Uh — this morning, I’m afraid,” Bobbie replied as they reached the main entrance of the building.
Sara Lambros began to think dark thoughts.
The large lecture room was sprinkled with fewer than two dozen people. Ted had difficulty masking his disappointment.
“Don’t worry,” Rob whispered, “the dean and provost are out there — and that’s what really counts.”
“What about members of the department?”
“Oh sure,” Rob answered quickly, “a couple of them are here too.”
Both Ted and Sara knew what this meant. Some of the professors — who needed no poster to inform them of this occasion — had chosen to boycott his talk.
Though his former student was warmly eloquent in introducing Ted, Sara could not help but wonder why the department hadn’t chosen someone senior to present him. He was, after all, the author of what the American Journal of Philology had praised as the most important Sophoclean book of the decade.
Ignoring the emptiness of the auditorium, Ted gave his lecture with quiet confidence.
At the end, the happy few clapped energetically.
An elegant gentleman with graying temples was the first to offer his hand.
“I’m Tony Thatcher, Dean of Humanities,” he said, “and I very much enjoyed your presentation. Could we have breakfast at, say, eight tomorrow?”
“Fine,” Ted replied.
He then turned to answer a few student questions, after which Robbie introduced a youngish academic with horn-rimmed glasses and Clark Gable mustache.
“Ted, this is our Latinist and chairman, Henry Dunster. He’ll be taking you to dinner.”
“How do you do, Professor Lambros,” said Dunster in a deep baritone that sounded like it had its own echo chamber. “I suppose you could use a nice dry martini about now.”
“Thanks,” said Ted, trying to ignore the fact that the chairman had not offered even the most perfunctory compliment about his lecture. “I’ll get Rob and Sara.”
“No, Rob won’t be joining us,” Dunster intoned. “I thought an intimate dinner would be best for you to meet the senior colleagues. Incidentally, Ken Bunting had a conflicting commitment and couldn’t make it. But I know he’ll want to chat with you.”
As he ushered the two guests of honor out of the auditorium, Sara could not help feeling a twinge of pity for Robbie.
They entered the candlelit restaurant of the Windsor Arms, where, at a corner table, the rest of the Classics Department’s senior faculty were waiting.
“Ah, Professor Lambros,” murmured Dunster, “you’ve brought the department out in force.”
The three other full professors stood as they approached. Dunster made the introductions.
“Professor and Mrs. Lambros, this is Graham Foley, our archaeologist….”
A balding spheroid rose and shook hands wordlessly.
“And Digby Hendrickson, our historian.”
A lithe little man cracked the first smile of the evening. “Hi there, call me Digby. May I call you Ted and Jane?”
“If you’d like,” Ted smiled back diplomatically, “but my wife’s name is actually Sara.”
“And this,” quoth Dunster in conclusion, pointing to a tall, middle-aged preppie with straight flaxen hair combed down across his forehead, “is our missing Hellenist, Ken Bunting.”
“Sorry I couldn’t make your lecture, Lambros,” he apologized. “But, of course, I’ll probably read it when it’s published, won’t I?”
“I don’t know,” said Sara, who had quickly analyzed the situation. “It was just a few ideas that Ted put together. It would need a lot of working up.”
At first Ted was astonished at his wife’s downplaying of his scholarship. This feeling quickly changed to gratitude when he beheld the warm response her understatement had evoked in Canterbury’s Hellenist.
“Indeed,” said Bunting. “All this precipitance to get things in print — that’s rather rife at Harvard, isn’t it?”
“Uh — I suppose so.”
“Shall we order, then?” said Chairman Dunster, “Do I hear martinis all around?”
His colleagues were unanimously in favor, although the archaeologist merely nodded his assent.
By seven-thirty all that had been served were large cocktails and small talk. Sara tried to keep herself and Ted sober by buttering bread sticks, thickly spreading the cheese dip on Ritz crackers, and dropping unsubtle hints like, “I hear the salmon’s very good here. What would you recommend we eat, Professor Dunster?”
Ted’s mind was working feverishly, trying to determine where the power base lay in this group. In preparation for his visit, he had read every article the Canterbury department members had produced. It hadn’t taken that long. He decided to address their Greek scholar on his most important article, “The Symbolism of Homer’s Catalogue of Ships.”
“Professor Bunting, I was intrigued by your piece in TAPA on the end of Iliad Two. Your theory about the Attic contingent was —”
At this point the mellifluous voice of Chairman Dunster interrupted with the welcome announcement, “Mademoiselle is here to transcribe our dinner selections.”
Sara Lambros inwardly sang hallelujah.
Suddenly, the silent archaeologist rose and totally dumbfounded Ted and Sara by articulating several syllables.
“It’s past my bedtime,” he announced to no one in particular. “ ’Night, all. Thanks for the free booze.” Then immediately reverting to his prior muteness, he nodded at the guests of honor and departed.
“He’s lying.” Dunster sneered. “He’s just going home to watch the tube. Can you imagine,” he inquired of Sara Lambros, “that man watches television?”
“Many people do,” she answered noncommittally.
“Does your husband have a predilection for that medium?” he probed.
“Oh, we don’t own a set,” she answered blandly. Thinking, Let him call it poverty or snobbery as long as he approves.
Two further hours passed without a single reference to a Greek or Latin author. Ted was trying desperately to comprehend it all. But he remembered Sara’s words: “It’s a club, you’re being judged to join a club.”
“Do you play tennis, Lambros?” Bunting of the thousand ships inquired.
“Oh,” Ted lied, “a bit. Actually, I’m trying to improve my game.” And made a mental note that if he ever got this job, he’d have one of Sara’s brothers give him lessons.
“Old Bunting here’s the glory of our whole department,” piped Digby the historian. “He was IC4A runner-up in fifty-six. In fact, he had a big match today — against a new instructor from the Government Department.” And then turning to his semichampion colleague he inquired, “Didya whip him, Ken?”
Professor Bunting nodded modestly. “Six-four, five-seven, six-three, six-one. It took so long it almost made me late for dinner.”
“Whoopee,” Digby trumpeted, “we’ll drink to that.”
But as they toasted Kenneth Bunting for this minor tennis triumph, Sara brooded, You pompous jock. Couldn’t you have put your match off to come hear my husband’s lecture?
Later when they were alone, Ted finally allowed himself to say what they had both been thinking all through dinner.
“Christ, what shits they are.”
“Hey, look, Ted,” Sara answered, slightly giddy from the whole experience, “there are shits at Harvard too. But these were such a bunch of little shits.”
She woke at dawn to find her husband staring out the window.
“What’s the matter, honey?” Sara asked solicitously. “Did it all get to you?”
“No,” he answered quietly, still staring at the town green, “it’s just the opposite.”
“You mean you’re pleased at how they mauled you yesterday?”
“No, it’s this place. It takes my breath away. I think we could be really happy here.”
“Who are we going to talk to?” she asked plaintively. “The trees? The babbling brooks say more than that autistic archaeologist!”
He lowered his head. “Those student questions yesterday were pretty good.”
She did not react.
“The library’s fantastic.…”
She still did not respond.
“This place has got some really fine departments. French, for instance. And that Lipton guy in Physics worked on the atomic bomb —”
“Hey, Ted,” she interrupted gently, “you don’t have to use sophistry with me. This place does have a sense of history. And I know something in you still can’t face the world without the epaulets of ‘Ivy League’ on your shoulders. It’s something I can’t understand, but I’ll have to accept.”
“It’s a nice location, Sara.”
“Yeah, just a three-hour drive from Harvard.…”
“Two and a half,” he said softly.
The breakfast room looked like an orange grove. At every table, couples varying from middle-age to old sat monochromatically garbed. The gentlemen wore orange blazers, their ladies all had Canterbury scarves.
“Is this some kind of reunion?” Ted asked Tony Thatcher as he sat down to breakfast with the dean.
“No,” Thatcher answered, “it’s like this all year ’round. The old grads don’t just come up for the football games — they’re always making ‘sentimental journeys.’ ”
“I can appreciate their feelings,” Ted remarked.
“I’m glad,” the dean replied, “because I’d like to see you here at Canterbury.”
“I take it from your use of the first-person singular that there isn’t unanimity in the department.”
“I don’t think they’d even vote unanimously on a raise in salary. Frankly, what we need is a cohesive force — a solid academic who has both feet on the ground. I want Canterbury to be the number-one small college in the country. Even better than Dartmouth or Amherst. And we can’t accomplish that without attracting men of your caliber. So I have the provost’s authority to offer you an associate professorship on tenure-track.”
“It means after a year the job is permanent. How does that sound to you?”
“To be honest, the thought of a probationary period is a bit unsettling.”
“It’s really a formality,” the dean replied in reassuring tones. “Besides, the men who count up here know what we’ve got in you.”
“Ted, I’ll make the best of it. I really will.”
As they were driving home Sara reiterated in so many words that she had married him for better or worse. And having said for the last time that Berkeley was better and Canterbury worse, she would learn to love the great outdoors.
“Sara,” Ted replied, to reassure himself as much as her, “we’re going to return in triumph someday. I’m going to use the peace and quiet to write a Euripides book that’s so damn good that Harvard’ll come begging on its knees to ask me back. Remember how the Romans groveled to Coriolanus after kicking him out.”
“Yeah,” she retorted. “But the guy still ended up with a knife in his back.”
“Touché.” Ted smiled. “Why did I marry such a clever woman?
“Because you wanted clever children,” she said, smiling back.
But inwardly she brooded, If you really respected my intelligence, you’d be taking my advice.
Jason Gilbert made two important decisions that were to effect the rest of his life. He had come to realize that everything he had done in the previous two and a half years signified a commitment to defend the land of his forefathers. This meant he would stay there and grow roots.
And yet his loneliness weighed heavily on him. Watching the young kibbutz children playing made him long to be a father. But he was not sure that he had a whole heart to offer. He was still angry. And still mourning.
Nonetheless, whenever he was back on leave, he and Eva would sit in the huge, empty dining hail and talk until the early hours of the morning. These were the times when Jason felt most human.
Late one evening he confessed to her, “I don’t know what I’ll do when you get married. Who’ll stay up and listen to me bitch about the world?”
“I’ve been thinking the same thing,” she answered shyly. “Since you’ve been here, I’ve had, as you might say, a shoulder to cry on.”
“But you never actually cry.”
“It was just a manner of speaking.”
“Sure. Like my saying, ‘You’re the one person in this place who holds my hand.’ Just a metaphor.”
“Yes. We are both… metaphors.”
Their glances met.
“I’d like to really hold your hand,” he said.
“And I would like really to cry on your shoulder.”
They put their arms around each other.
“Eva, I really care for you. I want to say I love you. But I honestly don’t know if I’m still capable of love.”
“I feel the same, Jason. But we could try.”
Then they kissed.
The ceremony took place at Vered Ha-Gaul at the beginning of a one-month leave granted Jason upon his reenlistment. The kibbutzniks rejoiced that the couple had chosen to remain among them, even though for long periods of time Jason would be involved in army duty at various — mostly secret — areas of the country.
For Jason the kibbutz had replaced his family. His estrangement from his parents was now almost complete. Eva asked him to invite them to their wedding. But he refused. Instead, the night before, he sat up in their new quarters — a two-room srif with the added luxuries of a small fridge, hot plate, and black-and-white television — and wrote his parents a letter.
Dear Mom and Dad,
I am getting married tomorrow. To Eva Goudsmit, the girl hidden by Fanny’s family during the Holocaust. It’s to her I owe my understanding of what Israel means.
Under normal circumstances I would have invited you. But I know how deeply you disapprove of the direction my life has taken, and tomorrow’s vows only sanctify what I suppose you regard as a rebellion.
I followed your game plan for the first twenty-four years of my life, barely noticing the little compromises I had to make along the way, as I’m sure you barely notice yours. I know you meant well. You wanted your children not to suffer from the stigma of being Jewish.
And that’s exactly what I want for my children.
Here, being a Jew is an honor and not a handicap. My children may grow up in some danger, but they will never grow up in shame.
I will always appreciate everything you gave me while I was growing up. Now that I have grown up, even if you don’t agree with my beliefs, please respect my right to live by them.
Your loving son,
Their honeymoon, subsidized by the kibbutz, was spent in Eilat, the southernmost point of Israel, at the tip of the Negev. The Red Sea port was founded by King Solomon to ship out the ore from his mines. And was where he welcomed the Queen of Sheba.
Äàòà äîáàâëåíèÿ: 2015-08-05; ïðîñìîòðîâ: 20; Íàðóøåíèå àâòîðñêèõ ïðàâ