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ANDREW ELIOTS DIARY 2

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  1. A XVIII 1
  2. A XVIII 2
  3. A XVIII 3
  4. A XVIII 4
  5. ANDREW ELIOT
  6. ANDREW ELIOTS DIARY
  7. ANDREW ELIOTS DIARY
  8. ANDREW ELIOTS DIARY
  9. ANDREW ELIOTS DIARY
  10. ANDREW ELIOTS DIARY

As they disembarked in San Francisco, they were met by a middle-aged academic and a younger colleague holding, as a sign of identification, a copy of Lambros on Sophocles. Teds mood, which had changed from glum to numb during the last few hours of the journey, lifted at this gesture of respect.

Bill Foster greeted them warmly and introduced Joachim Meyer, a papyrologist, recently transplanted from Heidelberg to California. They were both enormously cordial and in the baggage area insisted on carrying the suitcases out to their car.

Though it was early evening Berkeleys main street was swarming with activity.

I seem to see a lot of hippies, Ted observed with a tinge of disapproval.

I can hear some nice music, said Sara.

Bill Foster picked up on Teds remark.

Dont get the wrong impression, Ted. These students may walk around in jeans instead of tweeds, but theyre the brightest kids youll ever meet. They drive you crazy with their penetrating questions. Keeps you intellectually on your toes. Well visit some classes if you like.

Yes, Ted replied, Id like that.

Id enjoy that too, Sara chimed in.

Ach ja , Meyer said cordially. I know you are an enthusiast for Hellenistic poetry, Sara.

Just then they reached the end of the avenue and Bill Foster announced, Meyer and I will drop you at the new Faculty Club. I suggest, if you arent too tired, that you stroll down Telegraph Avenue and have a beer at some place like Larry Blakes. Just sort of get a feel of the place at night.

 

Theyre super people, dont you think? asked Sara as they were unpacking a few moments later. I mean so easygoing and friendly. Youd never guess from the way he talks that Meyer was a full professor at thirty-one. And for a German he seems very un-Teutonic. Maybe theyve Californiad him up.

Come on, said Ted, theyre just romancing us. You notice that they even knew about your undergraduate thesis.

I noticed and I liked it, Sara answered. Dont you enjoy being seduced?

Well, Im not seduced yet, Ted replied dourly.

Well, keep an open mind, and lets check out Telegraph Avenue.

At first it appeared that nothing was going to please him. Not the lively streets, the bookshops, or the colorful minstrels with their guitars. But after merely one block, Sara perceived that one aspect of this vibrant place had finally caught her husbands interest.



Aha, she smiled, at least you dig some of the scenery.

What are you talking about?

Weve just passed six girls without bras and you enjoyed half-a-dozen healthy gawks, Dr. Lambros. And dont tell me Im wrong, because Ive been watching your face.

You are wrong, said Ted, tight-lipped. There were at least seven. And he smiled, at last.

 

Because of the three-hour time difference, they awoke extremely early and assumed they would be first in the Faculty Club dining room. They were mistaken.

For there was already someone seated at a corner table spooning some species of breakfast flakes with one hand, and with the other holding an Oxford Classical text.

Do you see what I see? Sara whispered. We are sharing this entire dining room with the Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford.

Jesus, youre right. Its Cameron Wylie. What the hell is he doing here?

Same as we, Sara smiled, eating breakfast. Also, isnt he giving this years Sather lectures?



Hey, thats right. Something on Homer and Aeschylus. Do you think well get a chance to hear him?

Why dont you go over, introduce yourself, and ask?

I cant, Ted protested, suddenly timid. I mean, hes such a great man.

Come on, you blustering Greek. Whats happened to your usual bravado? Or would you prefer I went as your emissary?

No, no, no, Ill be all right. I just dont know how to begin, Ted answered, rising reluctantly.

Try hello. Thats a time-honored opener.

Yeah, Ted countered laconically, his sense of humor completely dampened by his sudden social insecurity.

He listened nervously to the sound of his own steps as they traversed the floor of the empty dining room.

Excuse me, Professor Wylie, I hope Im not disturbing you, but I just wanted to say how much I admire your work. I thought your article on the Oresteia in last years JHS was the best thing ever written on Aeschylus.

Thank you, said the Englishman with undisguised pleasure. Wont you join me?

Actually, my wife and I were wondering if you wouldnt join us. Shes over there.

Ah yes, I couldnt help but notice her when you walked in. Thank you, Id be delighted. He stood, picked up his bowl and his Oxford text, and followed Ted to their table.

Professor Wylie, this is my wife, Sara. Oh, and I forgot to mention Im Theodore Lambros.

Hello, said the Englishman as he shook Saras hand and sat down. Then he turned to Ted. I say, youre not the Sophocles man, are you?

Actually, yes, Ted answered, near vertiginous at the recognition. Im out here to give a lecture.

I thought your book was first-rate, Wylie continued. Blew a lot of dust off Sophoclean scholarship. Ive put it on the Oxford Mods list already. Actually, I was delighted to see someone with your surname write a book on Sophocles. It seemed so appropriate.

Ted could not understand the connection but was loath to appear obtuse before so august a scholar. Sara leapt into the breach and sacrificed herself on the altar of naïveté.

Im afraid I dont follow you, sir, she said respectfully.

The don was happy to expound. Why, as your husband knows, a chap called Lampros was Sophocles dance and music teacher.

What a coincidence, replied Sara, genuinely charmed by this amusing tidbit. Then she posed the question she knew Ted burned to ask: Could you tell me the source for that?

Oh, a veritable cornucopia, replied the Regius Professor. Athenaeus 1.20, references in the vita and a few other bits and pieces. Must have been a good man, this Lampros. Aristoxenus ranks him with Pindar. Of course, theres that fragment of Phrynichus which is too silly to take seriously. Are you a Hellenist as well, Mrs. Lambros?

Not professionally, Sara answered shyly.

My wifes a bit modest. Shes got a magna in classics from Harvard.

Splendid. And then he asked Ted, What will you be speaking on?

Oh, Im just trying out a few random ideas Ive been germinating about Euripides influence on Lampross prize pupil.

I very much look forward to hearing it. Whens your talk?

For a split second Ted hesitated. He was not sure he wanted so great a scholar to sit in judgment on his inchoate new theories.

Sara, on the other hand, had no such qualms. Its tomorrow at five in Dwinelle Hall, she said.

The Englishman withdrew a fountain pen and a little Oxford diary to note the particulars.

Just then Bill Foster appeared. Well, I see our two visiting classicists have met each other already, he said breezily.

Three , the Englishman corrected him with an admonitory finger. The Lambroses are both lamproi .

After which the elder statesman rose, took his book (which happened to be his own edition of Thucydides), and wandered off toward the library.

 

As Bill Foster gave them a comprehensive walking tour of the campus, Ted had to admit to himself that it was beautiful. But still, the campanile and the late-nineteenth-century Spanish-style buildings somehow did not seem what a university should be like. He had always associated the pursuit of higher learning with Georgian architecture-like the grand towers of Lowell or Eliot House.

The library was undeniably impressive (and boasted shuttle-bus service colloquially known as the Gutenberg Express direct to the Stanford University library). And all these quiet, solid structures stood in vivid contrast to the frenetic kaleidoscope of student activities concentrated like the ancient Athenian agora at a single, tumultuous spot in Sproul Plaza, between the Administration building and the Student Union.

After visiting an animated Latin class, the trio squeezed into a tiny health-food restaurant for a whole-earth lunch.

But something was obsessing Ted.

What kind of a guy is Cameron Wylie? he asked Bill, trying to act nonchalant.

A tiger and a pussycat. Hes been absolutely terrific with our undergraduates. But when it comes to professors, he doesnt suffer fools gladly. Last week, for example, when Hans-Peter Ziemssen came to lecture, Wylie made absolute mincemeat of him in the question period.

Oh Jesus, muttered Ted.

 

He spent the next few hours in a blur of fear. Sara made him run through his entire lecture just for her. After which she said in all sincerity, Youre ready, champ, you really are.

So was Daniel when he went into the lions den.

Read your Bible, honey. They didnt eat him, if you recall.

 

By the time he entered the lecture hail, Ted had resigned himself to what the Fates would bring.

There were about a hundred people scattered in the auditorium. To him they all seemed faceless, with three exceptions. Cameron Wylie and two collie dogs. Dogs?

Are you all set? Bill Foster whispered.

I think so. But, Bill, those uh canine visitors? Is that ?

Oh, its usual at Berkeley. Foster smiled. Dont worry. In fact, theyre some of my most attentive students,

He then mounted the podium and introduced todays guest speaker.

The applause was polite.

All alone now, Ted began by conjuring a striking picture.

Imagine Sophocles an established playwright already in his forties, who had even defeated the great Aeschylus in dramatic competition sitting in the theater of Dionysus, watching the maiden production of a new young author named Euripides

The audience was in his hands. For his words had transported them back to fifth-century B.C. Athens. They felt as if they were going to hear about living playwrights. And indeed, when Ted Lambros spoke of them, the Greek tragedians were very much alive.

As he concluded, he glanced at the clock on the far wall. He had lectured for exactly forty-nine minutes. Perfect timing. The applause was universal and palpably genuine. Even the two dogs seemed to approve.

Bill Foster went up to shake his hand and whispered, Absolutely brilliant, Ted. Do you think you have the strength for a question or two?

Ted was trapped, knowing that if he refused, it would reveal a kind of academic pusillanimity.

Like a nightmare coming true, the first hand raised was that of Cameron Wylie. Well, thought Ted, it cant be any worse than all the questions Ive dreamed up myself.

The Englishman stood up. Professor Lambros, your remarks are most stimulating. But I was wondering if you saw any significant Euripidean influence in the Antigone ?

Blood began to flow again in Teds veins. Wylie had actually thrown a compliment and not a javelin.

Of course, chronologically its possible. But I dont share any of the nineteenth-century Jebbsean romanticized views of Antigone .

Quite right, quite right, Wylie concurred. The romantic interpretations are all silly nonsense and have no basis in the text.

As Wylie sat down with an approving smile, Ted recognized a frizzy-haired girl in the back row, frantically waving her hand.

She rose and began to declaim. I think were all missing the point here. Like I mean, bow are the guys youve been discussing relevant to now? I mean, I havent heard the word politics mentioned once. I mean like, what was these Greeks position on free speech?

The audience groaned. Ted heard an Oh shit from somewhere in the crowd.

Bill Foster motioned to him that he could ignore the question if he wished. But Ted was high on approbation, and chose to address himself to the students query.

To begin with, he observed, since every Greek drama was performed for the entire population of the polls, it was inherently political. The relevant issues of the day were so important to them that their comic poets spoke of nothing else. And there were no restrictions on what Aristophanes and company could say thats the Greek notion of parrhesia . In a sense, their theater is an abiding testimony to the democracy they helped invent,

The questioner was stunned. First by the fact that Ted had taken her seriously for she had intended to stir up a little intellectual anarchy and second by the quality of his answer.

Youre cool, Professor, she mumbled and sat down.

Bill Foster stood, glowing with pleasure.

On that stirring note, he announced, Id like to thank Professor Lambros for a marvelous talk which was both logical and philological.

Ted felt triumphant.

 

The reception in their honor was held at the Fosters house in the Berkeley Hills. Everyone who was anyone in academia in the Bay Area seemed to be there, not to mention a certain distinguished professor from Oxford.

The mood was festive and the talk was all of Ted.

I hear your lecture was even more exciting than our last student riot, Sally Foster joked. Im sorry I had to miss it. But somebody had to stay here and prepare the goodies. And Bill insisted that my tacos would entice you to come to Berkeley.

Im already enticed, said Sara Lambros, smiling happily.

Sensing that her casual remark had made Ted slightly uneasy, Sally quickly added, Of course, Im not supposed to say that sort of thing, am I? I always put my foot in my mouth. Anyway, Ted, Im under strict orders to see that you keep circulating among the various literary lights.

And there was indeed a high-voltage group of San Francisco intellectuals. Ted noticed Sara in animated conversation with a character who looked amazingly like the beat poet Allen Ginsberg. And on second glance, it was Ginsberg.

Ted had to meet the author of Howl , the radical ululation in verse that had generated so much literary controversy in his undergraduate days. As he approached, he heard Ginsberg describing some personal apocalyptic experience.

Looking through the window at the sky, suddenly it seemed that I saw into the depths of the universe. The sky suddenly seemed very ancient . And this was the very ancient place that Blake was talking about, the sweet golden clime. I suddenly realized that this existence was it ! Do you dig me, Sara?

Hi, honey, Ted smiled, hope Im not interrupting.

Not at all, she answered and then introduced her husband to the bearded bard.

Say, I hear you guys may be moving west, said Ginsberg, I hope you do the sense of prana s real strong out here.

Just then they were interrupted by Bill Foster.

Sorry to break in, Allen, but Dean Rothschmidt is desperate to have a few words with Ted before he goes.

Thats cool. Ill be glad to continue fascinating Teds old lady.

The Dean of Humanities wanted to express his admiration of Teds lecture and ask if he could drop by his office at ten the next morning.

As Ted was returning to Sara, Cameron Wylie cornered him.

I must say, Professor Lambros, your lecture was absolutely first-rate. I look forward to reading it in print. And I do hope well have the pleasure of hearing you at Oxford sometime.

That would be a great honor, Ted replied.

Well, when you get your next sabbatical Ill be happy to make some arrangements. In any case, I do hope well stay in touch.

A bolt suddenly struck the lightning rod of Teds ambition.

Two days earlier, Cameron Wylie had spoken highly of his Sophocles book. This evening he was admiring the talk he had just delivered. Might not a letter from the Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford, repeating those same sentiments, tip the precarious balance at Harvard in Teds favor?

In any case, he could lose nothing by seizing this most propitious moment.

Professor Wylie, I uh I was wondering if I could ask you a rather special favor.

Certainly, the don answered amiably.

I uh Ill be coming up for tenure at Harvard next year, and I was wondering if youd be willing to write on my behalf.

Well, Ive already composed rather a panegyric for the Berkeley people. I wouldnt mind saying the same sort of thing to Harvard. I wont ask why you would choose to endure the cold Cambridge winters. In any case, its past my bedtime and I must be off. Please say good night to Sara for me. Shes chatting with a rather hirsute character and I wouldnt want to catch his fleas.

He turned and marched off.

Ted smiled with elation. Within his chest the fires of aspiration burned brightly.

 

You were fantastic, Ted. This was the proudest day of my life. You snowed everybody.

As they headed toward their room at the Faculty Club, Ted could hardly wait to tell her his good news. Even old Cameron Wylie seemed pretty impressed, he remarked casually.

I know. I overheard him telling two or three people.

He closed the door behind them and leaned against it. Hey, Mrs. Lambros, what if I told you that we might not have to leave Cambridge?

I dont get it, Sara answered, a little off balance.

Listen, Ted confided with intensity, Wylies going to write to Harvard for me. Dont you think a letter from him would boost me up into tenure heaven?

Sara hesitated. She had been so elated this evening, so enchanted by the whole Berkeley experience, that this good news actually came as a disappointment. A double disappointment, in fact. Because in her heart she sensed that Harvard had already made up its mind and nothing could change it.

Ted, she replied with difficulty, I dont know how to say this without hurting your feelings. But all Wylies letter can do is say youre a good scholar and a great teacher.

Well, Jesus, isnt that all there is to it? I mean, I dont also have to run a four-minute mile, do I?

Sara sighed. Hey look, they dont need a letter from Oxford to tell them what they already know. Face it, theyre not just judging you as a scholar. Theyre voting to let you into their club for the next thirty-five years.

Are you trying to suggest they dont like me?

Oh, they like you all right. The question is, do they like you enough ?

Shit, Ted said, half to himself, his euphoria suddenly tumbling into an abyss of desperation. Now I dont know what the hell to do.

Sara put her arms around him. Ted, if itll help any in this existential dilemma, I want you to know that youve always got tenure with me.

They kissed.

 

Ted, Dean Rothschmidt began the next morning, Berkeleys got a tenured slot in Greek Lit. and youre our unanimous first choice. Wed be willing to start you at ten thousand a year.

Ted wondered if Rothschmidt knew that he was offering him nearly three thousand more than he was currently earning at Harvard. On second thought, of course he did. And that was enough to buy a hell of a nice new car.

And naturally wed pay all your moving costs from the East, Bill Foster quickly added.

I Im very flattered, Ted replied.

The pitch was not over. Rothschmidt had further blandishment. I dont know if Sara will recall, with all that madness at Bills last night, but the gray-haired gentleman she spoke with briefly was Jed Roper, head of the U.C. Press. Hes prepared to offer her a junior editorship salary to be negotiated.

Gosh, Ted remarked, shell be thrilled. And then he added as casually as possible, I assume Ill be getting a formal offer in writing.

Naturally, the dean replied, but its just a bureaucratic formality. I can promise you this is a firm offer.

 

This time he took Whitman to lunch at the Faculty Club.

Cedric, if there still is any enthusiasm for my being kept at Harvard, I think Ive got some new ammunition.

His mentor seemed pleased at what Ted reported. Well, I think this strengthens your case considerably. Ill ask the chairman to call Wylie for his letter so we can bring up your tenure at the next departmental meeting.

My tenure, thought Ted. I actually heard him say my tenure.

 

The formal vote took place twenty-four days later. The department had for their consideration Teds bibliography (four articles, five reviews), his book on Sophocles (and the critiques of it, which ranged from solid to monumental), and various letters of recommendation, some from experts in the field whose names Ted would never know. But one certainly from the Regius Professor at Oxford.

Ted and Sara waited nervously in the Huron Avenue apartment. It was nail-biting time. They knew the meeting had begun at four, and yet by five-thirty there was still no word.

What do you think? Ted asked. Is it a good sign or a bad sign?

For the last time, Lambros, Sara said firmly, I dont know what the hell is going on. But you have my fervent conviction both as wife and classicist that you truly deserve tenure at Harvard.

If the gods are just, he quickly added.

Right. She nodded. But remember, in academia there are no gods just professors. Quirky, flawed, capricious human beings.

The phone rang.

Ted grabbed it.

It was Whitman. His voice betrayed nothing.

Cedric, please, put me out of my misery. How did they vote?

I cant go into details, Ted, but I can tell you it was very, very close. Im sorry, you didnt make it.

Ted Lambros lost the carefully polished Harvard veneer he had worked a decade to acquire, and repeated aloud what he had said ten years earlier when the college had denied him a full scholarship.

Shit.

Sara was immediately at her husbands side, her arms around him consolingly.

He would not hang up till he asked one final burning question.

Cedric, he said as calmly as possible, may I just know the pretext uh I mean the grounds I mean, in general terms, what lost it for me?

Its hard to pinpoint, but there was some talk about waiting for a second Big Book.

Oh, Ted responded, thinking bitterly, there are one or two tenured guys who still havent written their first big book. But he said nothing more.

Ted, Whitman continued with compassion in his voice, Anne and I want you to come to dinner tonight. Its not the end of the world. Its not the end of anything, really. So will you come?

Dinner tonight? Ted repeated distractedly.

Sara was strenuously nodding her head.

Uh, thanks Cedric. What time would you like us?

 

It was a warm spring night and Sara insisted that they walk the mile or so to the Whitmans house. She knew Ted needed time to gain some equilibrium.

Ted, Sara said as he shuffled dejectedly, I know there are at least a dozen four-letter words going around in your head, and I think for the sake of sanity you ought to shout them right out here in the street. God knows, I want to scream too. I mean, you got screwed.

No. I got royally screwed. I mean, a bunch of uptight bastards just played lions and Christians with my career. I feel like kicking in their goddamn mahogany doors and beating the shit out of all of them.

Sara smiled. Not their wives too, I hope.

No, of course not, he snapped.

And then, realizing the childishness of his outburst, he began to laugh.

They both giggled for a block until suddenly Teds laughter turned into sobs. He buried his head on Saras shoulder as she tried to comfort him.

Oh God, Sara, he wept, I feel so stupid. But I wanted it so bad. So goddamn bad.

I know, she whispered tenderly. I know.

 

 

***

 

For Stuart and Nina it was the greatest summer of their lives.

Every morning he would get on his bike and pedal over to the Rossi house, often passing Maria and her two girls in the station wagon on their way to enjoy Edgar Waldorfs stretch of private beach with Nina and the boys.

Stu would return in the early evening, at once exhausted and overstimulated, grab Nina by the hand, and take her for a long walk by the sea.

Hows the great classical composer at writing show tunes? she asked during one of their promenades.

Oh, the guys so fantastically versatile he could write a rondo with his left hand and ragtime with his right. But he doesnt pander.

What do you mean?

I mean he doesnt underestimate the intelligence of his audience. Some of his melodies are you know pretty complex.

I thought the secret of success on Broadway was simplicity, Nina remarked.

Dont worry, hon, he isnt writing Wozzeck .

This is exciting. I mean, I know your words are terrific. But Id really like to hear what Dannys done with them. Apparently, Maria tells me, he hasnt even played anything for her.

Well, every artists temperament is different, I guess, said Stuart, picking up a bit of driftwood and hurling it out across the water.

And every marriage, too, Nina added. Do you think theyre happy?

Hey, honey, Stuart cautioned, Im his lyricist, not his shrink. I just know hes a good working partner.

 

On Labor Day weekend, Edgar Waldorf flew in with Harvey Madison to hear the fruits of his young geniuses summer toil.

Ever munificent, he arrived laden with presents for the Kingsley sons, the Rossi daughters, and the authors wives. As far as the boys were concerned, they would have to have something for him .

After a huge Italian dinner, the two visitors, the artists, and their wives repaired to the living room for the first hearing of the score to Manhattan Odyssey .

As Danny sat at the piano, Stuart narrated, here and there injecting a bit of dialogue to show how deftly he had made Joyce theatrically viable. And then he would introduce the songs. His lyrics were ingeniously set. The music was muscular, the rhythms bold.

After the lively octet in Bella Cohens fabled brothel, the privileged little audience broke into applause. Then Danny proudly commented, You dont hear many Broadway scores with songs written in five.

Whats five? asked Edgar Waldorf.

Its a kind of tricky rhythm, five-four. Never mind what it is as long as you like what you hear.

Like it? Edgar exclaimed. I love it, I love it. Maybe five symbolizes the number of years were going to run SRO.

Why stop at five? Why not six or seven? interposed Harvey Madison, unable to resist the agents impulse to up the ante.

The authors together sang the final duet between Bloom and Stephen, his surrogate son. Then they looked to their families and arbiters for judgment.

At first there was reverential silence.

Well, Nina? Stuart asked his wife impatiently. Would you buy a ticket to this thing?

I think Id go every night, she responded, exultant at the ingenuity of her husbands work.

Did it get my wifes approval? Danny asked.

Not that Im a professional critic, Maria began shyly, but I honestly think thats the best musical score Ive ever heard by anybody.

Edgar Waldorf rose to his feet to make an announcement.

Ladies and gentlemen and geniuses it has been my humble honor to listen to the first playing of what is undoubtedly the most fabulous musical ever to sweep Broadway off its feet.

He then turned to the authors. My only question is what are you guys going to do with the ten million bucks this is going to earn you?

Nine, Harvey Madison quickly corrected, professional even in jest.

 

Now it was the mens turn to walk the beach.

Edgar had to complete the financing. He hoped the tape he was bringing back to New York would do the trick. But they still needed to discuss the director and the stars.

Having so admired Jerome Robbinss work on West Side Story , Danny wanted him to direct and choreograph their show.

Stuart enthusiastically agreed.

But Edgar, obsessed with the British origins of the Times critic, plumped for Sir John Chalcott, whose recent work at the Old Vic had been so well received.

After all, the producer reasoned, we are dealing with one of the great classics of the English language. Why not put it in the hands of someone who is accustomed to dealing with the immortals?

Immortal can be a synonym for dead, Danny Rossi commented.

Please, Daniel, Edgar retorted, Ive got a gut feeling on this. I think Sir Johns name would add even more class value.


: 2015-08-05; : 10;


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