Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Little About Dan and Jule Mannix, (and Saul Bellow, and Hitch, and Bad Bob, and George Higgins: Post #3,999...)

Dan Mannix was a popular magazine and book writer in the fifties who was a formative influence on many naturalists who grew up then. His most popular if not  necessarily best book was A Sporting Chance, which is in my "Book of Books", about such things as falconry and ferrets and fishing with cormorants, all  of which he practiced, all which you could still do then without bureaucratic interference in those days. When I looked at what had written in my answer to Lane Batot below, I realized that with a few photos it would make an interesting post. Here it is!

Don't forget The Killers (Coopers hawk and Gamecock) or The wolves of Paris or All Creatures Great and Small (mine has a letter from his son after his death, saying that my books were in his library and that he had spoken well of me, though I never met him; he DID once shoot a blowgun dart into the mantel of a fireplace next to where my Maine friend Mark Fanning was standing,and, when Mark said "That wasn't a poisoned one?" said "Don't kid yourself, son." Then there are Step Right Up, about carney life, and Married to Adventure by Jule, with the cover of her mounted, with a hooded BALD eagle.







Betsy and I chanced to meet a lovely old gal in Newton Mass while was carrying a Merlin. She had that peculiar diction of the Philadelphia upper class and was tall, with unfashionably long hair wound round her head. She inspected the bird closely and announced; "I had a sorority sister who kept birds like that, but rahther LARGER. I believe they were EAGLES." I sized up her accent and age, and asked "Was her married name Jule Mannix?" She was amazed...

Jule calling Aquila to her while riding her horse Teresa.  She, not Dan, figured out how to hawk ("eagle"?) mounted, as Dan was rather nervous around horses before they lived in Mexico...

But the best story of all is curiously unknown, and perhaps speaks to the divide between culture and country, "literature" and all other writing, that exists in this nation, and may be why I am a poor man. Acting on a lead in an article about Saul Bellow in the NYRB, I tracked down the following amazing fact: in 1951, Bellow had to pay an unspecified "large" sum to Dan and Jule Mannix, because he used, without attribution, over a hundred pages about hunting iguanas in Mexico with eagles, which he took entirely from Dan's as yet unpublished ms, in his The Adventures of Augie March. Chapters 14 - 20 are FULL of Mannix! The only addition is the character of Augie, who is a well- written first- person narrator who like Bellow is an urban Jew, an ambitious son of son of  immigrants rather than a lucky Philadelphian who had the money to arrange his life to do what he wanted-- check out the newlyweds' first New York  address, when Dan was looking for, and had not yet found, writing work. 

It is a pretty  good book, save for some rather dated "tough guy " dialog that fades into the background after a while. The edition I have has a perceptive essay by the late Christopher Hitchens, who says nothing about the eagles, though he knew more than he is credited for about country life.

 I am a  bit embarrassed that I had not read it already, but when I was young there were a certain group of too- urban (or SUBurban-- this last does not apply to Bellow) middle- aged males that I couldn't abide. Poor Updike of the pissed- on lawn was chief among them, and I had just gotten to the point of reading him when he did his Hamlet pastiche, and, rather than ask a falconer about it, like Bellow had, or go out with the hawks, like Hilary Mantel did (her opening scene in Bring Out Your Bodies is chilling and brilliant), he simply MADE IT UP, reinforcing my idea of him as second- class  once again.

(The only one of those upper- middle class WASPs and Jews I could abide was Cheever, whose dark  lyricism and sheer Yankee WEIRDNESS somehow got to  me-  after all, I knew many strange Yankees. And it took my own generation to produce an urban Jewish writer that I would follow anywhere, even when the experiment doesn't quite come off; I have followed Jerome Charyn through his Marilyn the Wild
and its three successors, , through his Buffalo Bill novel (!- he is a New Yorker by birth and a Parisian by adoption) Darlin Bill, his graphic novels and historical books,  to Savage Shorthand,  his his commentary on Isaac Babel, and by God I will buy his new study of Emily Dickinson!* (The late Bad Bob  Jones, who insisted Updike wrote well, but only on sex-- sorry Bob, in the  one scene I remember of two stoned teenagers in one of the "Rabbit" books, he was embarrassing) was more convincing when he said one night, when were drinking whiskey late at night at some Wildbranch workshop, that Red Cavalry and Dubliners  were the two best story collections in the world, and I only wanted to add some Kipling and couldn't think of a SINGLE collection of that quality that he had made in his lifetime, and Bob said magnanimously why not Kim because it is the best spy novel ever told and I said but it's not a short story OR a collection and we went on as we always did, back in those days when there was all the time in the world...
Bob and Louise, 98 I think



As you may have guessed, I have gone on at such ridiculous length because this is post # 3,999, and the blog party is not until early May, and I haven't the slightest CLUE what to do with 4000. Suggestions listened to with interest but no guarantees. Perhaps the "Invisible Planets": how much  unmentioned influence two dead guys named George had on my career...

 * Do NOT, under any circumstance, recite Emily  Dickinson while listening to "The Yellow Rose of Texas". You were warned...


* *Yeah, I grew up in the suburbs, from ages four to seventeen , but I wasn't born there and I never did again. As George V Higgins,  one of the Georges referred to above and another master and inspiration said  (in The Patriot Game), just because I don't like my suburban credentials doesn't mean they are not genuine...

9 comments:

Matthew MAKAREWICZ said...

I rather oddly enjoyed the History of Torture in the 8th grade. I remember a female friend borrowing it and enjoying it also. My favorite from A Sporting Chance was the hunting toad. On to 4000!

Matthew in Missouri

Anonymous said...


# Early congratulations on amazing Post 40000, a truly massive achievement .
Should include comment on your "Gun Life" , and Birds, and Querencia, and how life is still sweet, despite it's personal tribulations!

You, Libby, family and friends have a ball at the Celebrations , we will be thinking of you in ( hopefully ) sunny Crete!

Blessings

JohnnyUK

Randy davis said...

I read HENDERSON THE RAIN KING as a young man, loved the first third of it then it seemed to become incoherent. Jack Nicholson owned the film tights and I looked forward to seeing some of that incoherence resolved in the movie, at least. Never filmed though. In regard to Updike, he was a second rate novelist, even when writing about sex. For the life of me I cannot understand where the reputation comes from, even his art criticism is lousy.

Steve Bodio said...

Randy, I agree- that is why Ron Rau and I pissed on his lawn in in 1987, on our way from Cambridge to Ipswich.

Jessica Farrell-Churchill said...

I'm a bit young for Mannix to have been a direct influence, but I do have copies of A Sporting Chance and The Killers, as well as Troubled Waters, the story of a feral goldfish. It's hard to imagine these getting published these days, but they're neat little books...

Mark F-C (but Jessica is signed in)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Updike, gag. D

Anonymous said...

P.S. Much as I like Joyce, In Our Time is the best and most influential story collection of the 20th century. D

Steve Bodio said...

It is certainly the only other contender, D...

Anonymous said...

....when you pissed on that feller's lawn, Steve, did you spell out anything particular? Or were you just marking territory randomly?......Mannix wasn't completely free of anal officialdom, even in his day--remember his ferrets getting nixed(in "A Sporting Chance") because at the time, they were outlawed in Pennsylvania where he lived. I think that Penn. has changed that law now, but I believe they are still outlawed in California(where they are nevertheless very popular! ("They'll git my ferrets when they pry my cold, dead hands--and the ferret's jaws--off!")....and WOW! 4000? Quite a collection--I was marveling at all the interesting content when I was looking back at that guest entry I did on Trailhounds--you could put together quite a BOOK on the subject--in the tradition of Seton--"Wild Bloggers I Have Known".....As for the four thousandeth--hows about an entry from LIBBY?......L.B.