The War Hero who was a Spy and The Celebrated Writer

Nazi hunter, victim of McCarthyism — heir to Shelleys monster? Kay Boyles muse and third husband was all of these

Ex-pat golden girl of Paris in the Twenties and genius of the Lost Generation, Kay Boyle’s life was the stuff of fiction. In Kay’s case, quite literally. Her more than 40 novels and short story collections drew extensively on her own experiences — a fact made plain in Joan Mellen’s biography of the writer, Kay Boyle Author of Herself.

But Kay’s third husband, Baron Joseph von Franckenstein, also had a famously storied life. For starts, Franckenstein descended from the founders of the German castle said to be an inspiration for Mary Shelley’s haunting story of horror and manufactured resurrection. Continue reading “The War Hero who was a Spy and The Celebrated Writer”

Tribute to Kay Boyle

 for Ian

Under a bright San Francisco starI earned my MA in Creative Writing at San Francisco State in 1968.  I had the good fortune to have Kay Boyle standing in my proverbial corner. Kay is (I use the present tense because, once set down, literature is here to stay) an amazingly accomplished and well-versed author with some 40 published books to round out her long lifetime (1902-1992).

Kay Boyle in Crowd, San Francisco State College Strike, 1968-1969 by Gerald Grow

Throughout her writing career, Kay had paid steady homage to the protean human spirit with her abundant heartfelt and beautifully crafted poems, stories, novels, and essays. Kay Boyle was practiced in the arts of both fiction and non-fiction.

Continue reading “Tribute to Kay Boyle”

Kay Boyle and/in transition (1927-1938)

In Being Geniuses Together, Kay Boyle reminisces on the role the modernist magazine transition played in the early years of her expatriation in Europe. It was in transition, she says, that she first read the work of the French surrealists Soupault, Eluard and Desnos. Besides, the letters she exchanged with Eugene Jolas, the magazine’s founder and editor, encouraged her to pursue her own experiments in prose and poetry:  “Jolas and I wrote to each other almost every week, and his belief in my work and in the work of countless unknown others gave a new meaning not only to my own life but to the international writing scene” (Boyle, 1984 [1968] 209). A count of the texts Boyle published in transition confirms this idea. Among the nearly five hundred contributors to the magazine, Boyle ranks first with some twenty poems, stories and reviews published between 1927 and 1938. She was also one of the signatories of the magazine’s “Revolution of the Word” manifesto in June 1929. By assessing her contribution to transition, this article aims to underscore her participation in an important phase of expatriate, international modernism.

Continue reading “Kay Boyle and/in transition (1927-1938)”

Kay Boyle Taught Me to Write

…What have your favorite authors taught you?

A writing exercise from Kay Boyle:

“Describe a bird in flight. Look for shape and movement, describe how the bird adjusts the angle of its wings to take advantage of the wind currents, show how the shadows change. Be precise; note the smallest detail. Know what kind of bird it is. Then use what you see to reveal character.”

As a novice writer, it seemed impossible.

But I traipsed down to the bay with my notebook. Sitting on the rocks, pen in hand, staring at the gulls, I may have appeared to be a sketch artist as I worked at translating a living thing into words.

“A white gull circles. Wings hinged to his sleek grey body raise, alight in the sun, and fall, shading his belly. On the rocks, a man stands facing the bay. His tanned arms are bent close to his body, hands in his pockets, knees together. His pale blue shirt whips against his back.”

That gull, or its cousin, has shown up in several scenes since. Each time, I think of Kay Boyle and what she taught me about writing, lessons I hope are evident in my just completed novel, The Pieces of Me. Written in tribute to her, the novel is based on Kay’s tragic love affair with the poet/publisher Ernest Walsh, and her meteoric rise as the golden girl of ex pat literary Paris. She’d gone on to write more than 30 acclaimed novels, story collections, poems and essays.

Seeing, really seeing, that first gull, finding the words to capture its essence, has always stuck with me. Writing about Kay, I wanted to remember the precise wording she’d used.

But I couldn’t find my notebooks.

Continue reading “Kay Boyle Taught Me to Write”

How Kay Boyle Became the Key to James Joyce’s Daughter and a First Novel

I first came across Kay Boyle when I was researching my first novel, The Joyce Girl. I knew very little about Boyle, but she turned out to be a vital source, one of the most trustworthy voices I encountered on my long journey to uncover the hidden story of James Joyce’s daughter, Lucia.

Boyle’s account of 1920s Paris, co-written with Robert McAlmon, is one my favourite memoirs of that period. During my four years of research I read many, many memoirs and accounts of living in Paris during this thrilling and tumultuous decade.  I returned to Boyle’s Being Geniuses Together, over and over.

This was partly because of the many areas of overlap: both Boyle and Lucia Joyce were involved in Raymond Duncan’s Paris colony.  Boyle wrote about her time there in her 1934 book, My Next Bride. Raymond, the brother of Isadora and Elisabeth Duncan, was one of Lucia Joyce’s earliest and most important dance teachers.  But Lucia also learned dance from his sister, Elisabeth who ran a dancing school in Germany.

Meanwhile, Boyle’s co-author, Robert McAlmon, once proposed to Lucia (or at least he suggested marriage, although perhaps in jest) and was an important patron of James Joyce when Joyce first arrived, penniless, in Paris with his wife, Nora, son, Giorgio and Lucia. McAlmon became very close to the Joyce family, and Being Geniuses Together recounts several suppers at the Joyce family home which ring with authenticity and vital period detail (for an author like me!).

Continue reading “How Kay Boyle Became the Key to James Joyce’s Daughter and a First Novel”

Kay Boyle at the Movies: The Art of Film and Boyle’s Short Fiction

War, political upheaval, and international intrigue are the context in which we read Kay Boyle’s short fiction, and readers of her work recognize the remarkable complexity of her portrayal of specific characters against a backdrop of world events.  However, her short stories also speak to the power of popular culture in the twentieth century, particularly the emergence of film as a significant art form and vehicle for narrative. Boyle was born in 1902, seven years after the “birth of cinema” in 1895 when the Lumière brothers first screened their short films. The early exhibition of films, the development of film production companies, the rise of the controversial but innovative American film director D.W. Griffith, and the beginnings of a celebrity culture focused on film stars occurred during the years of Kay Boyle’s childhood. Her own peak as a writer coincided with that of an industry that literally grew up with her. At the peak of the American film industry in 1946 more than eighty million people (57% of Americans) attended the movies in a week. Kay Boyle’s stories, writes Elizabeth Bell, require and assume a knowledge of history. They require and assume, too, a knowledge of popular culture, particularly film.

The Esquire Theater in Cincinnati

Boyle’s 1943 short story “The Canals of Mars” is the strongest example of the author’s keen interest in film, but evidence of Boyle’s early appreciation of film as a significant medium precedes it. The first letter included in Sandra Spanier’s Kay Boyle: A Twentieth Century Life in Letters is a letter from seventeen-year-old Boyle to her sister Joan, written on the evening of June 29, 1919, after an afternoon at the movies, an experience Boyle recollects in the letter (Spanier 19-22). Perhaps she attended movies at the Esquire Theatre in Cincinnati, which began screening films in 1911. No doubt the Esquire in 1915 featured D.W. Griffith’s controversial Klu Klux Klan-inspired The Birth of a Nation, which made such an impact that President Woodrow Wilson reportedly remarked about it, “It’s like writing history with lightning.” The film figures in two of Boyle’s stories from the 1930s. 

Continue reading “Kay Boyle at the Movies: The Art of Film and Boyle’s Short Fiction”

A Lost Story of the Rise of Fascism: Kay Boyle’s “The White Horses of Vienna”

 

By Ann Boyd Rioux

Last week in my “Forgotten Books” class we read some stories from Kay Boyle’s The White Horses of Vienna and Other Stories. The title story dominated our discussion. (See the end for where to find “The White Horses of Vienna.”) It was published in Harper’s magazine in 1935 and won the O. Henry Award for best story that year. Today it’s a rather surprising story, as it’s about a doctor living in the Austrian Alps who breaks his legs going up into the mountains to help light swastikas on fire. He is a member of the Nazi Party, which was outlawed in Austria, so his acts are a threat to the local population, not unlike the KKK’s burning of crosses. Since he can no longer go on his rounds to his patients, he sends to Vienna for a replacement doctor, who turns out to be a Jew. The doctor’s wife has a hard time accepting him, but the doctor himself treats him fairly. In the end, after the chancellor’s assassination by a Nazi, the doctor is hauled off to prison and the visiting Jewish doctor promises to throw peaches and chocolate up to his prison window.

Many of my students were confused by the story’s seemingly positive portrayal of the Nazi doctor. This is how I felt when I first read the story. I felt disoriented and confused and realized that I had to seek out more information to understand exactly what was going on “in real life” at that time. It became clear that we couldn’t really understand this story without its historical context, namely that Hitler had come to power in Germany in 1933, Austria was ruled by a Mussolini-leaning dictator (Dolfuss), and the Austrian Nazi Party (which was very strong in the Tyrol region, where the story is set) was outlawed but growing in numbers and trying to overthrow the government and join with Germany. 

This raises an interesting question that another student posed in her discussion starter: should literature be accessible to us without knowing much outside the story? She had been taught that we should be able to interpret a work of literature without a lot of historical or biographical context. This is certainly the traditional approach to literature. As a student, I had always been dissatisfied with such an ahistorical approach because any text that piqued my interest inevitably made me want to know more about the author and the time it was written in. It’s no wonder, then, that my scholarly focus has been on literary history and biography, seemingly old-fashioned approaches to literature. Yet, scholars are again recognizing the importance of historical context. In the case of “The White Horses of Vienna” and, to some extent, “Count Lothar’s Heart” (another story in the collection that we read) you absolutely must have that context, or the stories remain closed books. I have rarely read works so grounded in a precise time and place (whereas setting seems completely irrelevant in “The Astronomer’s Wife,” the third story from the collection that we read). Boyle seems to drop us in media res, or in the middle of things, with little explanation or background, or not enough to orient us completely. This can create a disoriented feeling in the reader but also, if we’re lucky, intense curiosity. Reading Boyle’s stories feels to me like time travel, as if I’m suddenly right there among real people at a specific time and in a specific place. The setting can be so specific, as in “White Horses,” that you feel like the events of the story actually happened. (She wrote many stories about wartime France and post-war Germany that have the same quality.)

Continue reading “A Lost Story of the Rise of Fascism: Kay Boyle’s “The White Horses of Vienna””

“At Night”

At Night

by Ian von Franckenstein

When he steps in her bedroom late at night, so softly she breathes,

so softly he moves, and always like a burning candle a lamp

lit, lit by her head shrouded by a scarf whose fibers fill one

thousand days and nights, days and nights from a past that now

casts a pales glow.

“There,” he whispers to the shadows, “there lies a figure of Time…

Time once spent prancing like a long-legged colt down Rue

Montparnasse always radiant to men, to children too. And nights of

Laughter, late night talking, of endless waking, love-making ‘til

Dawn.”

 

“And now?” he says to the lamp’s soft light. But there is only silence.

He reaches out and touches her white hair softly, so softly she stirs,

Her lips open so slightly as if to speak but here is just that stillness.

He leans over that motionless frail form curled like a baby gray bird

And his lips touch her blue-veined white head, so softly kissing her

Ancient brow.

On Boyle’s short stories

By Chistine Grogan

I first read the work of Kay Boyle when I was preparing to teach a course titled “American Literature, 1912-1945.” I had taught this course before but this time I was using the latest edition of the Norton Anthology, which contained a story called “The White Horses of Vienna.” Because of my involvement with the Katherine Anne Porter Society, I knew the name Kay Boyle. I decided to include this story in my syllabus.

To my pleasant surprise, my students loved “The White Horses of Vienna.” We kept checking the publication date because we had a hard time believing that a story about swastikas and a burning Jewish man was printed in 1936. In American Women Writers and the Nazis: Ethics and Politics in Boyle, Porter, Stafford, and Hellman, Thomas Austenfeld writes of Boyle’s “political clairvoyance” (12). One of my students shared similar sentiments but worded it differently—as “freaky foreshadowing.” By the next edition, Norton had replaced “White Horses” with another story, and I unfortunately haven’t taught it since.

In the spring of 2017, the Katherine Anne Porter Society and the Kay Boyle Society were organizing a joint session at the annual American Literature Association conference. This proved to be the second time I explored the work of Boyle. In preparing a paper for the session, I performed preliminary research, discovering that these women had much in common, including having published in Eugene Jolas’s transition and having converted to Catholicism. I was to find out later in my research that Jolas was a cradle Catholic and had even studied for the priesthood. As my research unfolded, I realized that to do justice to my conference essay, I would need to read every poem and short story Boyle printed in Jolas’s periodical—all 20 of them.

I found in these pieces a very different writer than the one who wrote “White Horses.” These stories were much more poetic, experimental, and seemingly apolitical. The most interesting ones to me were those that fictionally depicted Boyle’s time with Ernest Walsh, the man who fathered her first child but who had died before the birth. I learned that it was after his death when Jolas started transition in an effort to continue what Walsh could not finish as an editor.

One particular story commanded another look. This story carried the simple title “Theme,” and it was published in transition’s inaugural issue. Admittedly, my first reading of this story did not reveal anything too insightful. I gathered it was about a mother who fears that her grown-up son will abandon her. There isn’t much action or even dialogue. Most of the piece’s conflict relies on the mother’s internal thoughts versus what she actually says. After the initial reading, I put down the story and continued my search for a Boyle story that would pair well with Porter’s “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall.”

And yet, I kept going back to “Theme.” As it is with most brilliant tales, I discovered something else with each read—such as references to George Moore, the incestuous overtones, and Catholic imagery. The more I reread the story, the more I saw Boyle’s mother-character as a figuration of Mary, Jesus’s mother. But this was not the submissive, selfless Mary of Catholic teachings. This Mary, who had a questionable past, was aching for sexual connection in a fallen world. After months of research, I concluded that the “theme” of Boyle’s title is the longing for communion with the Divine amidst the insatiable urges of a sinful humanity.

The essay I delivered at the American Literature Association conference was revised and is being published as I write this. In the article, I perform a comparative reading of Boyle’s “Theme” and Porter’s “Jilting” and argue that Jolas published these works in his journal not just because of their experimental nature but because of their engagement with Catholicism.

I think there’s more to be said about Boyle and Catholicism—and how her reading of George Moore influenced her thoughts on religion. She states in Being Geniuses Together that she read Moore’s The Brook Kerith a few years prior to writing “Theme.” This book portrays Jesus as fully human and not dying on a cross. She also read Moore’s The Lake shortly before writing her story. This work tells of an Irish priest discovering that instinct is man’s true mode of communion with his soul.

Boyle was baptized a Catholic one year before she left this world. I can’t help but think that in addition to “political clairvoyance,” Boyle’s stories, at least “Theme,” contain religious clairvoyance and perhaps were published ahead of its—and her—time.

Contributor’s Note:

Christine Grogan is an assistant Professor of English at the University of Delaware, Dover campus, and the president of the Katherine Anne Porter Society. ​She is the author of Father–Daughter Incest in Twentieth-Century American Literature and has published articles on works including Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehranand Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina. Her most recent article on Kay Boyle’s and Katherine Anne Porter’s contribution to transition was published in South Central Review. 

“Titles”

Titles

By Ian von Franckenstein

It was a “Year Before Last,” “1939,” she recalled, when all of Europe was teetering on the edge of a certain human calamity of epic proportions. She was soon to become witness to that “Generation Without Farewell.” But now she was part of another generation, a generation that found itself immersed in a land foreign to her native tongue and customs. Some called it the Lost Generation, yet she never included herself in that group. Instead, she now found herself part of a new and vibrant time, lending fresh voice to the turbulence that permeated her world. “The Underground Woman” stood poised and confident, ready to spread her literary wings like “The Seagull on the Step” she spied one early morning a lifetime ago.

“A Frenchman must Die”… “there can be no other way,” she said softly to herself, as wartime chaos engulfed her.

It was on a “Monday Night,” a night that she perched herself high above the flank of “The Smoking Mountain.” “The White Horses of Vienna” pranced proudly, haunted and vain below her. Her thoughts cascaded about her, suddenly smothering her in a sea of sorrow, an “Avalanche” of wrenching emotion. She climbed ever higher far above the smoldering ashes of a lost humanity below. A stillness settled upon her, like that day she remembered so far away, that “Wedding Day,” her wedding day when she became wife to “The First Lover” in her young life. Then came a second one: “My Next Bride,” he shouted gleefully, even triumphantly! Known to many in bohemian circles as the ever-impetuous thrill-seeker, when infused with French spirit, this man, this artist was “The Primer of Combat” in her life. He was forever “The Crazy Hunter” of all that was eccentric and mad. “This might not all have happened,” she thought, “had not the “Death of a Man” with whom she bore her first child occurred.

“A Frenchman Must Die,” she cried out again. But her King of Bohemia did not hear her for so “Plagued by the Nightingale” of the Parisian nights was he.

Rain began to fall, first gently, then soon in torrents. It pounded the land and washed the countryside clean of burned bones and black blood. And then the sun broke through brooding skies. “Gentlemen,” she whispered softly, “Gentlemen, I Address You Privately,” but there was no response. “His Human Majesty” was nowhere to be seen. That did not deter her. She became resolute once again, consumed with courage, steadfast in the presence of adversity even when a nightingale reminded her that “Nothing Ever Break Except the Heart. So it all came to a quiet ending. Her lips formed the words but barely could one hear them say:

“Auf wiedersehen Abend.”

 

Contributor’s Note:

Ian von Franckenstein is Kay Boyle’s son. “Titles” was his contribution to the inaugural panel of the Kay Boyle Society, on 27 May, 2006, at the annual American Literature Association conference in San Francisco.

Kay Boyle: A Twentieth Century Life in Letters

Kay Boyle, A Twentieth-Century Life in Letters

Edited and with an Introduction by Sandra Spanier,  University of Illinois Press, July 2015

Pages:848

Source : University of Illinois Press

The intimate and epic chronicle of a life lived in full

One of the Lost Generation modernists who gathered in 1920s Paris, Kay Boyle published more than forty books, including fifteen novels, eleven collections of short fiction, eight volumes of poetry, three children’s books, and various essays and translations. Yet her achievements can be even better appreciated through her letters to the literary and cultural titans of her time between 1919 and 1992.

Kay Boyle shared the first issue of This Quarter with Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway, expressed her struggles with poetry to William Carlos Williams and voiced warm admiration to Katherine Anne Porter, fled WWII France with Max Ernst and Peggy Guggenheim, socialized with the likes of James Joyce, Marcel Duchamp, and Samuel Beckett, and went to jail with Joan Baez. The letters in this first-of-its-kind collection, authorized by Boyle herself, bear witness to a transformative era illuminated by genius and darkened by Nazism and the Red Scare. Yet they also serve as milestones on the journey of a woman who possessed a gift for intense and enduring friendship, a passion for social justice, and an artistic brilliance that earned her inclusion among the celebrated figures in her ever-expanding orbit.

Both intimate and epic, Kay Boyle is a chronicle of a life lived in full and an essential document for anyone interested in the literature of the twentieth century.

“More than a collection of letters by Kay Boyle, this volume functions as a cultural history. . . . Boyle’s talent as a letter writer and Spanier’s skill as an editor guarantee that this volume with be of enduring value. Highly recommended.”–Choice

“Boyle’s letters, often relayed in breathless and passionate prose, make clear that for her, as Spanier argues, there were ‘no boundary lines between the public and the private, the person and the political, between art and life.'”–Times Literary Supplement

Kay Boyle: A Twentieth Century Life in Letters is an achievement to celebrate.”–Resources for American Literary Study

“Kay Boyle is one of those alluring figures of literature who exist at the corner of our eyeball. She wrote forty books. She may have written 30,000 letters–to the likes of William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound, to say only two. She seems to have known everyone who ever haunted the Left Bank of our imaginations. And yet hers has remained a certain kind of genius in the shadows–until now, that is. With exemplary scholarship, Sandra Spanier has brought into light a crucial American life.”–Paul Hendrickson, author of Hemingway’s Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost

“Kay Boyle has distracted us from the magnum opus of her letters by the extensive record of her poems, stories, and novels. But here is a rival to Malcolm Cowley and Edmund Wilson as a correspondent, and editor for the literary culture of her times. . . . An unparalleled resource for students of twentieth-century literature and its cultural contexts.”–Suzanne Clark, author of Sentimental Modernism: Women Writers and the Revolution of the Word

“As a teacher, Kay Boyle started the career of countless writers, but as a citizen with a will and a conscience, she saved countless lives, and showed all of us the path to follow. Sandra Spanier reminds us that Kay Boyle’s words might be even more relevant in our current century. And, who better to learn from than a poet and storyteller rather than a 24-hour news channel pundit and spin doctor?”–Shawn Wong, author of American Knees

“Through Boyle’s prodigious correspondence, the volume presents a comprehensive overview of twentieth-century politics, events, literature, and art and offers an important look into Boyle’s life and relationships. The notes read much like a who’s who of twentieth-century literature: Boyle’s correspondents include many of the era’s most significant European and American writers.” —Marilyn Elkins, author of Metamorphosizing the Novel: Kay Boyle’s Narrative Innovations

“The Lost” adapted for the stage

From Page to Stage

THE TALL BOY is a solo play starring actress Tandy Cronyn. Based on Kay Boyle’s short story, “The Lost” (1951) it was adapted for the stage by British playright Simon Bent and directed by David Hammond.

The play won best adaptation at the United Solo Theatre Festival in 2014.

About the story

“The Lost” (first published in Tomorrow, March 1951) was inspired by Kay Boyle’s prolonged time as New Yorker’s European correspondent in post-war Germany.

Boyle was assigned by The New Yorker magazine as European correspondent in November 1946. She travelled to Germany where her husband, Joseph von Franckenstein, was stationed with the U.S. Civilian Occupation Forces. On 23-24 January 1947, she visited a DP (displaced persons) camp in Wildflecken run by  Kathryn Hulme. Wildflecken was a huge former S.S. base, not be to be found on any map, about 50 miles north of Wurzburg. The camp, operated by 18 UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Refugee Association) workers, housed about 20,000 Poles.

Windflecken Camp, Bavaria

“The Lost” tells of three boys, between twelve and sixteen, who are driven to a Children’s Center run by an American Relief Team where children uprooted by the war are “processed” before a final decision is taken by the American consul regarding their future. In compliance with UNRRA procedure,  those with living relatives in their country of origin are renationalized and repatriated, while those whose relatives are found to be dead can file for emigration and be sent to adoption centers in the United States. The fate of the three boys thus rests on a large body of rules and assumptions about what constitutes the “best interests” of displaced children in the context of the postwar reconstruction of European nations.

What complicates matters further is that the boys have been adopted as G.I. mascots by U.S. troop. For the last three or four years, they have travelled throughout Europe with their respective infantry units. Czech, Italian and Polish by birth, they speak American English “as good as you might hear at home,” one with a Brooklyn accent and another with a Southern one. Having but dim memories of their countries of origin and attracted by the prospect of a fresh start overseas, they have set their hearts on immigrating to the United States.

Dondi was a comic stip created by Gus Edson and Ewin Hasen in 1955. The boy, an orphan of Italian descent with no memory of his parents or his name, is found by two  soldiers who adopt him as a mascot and eventually bring him back to the Unitd States with them.

Boyle’s story tackles the conflicting issues of self-identity, national interests and internationalist idealism by questioning vocal identity. Much in the same way as their ill-fitting or cut-down G.I. clothes, the boys’ speech does not seem to “fit” their bodies but rather sounds like a non-natural, prosthetic construct whose overall effect is to introduce a disquieting negativity into the story and undermine presumptions about origin and authority.

The story was rejected by The New Yorker on the grounds that “there was a good deal of doubt around here about whether such things could really happen. So enquiries were made at two agencies which deal with the European displaced persons, and the answers from those agencies tended very strongly to support the doubters here,” as New Yorker editor Gus Lobrano wrote Kay Boyle in June 1947. Boyle was incensed by his “insensate” rejection and wrote back that she felt “The Lost” “an important story (and so true that it breaks your heart)” (Kay Boyle, a Twentieth-Century Life in Letters. Ed. Sandra Spanier. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 2015, p. 438-39).

In a letter to her agent, Ann Watkins, dated 2 August 1947, she lucidly wrote: “The actual work of writing is about as depressing as anything else in the world, but the accumulated pages give life a meaning […]. Remembering this gives me some comfort when I think I just can’t sit another hour or another night and bang out the necessary explanations for those who will not read, anyway, and will not want to understand” ( p. 448).

About the play

At a KBS-sponsored session of the 2015 ALA conference, actress Tandy Cronyn discussed the dramatization of the play and gave an extract of her solo performance which is an amazing blend of technical precision, vocal creativity and narrative energy.

In an issue of The Scofield, Cronyn has also written: “‘That’s right,’ said the tall boy. ‘His wife, she done pass on back in ‘43, and he ain’t got no one left to care for. He’s an ignition expert, and I learn how to suhvice cars with him.’” So speaks a fifteen-year-old Czech boy of his G.I. mentor (a black sergeant from Chattanooga, Tennessee) in the southern drawl he learned from the soldier who has taken him under his wing. Or the fourteen-year-old Polish boy—“I done everything that every son-of-a-bitch in the army ever done”—spoken in a Brooklyn accent the boy has picked up from his G.I. buddies. The characters, fully formed, leap off the page and onto the stage with full theatrical impact—a joy for the actor to play (“Tandy Cronyn on ‘The Lost’ by Kay Boyle.” The Scofield, 1: 43, Fall 2015, p.19).

Cronyn’s deep appreciation of Boyle’s transatlantic perspective on the issue of DPs during WWII deserves the attention of a wider audience, including students of drama and all those who are interested in the interconnections between human rights, history and literature.

Contact and information: http://tandycronyn.com/tallboy.html

“Kay Boyle and Love” in The Scofield

The Scofield

Issue 1.2 Kay Boyle & Love Fall 2015

http://thescofield.com/

Our guiding principle here at The Scofield is to create a place where lovers of literature gather. Of course, we aren’t actually gathering. We are still in solitude, reading these words alone. The hope though—as is the hope, I suspect, with all artistic endeavors—is to transcend our loneliness, to populate our solitude with others.

Selected excerpts

“In her best work Boyle will never take us to the resolution of a story … In reading much of Boyle’s work, you’re left there to figure out what just happened, and it’s challenging for the reader, and yet the themes that she takes on are very much matters of the heart whether on the personal scale or a global scale” — Sandra Spanier, “Uniting Aesthetic and Political Revolution in Love,” p. 48-49.

“Kay never gave me assignments that were traditional writing exercises. She just said, ‘Writing is about belief.’ It should be about what you believe in. I teach the same way she taught me. I tell students the same thing. I alter it a little these day by adding that they shouldn’t write what they already know, but what they’re trying to learn or understand. When you read Kay’s work, you see almost the entire 20th century in her work and everything she believed in. Her writing is tied to every traumatic human event in the 20th century. Historical fiction is the life we’re living right now” — Shawn Wong, “Writing is About Belief,” p. 26.

“After all, even though she taught creative writing at San Francisco State from the early 1960s to the late 1970s, she always harboured a realistic attitude regarding her job, publishing, during that time, an essay in which she argued, tongue perhaps only partly in cheek, that “all creative writing programs ought to be abolished by law.” And even though she was my graduate supervisor, it wasn’t like we had the usual teacher student relationship. We would simply meet, first in her office on campus, and then, once the 1968–69 student strike was under way, at her home on Frederick Street in the Haight. I remember our first conversation concerned a short essay I had written about discovering the work of writer Jorge Luis Borges. It wasn’t about Borges’s writing so much as about the pleasures of discovery, and how that particular discovery came about” — Woody Haut, “If Written It Must Be True: Remembering Kay Boyle,” p. 175.

“If more people knew her story, then perhaps more people would stand up and do the things they want to do—to have courage to do them. If you stand up for what you believe in, will you be ‘successful’ in the conventional sense? Probably not” — Kelley Baker, “There’s No Plot to a Life,” p. 184.

“So let Kay Boyle be a writer no one reads no longer” — Tyler Malone, “The Absolute Essentiality of Love,” p. 8.