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Happening in Jacksonville, FL

From Folio Weekly:

Hurley Winkler is good at far too many things. Her CV includes helping produce Swamp Radio and Perversion magazine, and she’s just finished her master of fine arts in creative writing at Lesley University. Jim Draper is primarily known as a visual artist whose work has been seen in galleries, in the airport, on the façades of public buildings — on and on. But he’s not just a visual artist. Draper says, “Words are our primary symbols.”

On Feb. 23, each will perform a reading of their work at the second monthly installment of JaxbyJax.

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The David Roberts Interview

Crawfish of Love Septober Octember

No one knew what to think when we first saw a band called the “Crawfish of Love.” The stage was strewn with surreal artwork, a manikin head, several TV sets turned on to random channels or static, guitar amplifiers, drums, and five musicians that looked like they were conspiring mischief among themselves.

Andy King on bass and Scott Sisson on drums were such a formidable rhythm section that they were, and still are, often sought out to work as side-men for other bands and recording artists. Pat Ogilvie was lead guitarist extraordinaire. I remember after one fiery, tone-perfect, feedback-fueled guitar solo, Dave Roberts proclaimed from the stage, “Pat’s been listening to Blue Cheer!” Pat, too, has been sought by area band leaders who need a professional guitarist. The Crawfish line-up varied from time to time. I remember some impressive acoustic guitar fretwork by Steve Pruett at some of the Applejack’s gigs. I’m told that Michael Pearson played some swirling, spiraling electric guitar at some shows I didn’t get to see.  Brian Barr spiced the music with bongos, chimes, maracas, and other percussion. In his tie-dyed shirts and long blond hair, Brian looked like a surfer bohemian straight from 1967 San Francisco.

David Roberts

David Roberts – late 1980s or early 1990s

David Roberts

David Roberts circa 2012

The band was always evolving and full of surprises. On one hand, they were top-notch musicians. Their musical bag included rock, jazz, reggae, and folk. But they also did weird stuff. How can I describe it? Between covers of Minor Swing by Django Reinhardt or I’ll Sleep When I”m Dead by Warren Zevon, the the Crawfish sprang songs on us about a living inside of a green bell pepper, or the Creature From the Black Lagoon looming toward you on Little Talbot Island, or “singing through bread” with actual slices of bread on stage to sing through. Some people I brought to see their shows didn’t like it. They didn’t get it. Among those of us who liked it, there was no need to explain. And there were a lot of us who loved it. At a Crawfish of Love concert, people from all around who had never met each other could share their taste for, not only good music, but a bizarre experiences. Sometimes they headlined shows, other times they became the back-up band for some big-name performers. We’ll talk more about that later in the following interview I did with the Crawfish of Love band leader David Roberts::::

Bill: I remember you telling me that one of your influences was the “cut-up” writing technique used by William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin.

Dave: What I liked most about the Burroughs Cut Up stuff was the absurdity and nonsense of the word flow. I know Burroughs, Bowles, and the others thought eventually the cut ups lead to profound mystical messages but I never had that experience. I’ve just always been tickled by human voices speaking in normal voice tones saying things that violate all rules of syntax. Actually, more than the Burroughs cut ups I was highly influenced by the speech patterns of schizophrenics, particularly undifferentiated schizophrenics, to which I was exposed during viewing training films and doing my internship to earn my master’s degree in psychological counseling from the University of North Florida in 1978. I interned at the old University Hospital Mental Health unit on 8th street and we saw a daily flow of fresh schizophrenics. They speak in a pattern called “word salad,” which really is almost impossible to ad-lib. I was also influenced by the old party game called “Bloopers” where you would fill in a story full of blank spaces with words you had chosen prior to seeing the story. They came printed on pads and there were several series of them. The pre-chosen words sometimes led to hilarious sentences. This goes way back to the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. I’ve also always been able to hear the taste of food in words since I was about 5 years old. For example, the word “example” tastes like the meat filling from Chef Boyardee’s canned ravioli. The word “work” tastes like oatmeal cookies and coffee to me. The word “tape” tastes like butterscotch. Not all words make me taste tastes in my mind. The word “computer,” for example, doesn’t taste like anything but there is a certain “orange” smell to it. I was thinking these thoughts long before I knew who Burroughs was. But I guess the streak of urban discomfort and darkness in my stuff is most greatly influenced by Burroughs sidekick junkie raconteur Herbert Huncke. His book The Evening Sun Turned Crimson from 1975 is the ultimate account of the underbelly of the beast. Look for that one on E-Bay if you can find it. It’s the book Jim Carroll wished he could’ve written. Huncke led the life Carroll tries to capture in his vanilla trust-funded accounts of addiction.

Bill: Your CD, Septober Octember, seems to mythologize North Florida the way Faulkner did with Mississippi, Tennessee Williams with New Orleans, or Jack London and Robert Service did with the Yukon. It’s also got some very funny moments.

Dave: I wanted the CD to reflect the geography of North Florida more than mythologize the region or it’s people. I wanted the slow syrupy water from the swamp-water runoff mud trail. I wanted the heat from a moonless 2 a.m. August moment staring across Trout River at Jackie’s Seafood. I wanted the decayed horseshoe crab shell placed on my head like a helmet while standing in the dunes at Talbot Island…not up to anything in the dunes…just standing. And yeah, sure, there’s Winn Dixie stuff on it too but it relies on the things one might see out of the corner of your eye around here while looking at something else. Like you’re looking ahead at a carousel in the forest but you find yourself noticing the bandannas lying along the edge of the soccer practice field next to the forest…really more interested in the bandannas than the carousel. Septober Octember is not meant to be a comedy CD at all. It’s meant to help you smell the beauty in the vapor coming from a small pot of macaroni as the ice cold wind blows and mixes the vapor into your nostrils blowing across a highly-polished wood floor in a Riverside apartment. It calls to those times in my life when I could pay attention more to the edge of tape grass on a February swamp bank than to a trailer full of lawn mowers following me constantly draining what’s left of my zeitgeist like little gas-powered Draculas. Septober Octember was my celebration of stuffing and gravy, new green onions in the spring, and the weird Gideon’s Bible Dr. John holds on the cover of his seminal 1969 album, Babylon. Recording it was an absolute joy.

Bill: Didn’t you follow the Grateful Dead on tour one summer?

Dave: No. I have a bunch of friends who did, though. Indeed, I was and to a small degree still am a Dead fan, but no, I couldn’t stand to do something like that. The Dead could be disappointing sometimes in concert, particularly toward the end when Garcia was consumed for the umpteenth time with drugs. I also resented the “rules” of the Deadhead world, a supposed “free thinking” group of folks who have very strict rules for behavior, appearance and comportment. But, to be sure, between the years of 1968 to 1995 I was a major appreciator of the Gratefule Dead’s improvisational excursions on their “space” instrumental passages. I was actually consumed by their music from 1973’s Wake of the Flood album up through the last days of the performing Crawfish. I would go running in those days with 90 minutes of Dead on my Walkman and Crawfish shows started to get very Dead-like due to that subconscious influence. Andy King complained about it back then. I disagreed with him then but now I think he was right. When I listen to Crawfish tapes circa 1988 up to the end in 1998 it does sound too Deadish. It kind of ruined the originality thing we debuted with in 86 and 87, probably the heyday of the Crawfish. I remember you up on stage with us at Applejack’s in 1987 singing Let’s Cook the Dog, which I think was your tune. Those were the early days when I had a clearer vision for the band.

Bill: Dave, you’re a teacher. What’s the deal with algebra? I mean, who uses that stuff except people going into science or engineering? Why can’t it be an elective?

Dave: Algebra requires 3rd-level intellectual thinking because it utilizes the problem-solving areas of your brain. Humans hate algebra for the same reasons that humans hate physical exercise…it’s hard, not fun, requires dedication and actually calls for increased challenge. Also, third level operation increases the likelihood for failure and humans fear failure. But the fact is, utilizing this third level of the brain ( called “application” by the way ) forces the brain to function in ways, problem-solving ways, that “pave the way” for future problem solving, and not just in mathematics. You need experience in third-level cognition in everything from changing a flat tire to performing a delicate surgery. It’s like a mental workout for future needed performance the same way that physical exercise prepares one for future needed performance. Algebra is good.

Bill: Well, fine, then. Now that you put it like that…okay. Let’s get back to music. You guys have managed to play with some legendary performers. Tell me about working with those big-time collaborations.

Dave: By “big-time collaborations” I guess you mean the seven shows the Crawfish of Love did between 1996 and 1998 with three of the San Francisco psychedelic Haight-Ashbury luminaries: Gary Duncan from Quicksilver Messenger Service, David LaFlamme from It’s A Beautiful Day, and Sam Andrew from Big Brother and the Holding Company. They were all wonderful and they were all horrible and every shade in between. The Crawfish burned with such intensity of devotion and discipleship in learning and performing the repertoires of all three bands that I’m afraid it burned us up. I did all the financing and lost a small fortune, so that ultimately is the strongest stamp it all placed upon me. Yeah, it was great to play with those guys on a certain level, but what I went through to do it was enough to cloud over the fun. Now, if someone else was paying for it all I could’ve enjoyed it more. My mood and level of crap I was willing to take steadily disintegrated from the first gig with Duncan up to the point where when Sam Andrew showed up to do his shows with us in 1998 I wanted absolutely none of his shit and before long he and I were not really on speaking terms, although technically the Sam Andrew shows were the best of all. He was real hard to deal with and I was real hard to deal with too. I had had it at that point with egos and temperaments and I could tell people had it with mine. We all felt relief when those gigs were over and it really was the end of the Crawfish. Pat (Ogilvie) didn’t even play the Sam Andrew show anyway and if Pat isn’t there it can’t really be a Crawfish gig to me. At that point, in 1998, we were invited twice a year to play Beth and Randy Judy’s Magnolia Fest and Spring Fest on the Suwannee River and Pat and I decided to scrap the group and play acoustic tunes from our 1973 repertoires. It was a period of great cleansing and refreshment to both of us and we formally stopped playing any gigs except the festivals. We developed quite a little following using the Crawfish of Love name but not doing Crawfish material. We turned our backs on it. We recorded what we felt was as perfect a CD as we could record in Septober Octember. It was just what we wanted. No need to do it again. We also hated playing music in bars late into the morning hours so we just went with the festival gigs. We were invited to play the festival up to 2002 and then we stopped getting invited. So our course had been run and now we exist only on the most special occasions. We did reunite the original band last August at Brenda Walker’s Chinacat Festival and played a set of the original 1987 Applejack’s repertoires. It went over well with the hippies old and young and it was great fun but it was enough to keep me satisfied for a long time.

Bill: Would you ever consider more Crawfish of Love concerts?

Dave: The only gigs I really miss are the Magnoliafest and Suwannee Springfest gigs. I loved playing under those mossy oaks lining the Suwannee River. I would gladly reconvene the Crawfish under any format to play on the Suwannee again. But basically, I dislike playing music in bars late at night hanging around a bunch of drunks and drug users and cheaters and club owners and managers and band members who can’t make it tonight and all the absolute shit that goes with trying to play music on this very low rung in which I abide. To me the biggest names I’ve played with are Scott Sisson, Steve Pruett, Andy King, Pat Ogilvie, and a couple more.

Bill: I need to get a petition started. “Bring the Crawfish back to Magnolia!” Seriously.

Some of his former students from Terry Parker High School with David Roberts (front & center with black shirt)

Some of his former students from Terry Parker High School with David Roberts (front & center with black shirt)

End of Interview       Return to Interview Selection Page

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The Creature’s Lesser Known Cousin

JON M. FLETCHER / The Times-Union -Don Barton, who made "Zaat" in the early 1970s, kept the original creature costume in his garage. 2009 file photo. Above: Photo by JON M. FLETCHER / The Times-Union -Don Barton, who made “Zaat” in the early 1970s, kept the original creature costume in his garage. 2009 file photo.

 

Upon the death of Don Barton, the June 10, 2013 edition of Florida Times-Union (and Jacksonville.com),featured an article by Matt Soergel, who wrote “Don Barton brought “Zaat” to life in the early 1970s, and while the movie about a giant radioactive walking catfish-human monster was quiet for decades, it never really went away . . . The 1971 creature-feature played for a while at drive-ins and movie houses, mostly in the Southeast. It was bootlegged and retitled several times, and Barton learned hard lessons about the cutthroat movie business. It had a renaissance, though, after being mocked in 1999 on TV’s “Mystery Science Theatre 3000,” which featured science-fiction movies generally thought of as bad. By June  2001, “Zaat” made it to theaters again, playing to two packed auditoriums at the now-gone St. Johns 8 Theater on the Westside . . . Mr. Barton was a co-founder of the Florida Motion Picture and Television Association and won several awards for documentaries. In 1984, he became vice president of marketing at what’s now St. Vincent’s HealthCare, and later served on the hospital’s executive board.”  Read entire article

I visited the estate sale for the late Mr. Barton  on Saturday, November 2nd and purchased some memorabilia.

Zaat Memorabila 

Jamie Defrates in the movie ZAAT (1971)Above: Jamie DeFrates as he appeared in ZAAT

 

When I first saw Don Bartin’s low-budget horror movie, ZAAT (1971) I was surprised to discover that Jamie DeFrates makes an appearance! DeFrates is an accomplished musician/composer/producer, who lived in Jacksonville, FL at the time. DeFrates was born in Springfield, Illinois. His parents ran a Christian ministry that included a radio show called “The Golden Gospel Hour.” After college he traveled the country, playing guitar and singing in clubs from New York to San Francisco. DeFrates has been a national opening act for: Willie Nelson, Janis Ian, Leo Kottke, Little River Band, Jerry Jeff Walker, Richie Havens, Doc Watson, John Hartford, John Lee Hooker, and others. He eventually settled in Jacksonville, where he established a publishing company and recording studio. The music in ZAAT is credited to Jamie DeFrates and John Orsulak. 

ZAAT movie cedits

Just below the credits for DeFrates and Hodgin, we see “Electronic Music: Jack Tamul,” another interesting Jacksonville musician and composer. Tamul specializes in synthesized music.

Jack Tamul Above: Jack Tamul

 

The April 2001 issue of Scary Monsters magazine and the ZAAT 2-disc combo DVD set

Ed Tucker is an aficionado of classic and vintage science fiction & horror films and memorabilia. He hosts the Fan Lexicon twice a year in Jacksonville, FL. Mr. Tucker wrote the liner notes for the ZAAT 2-disc combo DVD. The official ZAAT website features an excerpt from an interview with Ed Tucker that first appeared in the April 2001 issue of Scary Monsters Magazine. Tucker begins:

I suppose being born in Ocala, Florida in the 1960’s in some way predestined me to my love and appreciation of motion pictures. The small town of Silver Springs is located so close to Ocala that, today, it is almost considered a suburb of it, but in the 1950’s and 60’s, it was a booming conglomeration of widely varied tourist attractions. Chief among these was Silver Springs itself, with its glass bottom boats, jungle cruises, and wildlife exhibitions. Hollywood often utilized the spring’s clear waters and jungle-like settings for every manner of production. From installments in the Tarzan film series to episodes of Sea Hunt and I Spy. But in my mind it will always be remembered for the underwater footage filmed for the 1957 3-D horror icon, Creature from the Black Lagoon.

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ZAAT DVD Features

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April 24, 2016 · 11:20 pm

Chamblin Bookmine, Part One of Seven

The following was written by the always interesting Tim Gilmore on his blog, Jax Psycho Geo.

Source: Chamblin Bookmine, Part One of Seven

But after what happened with Manson in His Own Words: The Shocking Confessions of “The Most Dangerous Man Alive,” I was too ashamed to go back.

Even years later, when I’d assumed enough time had passed, Ron would give me a deal on a stack of books for trade-in, standing behind the cash register, with his mussed white hair and thin steel-framed glasses, and he’d joke with Frank, “Uh oh, better look out, he’s doing it to us again.”

In the years in between, I missed the strange steep back staircase that ascended to the dark and cramped second floor, and I missed the incongruous juxtaposition of poetry and horror fiction up there in the dark. I remembered particular purchases, Rimbaud’s Illuminations and Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil on the poetry side, and the cheap 1970s Ballantine paperback of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Lurking Fear on the horror side.

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Alan Justiss (1943-2011)

Alan Justiss, photo by Shelton Hull

Poet Alan Justiss died on Valentine’s Day in Jacksonville, FL. In a touching tribute on Money Jungle SafariShelton Hull writes:

The light is out on the 17th floor on Lomax Street, at the retirement community Alan Justiss called home at the end of his life. That light has burned out, and it will shine no more. The light, like the man, was a beacon for people seeking the kind of real talk that is getting harder and harder to find anymore. No more late-night phone-calls with the smell of beer and cigarettes and wet typewriter ink digitized and dispersed by satellites into time and space, where scholars in distant galaxies transcribe them now.

The greatest writer our city ever produced will spend eternity nestled in a pine box in the pauper’s field, maybe with a marker or a mention and some care to his last intention. His overworked Underhill went underground, laid across a chest clothed cheaper than the baby Jesus, his hands clasped across corroding keys in propriety and prayer. His entire body gave out slowly, over the course of 20 years, but you see those hands and you know that serious work was done.

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Chris Hutson, me, and Alan Justiss, listening to someone read somewhere

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The Charles Wadsworth Camp Mystery

The following is an edited collection of my various blog entries on Charles Wadsworth Camp, all brought together in one place for easier access. The “mystery” lies in this question: Is Charles Wadsworth Camp’s minimal internet presence due to lack of interest in his work, or is the lack of interest due to his minimal internet presence?

“No one,” the doctor answered, “can say what psychic force is capable of doing. Some scientists have started to explore, but it is still uncharted country.”  – from The Abandoned Room, By Wadsworth Camp (1879 – 1936)

Why is there almost no biographical information about Charles Wadsworth Camp on the internet? Almost all references to Mr. Camp appear in the numerous biographies of his famous daughter, Madeleine L’Engle. But Camp was also a writer. There are movies based on his work. His books are available for purchase in both used and new editions. The ebook versions range from free to 96¢, and some of his novels are freely accessable online.

Camp’s The Abandoned Room (Public Domain) is a little gem of a murder mystery with supernatural overtones. The story is briskly paced, for the most part, with a sustained  atmosphere of spookiness.  The denouement is no less satisfying than many of the Sherlock Holmes adventures. The Gray Mask is a fun crime serial, part Dick Tracey and part Green Hornet.

Charles Wadsworth Camp, also known as simply Wadsworth Camp, was born on October 18, 1879 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and died on October 30, 1936 in Jacksonville, Florida. This intrigues me because I live in Jacksonville, and it is my intention to find out exactly where Mr. Camp lived and if he wrote any of his novels or articles while residing here.

I sent an email to the Madeleine L’Engle website. After all, L’Engle’s parents were Wadsworth Camp and Madeleine Hall Barnett, and, although L’Engle passed away in 2007, maybe the mangers of her web site can fill me in. Maybe they are even planning a big Wadsworth Camp publicity campaign, even as I write this, which will make my research moot. Maybe my email will inspire them to initiate a big publicity campaign. See, that’s one of the problems with research. It’s like when scientists try to observe the position of a sub-atomic particle, the very act of observing the particle changes it’s position.

The reply from L’Engle’s web site came back the next day, “Bill, we are not aware of any resources online about Mr. Camp. Sorry. Thanks for your interest.”

Continuing my web search, I found some vital information in a New Yorker profile of Madeleine L’Engle, written by Cynthia Zarin, which gives us the spectacle of an alligator climbing up the steps of L’Engle’s Florida home before she moves to New York and lives in an apartment below Leonard Bernstein.

“Madeleine L’Engle Camp was born in 1918 in New York City, the only child of Madeleine Hall Barnett, of Jacksonville, Florida, and Charles Wadsworth Camp, a Princeton man and First World War veteran, whose family had a big country place in New Jersey, called Crosswicks. In Jacksonville society, the Barnett family was legendary: Madeleine’s grandfather, Bion Barnett, the chairman of the board of Jacksonville’s Barnett Bank, had run off with a woman to the South of France, leaving behind a note on the mantel.” – from Cynthia Zarin’s profile of Madeleine L’Engle in The New Yorker.

Zarin goes on to say, “Madeleine found Florida stultifying and surreal. “One afternoon, she watched an alligator pick its way up the porch steps.”

She’s lucky she wasn’t here in Florida during the vote recount/hanging-chad debacle, which was stultifying, surreal, and felt like an alligator creeping ever closer.

I hold in my hand the official death certificate of Charles Wadsworth Camp. The trade/profession section contains the one word I can only hope will appear someday on mine: Writer.

According to this document, a Dr. E. C. Swift attended the ailing author from Octber 29th until his death at 1:40 PM on October 31st, 1936. This differs from what I found online at sites like IMDb, which always list his last day as October 30. Could it be that he or a member of his family wanted to avoid any mention of Halloween?

The cause of death is blocked out, but only because I’m not a member of the family, and we know that Camp died from pneumonia at age 57. The most common story is that Camp’s lungs were already weakened by mustard gas during WWI, leaving him especially vulnerable to respiratory disease. But the April 14, 2004 issue of the New Yorker features a profile of Camp’s daughter, author Madeleine L’Engle, in which a member of Camp’s family tells Cynthia Zarin, “(Camp) used to smoke Rameses cigarettes… he used to drink a lot…Uncle Charles was not ailing in his life. He was a big, handsome man in a white linen suit smoking cigarettes on the porch and drinking whiskey. He was a favorite of my mother’s, and she was a talker, and she never mentioned anything about him being gassed in the war.” This strikes me as a very weak argument that Camp’s medical problems were related to anything other than mustard gas. For one thing, many people choose not to talk at great length about war experiences.  An off-hand remark by a relative that their mother didn’t talk about Camp’s war-time brush with mustard gas it doesn’t make it untrue. And a lot more people smoked cigarettes in those days, and millions of people drink whiskey.

CampEvergreen1

Camp’s novel “The Gray Mask” was first published as a serial in Collier’s magazine in 1915. Evergreen Cemetery in Jacksonville, FL is the resting place for Charles Wadsworth Camp and his wife, Madeleine Barnett Camp.

Camp’s residence is listed as “Red Gables” at Jacksonville Beach, Florida. It says that he had lived in this area for three years before his death, which means he probably did not write any of his mystery books here, but he was also a critic and an editor, so it’s possible that he did some work in Jacksonville.

The following is a cropped section of an image I found in an excellent ebook called World’s Finest Beach by Donald J. Mabry (used by permission). Mr. Mabry informs me that the phone book listing is dated incorrectly and should actually say 1936. This explained why only Mrs. C. W. Camp is listed, as 1936 is the year Camp died.

And thanks to the Beaches Area Historical Society at Jacksonville Beach, Florida, for these photos of the Red Gables “beach cottage” where Charles Wadsworth Camp lived out his final years. At the next opportunity I will drive to the spot where Red Gables once stood, find out what’s there now, and hopefully find a few local beach people who remember the place.

”Illyria” or Red Gables beach cottage built by Mrs. William Johnson L’Engle on ocean front (a section of 1st Street). The photo is property of the Beaches Area Historical Society.

Unidentified group of people in water at the beach in front of the Red Gable beach cottage

Dr. Camellus S. L’Engle and sister Louise L’Engle on the porch of the Red Gables beach cottage at Pablo Beach, which is now called Jacksonville Beach.

On January 7, 2010, someone named W. Orth made an excellent suggestion in the comment section of one of my blog entries, “Some biographical material can be found in Madeleine L’Engle’s book Summer of the Great Grandmother, written primarily about her mother, although including info about her father as well. L’Engle’s other non-fiction works include info about her parents via stories of her own growing-up years.”

The four books of The Crosswicks Journals, embedded in a tesseract

I’ve considered myself a Madeleine L’Engle fan since I first read A Wrinkle In Time as a 10 year old in the 1960s, but only recently have I come to appreciate L’Engle’s formidable abiltity to address serious issues like life and death in prose that is both simple and profound.

Thanks to a comment by W. Orth on my last Wadsworth Camp installment, I have discovered the wonderful world of  The Crosswicks Journals, which consists of the following four autobiographical books by Madeleine L’Engle:

I read Summer of the Great-Grandmother first. It is actually the 2nd book in the list. The “great-grandmother” in the title is Madeleine L’Engle’s 90 year old mother, the great-grandmother of L’Engle’s grandchildren. The “summer” refers to a time when all four generations were gatherd together in the large Connecticut farmhouse known as Crosswicks, the home of Madeleine and her actor husband, Hugh Franklin. It’s a moving and honestly human account by L’Engle about caring for her mother, a once-brilliant and adventerous woman in the throes of advancing senility.

Now I’m reading A Circle of Quiet. Years ago, in a creative writing class, we read excerpts from this book. I had almost forgotten about it, but the wit and wisdom must have entered my subconcious mind. It feels like I’m picking up where I left off with an old friend. A Circle of Quiet may very well be one of my favorite books of all time. You don’t have to be an aspiring writer to enjoy the book, and it can be enjoyed by children, teenagers, or adults.

One thing I admire about L’Engle is that, according to Donald Hettinga in Christianity Today, “(L’Engle) has been perceived as too worldly by some conservative Christian audiences and too dogmatically Christian by some secular audiences . . . Ministers preach sermons against her; books and articles denounce her and any Christians who evaluate her work favorably or even evenly; librarians in Christian schools and churches handle her books as though they carried dangerous heresies, sometimes relegating them to back shelves where patrons must ask specifically for them, and sometimes banning them altogether.”

I can’t recall reading anything by L’Engle that seemed remotely dogmatic. In the book I’m reading, for example, she says, “The artist’s response to the irrationality of the world is to paint or sing or write, not to impose restrictive rules but to rejoice in pattern and meaning, for there is something in all artists which rejects coincidence and accident.” That almost sounds like a William S. Burroughs sentiment.

L’Engle is not afraid to express doubt, nor does she downplay the importance of common sense and and mental health science to get through a hard time. She was apparently the way I imagine Maud Newton to be, although I don’t know if Maud would approve of that statement.

But this blog entry is supposed to be about Wadsworth Camp, so let me move on to Mister C.

In The Summer of the Great-grandmother, Madeleine L’Engle tells us that her mother, Madeleine Hall Barnett and her father, Charles Wadsworth Camp, were married in Jacksonville, Florida and went to nearby Saint Augustine for a brief honeymoon, where they stayed at the Ponce de Leon hotel. They then moved to New York, where Camp worked as a newspaper reporter, writing reviews of plays, operas, and concerts. Camp dressed elegantly every evening, whether he was eating dinner at home or taking the horse-drawn trolley a theater or concert hall. Many of their friends were msuicians.

L’Engle tells this story:

“One hot summer evening, long before I was born, (my mother) walked through the hall and glanced at the etching of Castle Conway and said, ‘Oh, Charles (Camp), it’s so hot. I wish we could go to Castle Conway,’ ‘Come on!’ he cried, and swept her out of the house without toothbrush or change of clothes, and into a taxi, and by midnight they were on a ship sailing across the Atlantic. In those days a trip could be as spontaneous as that. My parents were not poor, but neither were they, by today’s standards, affluent. Father was a playwright and journalist, and their pocketbook waned and swelled like the moon; this must have been one of the full-moon cycles.”

My research on Charles Wadsworth Camp will continue. For now, in honor of Jacksonville Beach, here is another quote from Madeleine L’Engle:

If I frequently use the analogy of the underwater area of our minds, it may be because the ocean is so strong a part of my childhood memories, and of my own personal mythology. If I am away from the ocean for long, I get a visceral longing for it. It was at the ocean that I first went outdoors at night and saw the stars. I must have been very little, but I will never forget being held in someone’s arms – Mother’s, Father’s, Dearma’s, someone I loved and trusted enough so that all I remember is being held, and seeing the glory of the night sky over the ocean. – Excerpt from The Summer of the Great-grandmother (1974, Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Chapter 8, by Madeleine L’Engle

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Arvid Smith

The Cross-Pollination Project is a compilation CD of songs from independent musicians in and around Jacksonville, FL.

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