Saturday, March 15, 2008

"Two Hearts"

"Two Hearts"
(Image from Wikipedia)

Damn! Sometimes, only a simple expletive undeleted makes sense of the serendipity.

For years now, I've been calling to mind a story that I read back in 1975 in The Last Whole Earth Catalog, an odd, hippie-type book-length mishmash of ecology, philosophy, and hucksterism inspired, in part, by the 'thought' of Buckminster Fuller as refracted through the psychedelic sixties.

When I say "calling to mind," I mean without recalling, precisely, the author of that story.

The story was Divine Right's Trip, and I read it because my high school friend Pete Hale showed me the catalog, which was the strangest thing that I'd ever seen, but also strangely compelling. I even read Plato's allegory of "The Cave" in that weird, motley book.

Anway, I couldn't recall the author, but I do have trouble with names, always have had, so I'd long ago given up trying to dredge that from the dregs of my memory, but then what happens? I pick up a book that my mother gave my daughter Sa-Rah for Christmas -- Peter S. Beagle's Last Unicorn, the deluxe edition with "Two Hearts" and also an interview conducted by Connor Cochran -- and read it through over the course of a week or so while exercising on our stationary bicycle, and what do I discover in the 2007 interview, "A Conversation with Peter S. Beagle"? This reminiscence by Beagle about the gaggle of writers whom he met during a year at Stanford on a Stegner Fellowship in 1960:
An amazing gang. I admit that at times I felt completely overwhelmed. There was Larry McMurtry, the first friend I made there, known now for Lonesome Dove and The Last Picture Show and the screenplay to Brokeback Mountain. He was only a couple of years older than I was, and really talented. He wrote most of Leaving Cheyenne during our session. There was a 25 year-old Ken Kesey, at that point working on One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. There was Judith Rascoe, who was the niece or great niece of a very influential critic named Burton Rascoe; Judith went on to write stories and some very good screenplays. There was a Scottish guy named Robin MacDonald, whose wife, Joanna Ostrow, was Bronx Jewish like me. Robin was the one with the fellowship, but Joanna turned out to be the real writer. She would sit in on the class and years later, after the class was long over, she published an excellent novel called In the Highlands Since Time Immemorial. There was Chris Koch, an Australian writer whose best-known work over here is probably The Year of Living Dangerously. He started that one while he was at Stanford. But my closest friend in the class was Gurney Norman, from Hazard, Kentucky. Gurney and I took to each other immediately. As we've often said, he was my first redneck and I was his first City Jew. We used to sit up nights comparing childhoods. We're still in touch today. In fact, I visited him in Kentucky a few years ago and wrote all about it in the forward to The Rhinoceros Who Quoted Nietzsche, my first collection from Tachyon Publication.
"'Gurney Norman' . . . now there's an echo of some name in my memory," I thought but couldn't place him. Other names were immediately recognizable. Larry McMurtry? Yeah, I read Lonesome Dove when I was living in T├╝bingen. Ken Kesey? Yeah, I read One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest when I was in high school and later even shook hands with him when I was in Berkeley. Chris Koch? Well, I've not read his work, but I saw the film version of The Year of Living Dangerously while I was living near Stanford. But Gurney Norman? Something struck me as familiar about this unplaceable name. So, I looked him up . . . and there he was, the man who had written Divine Right's Trip!

What do I think of that story? I don't know anymore. At the time, I liked it because its story of a hillbilly hippie from the Appalachians made sense to me, a hillbilly 'hippie' in the Ozarks. But I might be as disappointed with it now as I was upon my second viewing of Bootleggers, a movie that I had greatly enjoyed upon first seeing it in high school, probably because it was filmed partly in Calico Rock, Arkansas and showed those high White River bluffs that you can also see in some of the photos from my Ozark photoblog.

But to get back to Peter Beagle and his friend Gurney Norman among the Stegner fellows . . . that must have been a fascinating bunch of writers to have had as a cohort! I suppose that they didn't know that they'd all find success, of course, and maybe only the reminiscence makes it sound so great.

But it nevertheless says something touching about the potential for unexpected connections forged between two hearts across profound differences . . . and I know a bit about that.

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At 11:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


And two hearts. And no where to go from there. Yet.

No one shall theorize sharings.

And if they did they'd be ps'd.

But someone cares about Buckyballs. It's all about the carbon. The shared molecule.


At 11:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know jeff,, you'll gather "pig Latin"

but it's not.


At 2:35 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I've always liked Fuller. I even went to hear him speak at Baylor.

I just never understood a word that he said. He didn't use verbs but simply linked nouns together like carbon molecules...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:04 AM, Blogger jeanie oliver said...

"the stone does not separate the water molecules" or something like that. Jeff, did you not discuss Fuller in physics with my dad. I admit I paid better attention when I was in eary childhood ed classes.I learned Fuller was allowed to attend what was then a new "concept," Froebel's kindergarten. A hands-on approach to learning and teaching. Well, sorry, I'm finding that JK sometimes plugs in to my ADD. I've really left the theme of your blog, sorry.

At 8:16 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Jeanie, to my misfortune, your dad didn't start teaching physics at Salem until the year after I had graduated.

I've never had a physics course.

Pete Hale was deeply into Buckminster Fuller, and the summer after my freshman year in college, I heard your dad speak of Fuller to Denny Wilckens while we were out in the wilds surveying land. Perhaps Pete had discussed Fuller's philosophy with your dad in physics, for Pete was a year behind me in school.

Your dad seemed unimpressed by Fuller's philosophy but somewhat impressed by Fuller's geodesic domes.

I had nothing to say about the matter.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peter S. Beagle writes more about his friend Gurney Norman in the introduction to Peter's collection, THE RHINOCEROS WHO QUOTED NIETZSCHE AND OTHER ODD ACQUAINTANCES. Just FYI.

At 4:35 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Mr. Cochran, for the helpful note.

By the way, I enjoyed reading "A Conversation with Peter S. Beagle" and should have mentioned that you conducted the interview (and motivated Beagle to write "Two Hearts"!). I'll make that change now.

Thanks for honoring this blog with your visit.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Prof!

I am writing a thesis paper on the Gnostic elements or motifs in Kesey's ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO's NEST.

1. Do you think such a thesis is viable? Are there Gnostic elements in OFOTCN?

2. Was the Psychedelic Revolution of the 60's a kind of 'Gnostic Re-awakening'?

Thanks for your time and consideration!

At 12:40 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I haven't read Kesey's work in a long time. He certainly includes religious elements in his writings. And as in Pynchon, there's that "paranoia," e.g., about the "combine," but I don't recall anything specific. Even if there are, you'd need to consider what he might have meant by "Gnosticism." Pynchon certainly uses Gnosticism, rather effectively, and the two were friends, so you might find something.

Why not do a Google search for "Ken Kesey" and "Gnosticism" and see what you find.

Sorry that I am not much help.

Jeffery Hodges

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