The author is having lunch with C. V. Wedgwood, 52, at London’s Plato’s, a “quiet Greek restaurant whose glass front looks out on Wigmore Street.”
“Women are very sensitive and self-conscious about what is said about them,” she went on. “I think the mansion of history has enough rooms to accommodate all of us. I mean many sorts of history can be illuminating — and by ‘illuminating’ I mean you can show things by the way you relate them. When I was young, I was Left Wing and intolerant, prepared to damn many books and many ways of doing things. Now that I am a little older, I can tolerate many points of view and many types of books.”
Over her moussaka, Miss Wedgwood told me that she had lived in London ever since she came down from Oxford, and had made ends meet by writing successful history books, by reviewing, by “being on every prize committee,” and by doing a lot of work for the B.B.C.
I asked her if she had ever felt the lack of a university connection and a secure income.
“I haven’t, because I really can’t teach,” she said. “Once, I did teach for a bit, and found that most of the pupils I thought were brilliant failed their examinations.” She laughed.
The waiter brought her a cup of coffee, and also a Turkish delight, which she unwrapped slowly and carefully, as though she were peeling an orange. “By temperament, I am an optimist,” she said. “But I am very gloomy about the uses and lessons of history. The whole study at times seems to me useless and futile. I give lectures now and again about the uses of history, but I always come home with a sinking feeling of whistling in the dark.”
Mehta, Ved. “Chapter Four: The Flight of Crook-Taloned Birds.” Fly and the Fly-Bottle: Encounters with British Intellectuals. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1962. 200–201. Print.
“He certainly does not deserve it.”
Chris Cascarano, 2014
When Pieter Catharinus Arie Geyl (1887–1966), one of the Netherlands’ foremost historians, was interred in a concentration camp because of his ‘suspect general mentality,’ he wrote the following poem. The sonnet “contains my philosophy, and colors my historical thinking,” Geyl once remarked before reciting his piece to Ved Mehta, staff writer for The New Yorker.
The stars are frightening. The cold universe,
Boundless and silent, goes revolving on,
Worlds without end. The grace of God is gone.
A vast indifference, deadlier than a curse,
Chills our poor globe, which Heaven seemed to nurse
So fondly. ‘Twas God’s rainbow when it shone,
Until we searched. Now, as we count and con
Gusts of infinity, our hopes disperse.
Well, if it’s so, then turn your eyes away
From Heav’n. Look at the earth, in its array
Of life and beauty. — Transitory? Maybe,
But so are you. Let stark eternity
Heed its own self, and you, enjoy your day,
And when death calls, then quietly obey.
“We gotta have control of what happens to us.”
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Dir. Stanley Kramer. Perf. Spencer Tracy, Milton Berle
Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Dick Shawn, Phil Silvers, Terry-Thomas, Jonathan Winters, Edie Adams, Dorothy Provine, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, Peter Falk, Jimmy Durante. United Artists, 1963.
The age of intellectuals is full of surprises and paradoxes. One would have thought, for instance, that in societies dominated by intellectuals the atmosphere would be ideal for the performance of poets, writers, and artists.
What we find instead is that a ruling intellectual hierarchy tends to hamper or even stifle the creative individual. The reason for this paradox is that when intellectuals come to power it is as a rule the meagerly endowed among them who rule the roost.
The genuinely creative person seems to lack the temperament requisite for the seizure, exercise, and, above all, the retention of power.
If Hitler had the talents of a great painter or architect, if Lenin and Stalin had had the making of great theoreticians, if Napoleon and Mussolini had had it in them to become great poets or philosophers, they might not have developed an unappeasable hunger for power.
Now, one of the chief proclivities of people who hunger for literary or artistic greatness but lack talents is to interfere with the creativeness of others. They derive an exquisite satisfaction from imposing their taste and style on the gifted and brilliant.
Throughout most of history the creative intellectual was at his best in societies dominated not by “men of words” but by men of action who were culturally literate.
Hoffer, Eric. “IV: A Name for Our Age.” The Temper of Our Time. New York: Harper & Row, 1966. 68–69. Print.
“It’s the things that we admire or want that enslave us.”
The film and novel focus on Howard Roark, an individualistic young architect who chooses to struggle in obscurity rather than compromise his artistic and personal vision, following his battle to practice what the public sees as modern architecture, which he believes to be superior, despite an establishment centered on tradition-worship.
The complex relationships between Roark and the various kinds of individuals who assist or hinder his progress, or both, allow the film to be at once a romantic drama and a philosophical work. Roark is Rand’s embodiment of the human spirit, and his struggle represents the struggle between individualism and collectivism.
The Fountainhead. Dir. King Vidor. Perf. Gary Cooper, Patricia Neal, Raymond Massey, Kent Smith. Warner Bros., 1949.
The movie stars Kathleen Turner, in a performance that must be seen to be believed. How does she play a 17-year-old? Not by trying to actually look 17, because the movie doesn’t try to pull off that stunt (the convention is that the heroine looks adult to us, but like a teenager to the other characters).
Turner, who is actually 32, plays a teenager by making certain changes in her speech and movement: She talks more impetuously, not waiting for other people to reply, and she walks in that heedless teenage way of those who have not yet stumbled often enough to step carefully.
There is a moment when she throws herself down on her bed, and never mind what she looks like, it feels like a 17-year-old sprawled there. Her performance is a textbook study in body language: She knows that one of the symptoms of growing older is that you arrange your limbs more thoughtfully in repose.
—Roger Ebert, in his 1986 review of Peggy Sue Got Married
Turner discusses her favorite scene in a 1991 interview with Oprah Winfrey