12 April 2015

Brent Kinser and Anna Lillios (eds): The Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Journal of Florida Literature Volume XIV (2005–06)

As I mentioned in a comment some posts ago, if it hadn't been for a heavy rainstorm forcing me to abandon the first attempt to get to Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings's farm at Cross Creek, I'd never have driven to a mall in Interlachen and bought this publication from a thrift store for all of 40 cents. And I'd have missed out big time.
This 154-page scholarly publication is very enlightening, and – to my surprise – highly amusing. I could have expected the disagreeable, drunken nature of Wallace Stevens's behavior as described in 'Mrs. Rawlings, Mr. Stevens and the Nature of Florida' by Thomas C. Harrison, but I wasn't prepared for the behavior of Rawlings herself in 'Yesterday's Woman' by, er, Lollie Pop Twitters. Twitters asks for directions to Cross Creek and a neighbor tells her that '[t]hat bitch [...] will shoot the pants off you' if she isn't expected. Well, she isn't expected and Rawlings has a bad hangover but nevertheless welcomes Twitters and invites her to have a drink with her, outside with all the mosquitoes and a friendly cockroach. On being asked how best she writes, Rawlings replies 'Tight as a tick'. Is this just a malicious joke? Well, it's a joke, although Rawlings is making it at her own expense because she is Lollie Pop Twitters!
But most of the book is taken up by Rawlings's letters to Dr – later Professor – Cliff Lyons and his wife Gladys, starting off very politely and then rapidly becoming very warm as their long-term friendship blossomed. Cliff Lyons was going to be Rawlings's literary executor, but for a few reasons – his increasing pompousness being among them – she named the publisher Julia Scribner instead right the end. Her disappointment with Cliff was professional, and she seems to have remained good friends with him and especially with his wife.
Mercifully, not a great number of Rawlings's letters here deal with the well-known long, tedious and hugely expensive 'invasion of  privacy' law suit of Zelma Cason. What really shines through these letters is not just Rawlings's warmth and generosity of spirit but her spunky sense of humor: for instance, on learning in 1945 that Julia Scribner is to marry an Episcopal clergyman she tells the Lyons 'I can only hope that as a man of God, he has enough Hell in him to give her a good time'. The same year, a cottonmouth moccasin snake appears in the toilet pan and is eventually killed, and Rawlings jokes that she feels queasy about toilets after that: 'God, the menace to my love life––.'
This is great stuff – a joy to read. My other Rawlings post:

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in Cross Creek

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