Friday, February 15, 2013

Teacup in a Tempest

Gid, who is agog, thanks Daurade and author/poet Jon Frankel for their research assistance and editorial input.

In our previous post, we exposed a long-rumored picture, possibly of Thomas Pynchon, that was hiding out in plain site (hyuk hyuk) on the Internet. 

We also dropped (an admittedly small) "bombshell": "we found a reference to another heretofore unknown photo of Pynchon!" Now we're back with follow up, as promised.

I'd like to start by framing this article in a way that's not stalker-ish: "This is a search for better perspective on events that feel pivotal to '60s student movements as well as Pynchon and Farina's artistic concerns and themes; and we actually hope to dig up juvenalia by Pynchon or Farina!" 

In fact, those previous statements *are* entirely true ... about our previous post. But the truth is, in this case, we were just plain old curious about an apparently unknown reference to an unrecognized yet allegedly publicly available photograph of Pynchon. Gid sniffed something that grabbed him, and off he went blood-hounding.

But be fair to us: As with our previous post, everything we've presented is all quite public, and we're amazed no one else has presented it yet. Furthermore, Pynchon himself once reportedly said, "Not bad. Keep trying" in response to a story postulating that he was Salinger, so what's wrong with trying to locate a public photo? Finally, we think that Pynchon has a sense of humor about this stuff; he did, after all, voice his own character on the Simpsons in a small skit that clearly poked fun at his aversion to being photographed.

"Pynchon on the Simpsons" is a tongue twister! we go.

The Source of the New Rumor

The reference we found was from from a 2010 questionnaire for Cornell alumni. The answers were, oddly, posted online. One of the responses was:

Outstanding Cornell memory: President Deane Waldo Malott was burned in effigy, and a photo of Tom Pynchon, Kirk Sale, Richard Farina and Todd Perry made the front page of the NY Daily News under the Headline “Coeds Riot for Sex.” 

This is not, as far as we know, something that has been mentioned in any rumor of Pynchon photos, much less something that has been "found" or discussed.  Given the paucity of Pynchon pics and the interest among Pynchon fans have shown in this topic over the years, this silence was too tempting to gloss over.

The recollection is from Julia Werner '61; there are numerous mentions in the Sun suggesting that she would have personally known the people she mentions. In 1958, the Sun reported that Werner won a short story competition sponsored by the WriterThe upperclassman prize went to Fariña. One year later, in 1959, the Sun reported that she was elected prose editor of the Writer

In January, 1960, the Sun carried her book review of an anthology of student work; it's well-written and absolutely brutal (let's hope she doesn't review this blog). One of few pieces she praises was written by Fariña. Just beneath this review is a letter by Hadley S. DuPuy, whom you may recall from our previous post. DePuy's letter is written to recruit students to join a team participating in a college bowl quiz.  Interestingly, Werner ended up joining the team.

In December, 1960the Sun reported that Werner had three stories published in the first edition of the Trojan Horse; others in the edition included Curtis, Fariña, and Baxter Hathaway--all of whom we discussed in our last post. A review in the Sun two days later called one of Werner's inclusions, which was the lead piece, the "finest" story in the publication.

At a time when Cornell's English department was chock-full of highly talented students, including Pynchon and Fariña, these are remarkable accomplishments--and bear in mind that we only highlighted Werner's achievements that were somehow related with the people she mentioned in her recollection.

Before We Start, What's This About a "Riot for Sex"?

Starting on May 23, 1958, thousands of Cornell students protested against the school's in loco parentis policy. 

 Thousands of Cornell Students Protesting (The Cornell Sun, May 26, 1958, p. 1)

The protest was started by Kirk Sale, a good friend of Thomas Pynchon.  The demonstration began peacefully enough, but it soon took a nasty turn. After burning an effigy of Cornell's President, the students marched to the President's house, despite Sale's pleas for them to stay put. Students hit the President with eggs, and by some reports, a smoke bomb was tossed into his house. 

President's Effigy is Raised (The Cornell Sun, May 26, 1958, p. 5)

President's Effigy Hanging and Burning (The Cornell Sun, May 26, 1958, p. 7)

The story was picked up in the national news, with coverage lasting for several days. 

What were the student's concerns? Speaking about the cause of the protest, Sale stated:
We feel that the Administration, during the past eight years, has consistently hampered the rights of both the students and the faculty ... The Administration of Cornell has so often ignored the student's voice and so regularly refused to establish any effective channels of communication that a public demonstration was our only recourse.
Other articles cast the net wider, addressing issues related to fraternity vs. non-fraternity disputes; facility scholars vs. facility creative writers; and academic freedom vs. censorship pressures from the Postmaster General (that last point seems relevant to The Crying of Lot 49). See our "Annotated Bibliography of the Protest Coverage" at the bottom of this post for some recommended discussions, responses and analyses of these events, if you're interested in learning more.

This litany of student grievances was, however, mostly ignored by the press. Even The Harvard Crimson, which one would suspect of being sympathetic to the Cornell students' point of view, wrote only of the immediate events and ignored the larger context, stating, "The students were protesting a proposed ruling that co-eds no longer be permitted to attend unchaperoned parties in off-campus rooming-houses."  They focused on the last straw, and not the hay bale which preceded it.

So it's easy to leap to the conclusion that this was a riot for sex--but it still takes a salacious liberty, which newspapers, quite frankly, ought not to do.

The Hunt for the Daily News

Enough with the background; it's time to chase the New York Daily News! Unfortunately, despite its large readership, the paper has not been indexed and it's electronic archives do not go back to 1958.  Fortunately, Gid lives near a big university, so one evening he went into the university library and down into the basement where microfilms are stored. (Not to air our dirty laundry, but Daurade noted that "Cornell's Olin Library also stores microfilm in the basement--surely a practical consideration given the need for rear-projected light to read them--theaters don't have windows, after all". The Gid counters that, like Gilligan watching bicycle-powered TV, he read the Daily News' microfilmed archives on a computer screen, this being 2013, though he suspects that Daurade's correctly peeled back a layer on the palimpsest.)  [Gid, this may be 2013, but I read this in 2000 and even now they still use those back-lit machines!]

Anyhow, the Cornell protest was on May 23, 1958, and other newspapers (e.g., New York Times) stopped discussing it after a couple of days, so Gid scanned through the microfilm from May 24 - 31, 1958.

And there it was! 

Protest at President's House, President Circled (AP Photo in the Daily News)

Or maybe not. 

(Sorry, but the AP photo had a circle around President Malott. Couldn't resist yanking your chain.)

The Daily News' coverage had a different title: "Cornell Boots 4 in Egg Tossing" (May 25, 1958). The title we wanted, "Coeds Riot for Sex", sounds like it's going for yucks and offering editorial interpretation of facts. The article we found, however, sticks to facts, even if a few details were later challenged and the presentation lacked balance insofar as it seemed to down-play the concerns of the students. 

The picture is pretty blurry, but it's clear enough to see that the same picture appeared in the The Cornell Daily Sun in a "SUN Staff Photo Feature" which credits all images to Sun staff photographers (Volume LXXIV, Number 14, 26 May 1958, "Students Protest Administration", p. 7, various Sun staff photographers listed). 

Protest at President's House (Staff Photo in the Sun)

We took a pretty careful look at these photos, and we did not see anyone who looked like Pynchon or     
Fariña, although we're less sure about Sale or Perry. These are grainy photos with lots of people, though, so we may have missed something. What do you think? Did we overlook something? (By the way, President Malott is circled in this picture, too; it's just harder to tell.)

Another Clue!

Overall, something wasn't adding up. We certainly understand that 52-year-old recollections won't be impeccable; besides, Werner wasn't listing out facts for a court or newspaper; she was just reminiscing. Still, the title and tone of the article didn't feel right, and the photo didn't look right.

What next?

While poking about that May 26, 1958, edition of the Sun, Gid noticed a little article on page 3 called "Press Views on Mass Action"; this article listed several other papers' coverage of the protest, including, "Four Suspended by Cornell After 2-Day Riot Over Girls" in the New York Journal American.

Now that sounded an awful lot like Werner's recollection of a "Riot Over Sex" article!

So, Gid and Jon tried to find the New York Journal American [NYJA]. It was not, however, available at any institutions they could access. It looks like 1958 was never archived electronically. Very few places seem to have it on microfilm, and when Gid searched the catalogs of libraries with the microfilm who might be willing to offer an inter-library-loan ... he kept finding spotty coverage that missed the desired time frame (May 1958). Gid checked with a large number of librarians across the country (LIBRARIANS ROCK!!!), but at the time this post was posted, Gid was still searching for a library with the correct microfilm, waiting to hear back, for example, from the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library periodical reference services. (That's not criticism; these two institutions are still well within a reasonable window to reply.)

It was starting to feel like a Pynchonesque quest, kind of like Crying of Lot 49 or V..

There's More Than One Way To Skin a Cat

It was time for another approach. According to the Sun's "Press Views on Mass Action", the NYJA's article is from the AP, and the same AP article was run in the Binghamton Sunday Press and the Buffalo Courier-Express. With the help of a kind librarian, Gid found two articles in the Binghamton Sunday Press' coverage of the events. Both had different titles than the NYJA, but papers are allowed to change the text/title of AP articles. One of the Binghamton articles also had a picture, the first in this montage:

From left to right: Sale from Binghamton Sunday Press; Sale from the Sun; Sale showing sling (Sun); Sale from '72 sketch

This photo, however, is only of Sale. Do papers alter the photo(s) that they include with AP articles?  "Yes, Matilda, they do", sez Daurade. In other words, we still don't know what photo was in the article that Werner referenced--the reference that started this chase.

By the way, does anyone know why Sale's right arm is in a sling? It's a little tough to see in the Binghamton's copy of the image. You can see it a little better on p. 8 of the May 26, 1958 Sun and even more clearly in a different picture of Sale on the preceding page (see images 2 and 3 in our Kirk's sling montage). It is also clearly reproduced in a drawing on p. 12 of the June 1972 Cornell Alumni News (large PDF warning!) which we included as image 4 in the preceding group of photos.

We noted that this photo, like the previous photo, was credited to AP but also appeared in the Sun as credited to Sun staff photographers. The exact same picture appears in the Utica NY Observer (big PDF) credited to the AP.

Which got us to thinking...

As Planets Orbit the Sun

As far we can recall, every photo that we've found of the event also appeared in the Sun, so, Gid proposed a theory: perhaps the Sun was the only paper with photographers on hand; the Sun turned over their photos to the AP; and other newspapers got them from the AP. Was this why Pynchon praised the The Cornell Daily Sun so highly, calling it "the Sun, an observation point on high"?*

Seriously though, that would explain why the Sun credits the photos to Sun staff photographers while other sources credit the exact same photos to the AP. (By the way, May 26, 1958, Sunp. 7, credits seven staff photographers; one of them was Bob Wegryn, who also shot the photos for the dueling article we wrote about in our previous post.)

Ironically, as the Sun didn't print on the weekend, they ended up running these photos a day or two after they had already appeared in other sources, which makes the record look wonky.

For example, the photo we included with Cornell's president circled is from the Daily News, May 24, 1958, credited to the AP -- but the same photo appeared in the Sun two days later credited to Sun staff photographers.

Our friend Jon tried to poke a hole in this theory (which is what I expect friends to do; moreover, Daurade reports that Jon has a deeply ingrained poke fetish) by asking if we'd checked the Ithaca Journal, which could have presumably gotten photographers to the scene quickly. Gid's cursory check turned up no photos of the event in the Ithaca Journal, but this is something worth a follow up by any enterprising researchers (none being found on our staff).

If Gid's theory is correct, then whatever photo is in the NYJA is one that we've already seen in the Sun, none of which appear to include Pynchon -- but we'd like to know for sure; we'd also like to see which photo prompted Werner to make the comment.

Finally, we'd like to know your thoughts on the pictures in the May 26, 1958, Cornell Sun! To the extent that all leads seem to trace back to this one edition of a small paper, we feel like we're investigating the universe in a grain of sand. It's entirely possible that we are, as a previous commentator suggested, stirring a tempest in a tea cup; hell, our previous post now comprises about 3% of the hits that this entire blog has received in the past five years, but, as Daurade has previously mentioned, "we feel there's value in looking at the little things". 

* Mason & Dixon, p. 707, but we're totally kidding. We dragged this quote completely of context; it  has nothing to do with newspapers.



Our questions are in italicized boldface. 

1. We found a reference to "a photo of Tom Pynchon, Kirk Sale, Richard Farina and Todd Perry [that] made the front page of the NY Daily News under the headline "Coeds Riot for Sex.'"

2. The Daily News didn't have an article with that headline, but it did run "Cornell Boots 4 in Egg Tossing" (May 25, 1958). We don't think that article's photo (see above, with President circled) includes Pynchon or Fariña. Do you?

3. The New York Journal American (NYJA) did have an article called "Four Suspended by Cornell After 2-Day Riot Over Girls", but we couldn't find a copy. Can you?

4. The NYJA article was from the AP. The Binghamton Sunday Press and the Buffalo Courier-Express ran the same AP article. Does this mean they included the same photo? The Binghamton Sunday Press' article has a photo, but it's only of Kirk Sale. (If you want to see it, scroll back up and rtfa.)

5. We think that the Sun was the only paper with photographers on hand; that the Sun turned over their pics to the AP; and that all photos of the event stem from the Sun. Can you prove me wrong? If we're correct, then whatever photo Werner was recalling is probably in the May 26, 1958, Sun. Do any of the pictures there look like the right one to you?


Annotated Bibliography of the Protest Coverage

Just to be weird, this is chronological:

The Cornell Daily Sun, Volume LXXIV, Number 147, 26 May 1958. This was the first edition of the Sun to come out after the protest. Many (all?) of the key students in the protest were English Lit majors and many were involved with the Sun, so the coverage is extensive and high quality. Numerous photos. We believe the Sun staff photographers may be the sole source of photographs printed in the state and national media of the event.

Cornell Alumni News, Volume 60, Number 18, 15 June 1958, "Students Protest University Relations; President Promises Conference Group", author unknown, p. 621-623 - Strange pagination; actually starts on p. 7 of the scan. Good coverage of the protest (but a large PDF).

Cornell Alumni News, Volume LXXV, Number 14115 May 1959, "WEEKEND OF SIN! Halfway Down The Gorge--In SLIME and FILTH!p. 2, by Hermione Dopkit as told to Stan Werbul (both presumably pseudonyms) - Not coverage per se, but a good example of satirical commentary by the students. As we noted in our previous postThe Cornell Daily Sun used joke articles like this to poke at the administration. This was one of the more extreme examples; others, like the dueling article we highlighted last time, took more subtle, well, jabs.

Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, Richard Fariña, 1966. Fariña, who was eventually charged as a result of his leading role in the events, wrote an entire novel built around the protest.

Cornell Alumni NewsJune 1972, "Writers &; Teachers", by Geof Hewitt '66, p. 10 - 15. Large PDF! The protest coverage doesn't start until p. 13 (top of second column), but be sure to check out the drawing on p. 12.

The Cornell Daily Sun, 5 May 1978, "Hathaway Recalls Cornell Writers of the 50s", p. 31 and 38 - Unfortunately, this specific issue hadn't made it into the online archives at the time we published this article, but if you'd like a copy, drop us a note. Good coverage of the protest, especially of some of the key players. Traces sources of discontent back many years to a censorship event related to the postmaster general. Also looks at some divisions within the English department over the same time span.


Update 1/5/14

We've had the good fortune to interview Tod Perry, one of the students suspended as a result of the "riot" of 1958, after he contacted us following our first postCozy &; Loud as a Camel in the Rain: An Interview with Mr. Tod Perry.  Check it out!  

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for taking the time to comment!

Need to add an image? Use this code: [ximg]IMAGE-URL-HERE[x/img]. You will need to remove the the boldface x's from the code to make it work.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.