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May 03, 1941 - Image 1

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1941-05-03

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University Of Michigan Liter'4ry Magazine

By Gerald Bui

MAY, 1941
won't leave you being such
that the neighbors' child-
bout you."
a spectacle," he said, begin-
angry. "And who is writing
roughs," she told him. "He's
ut you in his book, and peo-
ng to laugh at you."
them laugh," he said, as a
e. "Or if you want me t
to make him stop it."
at dressed and go to the show
he repeated stubbornly. "I'll
ou making a fool of yourself
hole family."
aphreys went to the show and
to plan some revenge on the
also determined not to bring
home the next week.

the novel was produced were
quite authentic; that is, the'
room was a garret, though some-
what :comfortably furnished, and the
author failed to have his hair clipped
over long periods of time. Whenever the
author came down from the garret his
mother commented, with some trepida-
tion, on his untidyness, and he, with
characteristic temperament, shouted at
her to stop. irritating him. She would
thereupon get genuinely angry herself
and rush out into the kitchen, where,
after a few moments of tears, she would
prepare something for the artist to eat.
He ate ,absently, as the saying goes,
though with a great appetite, and as
the novel grew so did the artist.
In the kitchens anG parlors of the
neighborhood there were some refer-
ences made to the novel, and they were
not always pleasant ones. Mrs. Hum-
phreys, for instance, whose son had
read part of the manuscript and had
implied in certain conversations that the
carpenter -with a propensity toward
drink had a counterpart in real life, was
not at all pleased. The facts of her
husband's personal life were not, she
felt, for the use of people who wrote
books. She was determined to have a
talk some day with the mother of the
It was quite natural that Mr. and
Mrs. Olmstead should be suspicious 'of
what was being included in the book.
They remembered the writer as a young
man who disliked them intensely; and
to their minds books were written to
strike at those whom you disliked. And
if Will Burroughs should take it into
his head to say something about their
little domestic misunderstandings, which
he must know about through his mother,
the whole business would be very embar-
The women of the neighborhood were
given their first real friglt when Mrs.
Kay, who had read or read of Look
Homeward Angel, told them, in subtle
terms, how powerful a writer could be
if he chose to. The occasion was an af-
ternoon tea at the home of Mrs. Hum-
phreys, and Mrs. Burroughs was present.
She, suspecting what was implied, re-
marked, "Yes. I suppose a mean person
can do a great deal of trouble in a
book." And then she added as though
it were a humorous afterthought, "Peo-
ple like Will, though, are always saying
things about people that are too nice."
She was not certain that her comment
had been adequate, but she -did not
have the courage to try again. She no-
ticed that nothing more was said about
writing and that everyone went home
earlier than was usual for them.
As a matter of fact even she had no
idea of the contents of the novel. She
asked her son once at the dinner table
when Mr. Burroughs had been there,
and he had tried to parry the question by
asking for more mashed potatoes. Then
Mr. Burroughs, taking a temporary in-
terest in the talk, put the question to
him again. He said it was about people.
Mr. Burroughs snorted anti said nothing
more during the meal.
W HEN THE PEOPLE in the neigh-
borhood realized what Will Bur-
roughs might be doing they tried first
to show him their most beneficient qual-

ities. Mrs. Olmstead baked a cake for
him and brought it to the house, saying
that he might like something especially
good to eat while he was working. He
was working at the time, and would not
even come downstairs. Mrs. Burroughs
accepted the cake, acting as his agent;
she thanked Mrs. Olmstead profusely
and invited her and her husband to
have dinner with them the following
"I'm very sorry," Mrs. Olmstead told
her coldly, "but my husband and I have
accepted a previous engagement." When

head. "Talk, talk, talk. You can't keep
her quiet." She ran crying from the
room, and her husband strode out of the
Similar happenings occurred in the
home of Mr. and Mrs. Humphreys. One
Friday night, the day on which he was
weekly paid. Mr. Humphreys came
home with a bottle of rye whiskey and
the intention of getting completely
drunk, as was his habit every week.
He had earned the right to the pleasure
after some years of bickering with his
wife, the agreement being that he might

insisted. "I
a spectacle
ren write a
"I'm not;
ning to get
about me?"
"Will Bur
writing abo
ple are got
"Then let
last defens'
I'll tell Sam
"You'll ge
with me," s
not have yc
and your w
Mrs. Hum
writer. He i
his bottlel

AND SO the determination of the
neighborhood changed from that of
being virtuous and noble characters to
that of stopping, if such a thing were
possible, the completion of the novel.
It was inevitable that the pressure
should be felt first by Mrs. Burroughs.
She was sitting one afternoon in her
living room, darning the last of the
socks, when she heard footsteps on her
porch and looking out saw the Baptist
minister about to ring her bell. After
hurriedly carrying her darning basket
into the' kitchen she rushed back to
the living room and, somewhat flus-
tered, opened the door.
"Well, good day to you," she said as
pleasantly as she could. "I wasn't ex-
pecting you. Do come in and sit down."
"Thank you, Mrs. Burroughs," the
clergyman said gravely. He settled him-
self deep in Atr. Burrough's easy chair
and crossed his black-trousered legs.
"I will speak as directly as I can," he
said. "It's about Will."
"Why, has he done something wrong?"
she asked.
"It seems," the reverend gentleman
began, "that he is engaged in the com-
position of a novel of doubtful charac-
"What do you mean?" she blushed.
"You know Will isn't the kind of a
boy who thinks and talks about the
wrong things."
"You misunderstand me, Mrs. Bur-
roughs," he said, raising a gentle hand
in protest. "It has, though, been brought
to my attention that your son is, per-
haps without intending any real harm,
defaming the character of certain of
the members of the parish by misrepre-
senting them in his book."
"Oh, I'm sure," she said, "you must
be wrong about that.'
"I can only repeat to you what I have
been told," she said. "I think, though,
that in all fairness I might be shown
that part of the book which has been
completed so that I might judge for
myself the truth or falsity of the
"Well," she said nervously, "Will won't
let me see what he's done."
"That is all I want to know," the
clergyman said, rising from his chair.
"I will go now."
"But just a moment," Mrs. Burroughs
cried to him. "I'm sure he would let
you see it."
"Apparently that isn't necessary," he
(Continued on Page Nine)


her husband came home that night
she told him what had happened, and
he was as nervous for the remainder of
the evening that he could not eat his
supper. "He'll be making laughing stocks
of us all," he shouted, waving the eve-
ning paper at his wife. "And it's all
because of you."
"Because of me?" his wife said. "What
do you mean?"
"You and your sharp tongue," he
shouted at her. "If you'd kept your
mouth closed all this time he'd have
nothing to write about. But no! You
have to argue with me until everybody
in the neighborhood knows about it."
"Indeed," his wife replied. "It's all
my fault. You come home raging like a
mad man and expect me to greet you
with a smile on my face."
"Oh, Holy Jesus," her husband
moaned, putting his hand on his fore-

drink once a week so long as he did
it in the privacy of his own home and
away from his children. He was content
with the agreement and planned to go
down into the basement to enjoy his
evening alone. He was unpleasantly sur-
prised, therefore, when his wife confis-
cated his bottle and told him to dress
himself for entertainment at the the-
"I don't like to see shows," he told
her patiently, "but if you want to go
I'll drive you up and call for you when-
ever you want me."
"You'll do nothing of the sort," she
said. "There has been enough of this
drunkenness. You are going to be a re-
spectable family man."
"I do not care to be a respectable
family man if it means going to shows,"
Mr. Humphreys told her, jealously de-
fending his rights.
"You are going to a show," his wife

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