It was at just that season of the year when two events which are dear to the speculations of the American had absorbed the public interest. These events were baseball and politics, and at that moment both were thrillingly imminent. The annual baseball contests for “the championship of the world” were to begin within another day or two, and the national campaign for the election of the American president, which would be held in another month, was moving to its furious apogee of speeches, accusations, dire predictions, and impassioned promises. Both events gave the average American a thrill of pleasurable anticipation: his approach to both was essentially the same. It was the desire of a man to see a good show, to “take sides” vigorously in an exciting contest—to be amused, involved as an interested spectator is involved, but not to be too deeply troubled or concerned by the result. - Thomas Wolfe, Of Time and the River
Thomas Wolfe has a lot to say in this book, edited down by Maxwell Perkins to a readable 899 pages, but by the end of Part I he has said not a word of Halloween, a holiday of fun undoubtedly restricted to children in the years immediately following World War I (the time period of the novel quoted above). Passages on train travel, however, are thrilling, especially to one who can remember, if only just barely, riding in a Pullman sleeper car as a young child. Happy memories and comfort books -- that's where my fevered mind has sought relief. I'm reading Time and the River for the first time and don't expect it to be bowl of mashed potatoes and gravy, but the poetry of the language and the author's Proustian willingness to stay with a scene are certainly voluptuous reading pleasures.
Politics and baseball? Well, the World Series has certainly been exciting without being, for me, in any way unnerving, but I cannot say the same of Halloween or the presidential election. Amused by this campaign season? Not too deeply troubled or concerned? I can’t say that. Can you? Now Halloween, at least, is past. For me, that's minor one down, one much greater trial to go....
But rather than close on a deep-sounding note of anxiety, I want to leave you today with Thomas Wolfe’s words of appreciation for his editor, surely one of the most effusively grateful dedications in all of American literature:
MAXWELL EVARTS PERKINS
A great editor and a brave and honest man, who stuck to the writer of this book through times of bitter hopelessness and doubt and would not let him give in to his own despair, a work to be known as "Of Time and the River" is dedicated with the hope that all of it may be in some way worthy of the loyal devotion and the patient care which a dauntless and unshaken friend has given to each part of it, and without which none of it could have been written.
Wow! That's what I call gratitude!
And now, come on, Cubbies!!!
Continued entwining of World Series and Thomas Wolfe here.