January 12, 2013

essay on Marjorie Perloff's The Vienna Paradox by Douglas Messerli

davy crockett's hat (on marjorie Perloff and her book the vienna paradox)
by Douglas Messerli

Marjorie Perloff The Vienna Paradox (New York: New Directions, 2004).

At dinner one night at Marjorie Perloff’s house—an event with just a handful of couples as opposed to her usually larger affairs—the conversation turned to the subject of what those around the table, all quite renowned in our fields, had done before embarking upon our current careers. I can’t recall large parts of this friendly dinner conversation—which I believe included the artists Susan Rankaitis and Robert Flick, Marjorie’s daughter Nancy, a curator at the Getty Museum, and her husband Rob, scholars Renée Riese and Judd Hubert, and Howard and me—but I do remember reminding Marjorie that she had once told me that early in her career she had been so desperate for a job that she had applied at small colleges such as Beaver College (now called Arcadia University). Knowing of Marjorie’s erudition, her brilliant writing and teaching abilities, and gift of language(s), the idea of her teaching in that self-advertised pastoral place of peace and quiet in the Philadelphia suburbs was unthinkable for everyone in the room.

Marjorie laughed, admitting that as a young housewife she’d had numerous jobs, even producing German titles for American films. “You can’t imagine how difficult it is to translate the humor of Lucile Ball and Desi Arnaz’s The Long, Long Trailer into German. How do you say, as Lucy does, “turn left right here, which leads Desi to swerve right.” “I also worked on Davy Crockett,” Marjorie admitted, “I still have a coonskin cap!” We broke into delighted laughter, while she went to find it in a nearby closet.

The very thought that this great woman of academic renown had once worked on the very movies that I had attended as a child with my entire family was a revelation. As a family unit we shared perhaps only four movies (the other two being White Christmas and The Ten Commandments), and the idea that Marjorie had in any way had been connected to the other two films seemed almost miraculous; I remember feeling at the time that it may have been the only thing in our backgrounds, outside of the classroom camaraderie of teacher and student, that connected us!

Soon after, the conversation turned to Marjorie’s childhood. We all knew that she had been born in Austria, the daughter of highly educated parents, and that she had escaped with her family via train on the night of March 13, 1938, the day the Anschluss (Austria’s political annexation by Germany) took effect. “My parents simply could not believe that the Austrian government could possibly submit to the Germans,” she reported. When asked to describe that shattering event, Marjorie demurred. “I can hardly remember anything. I was just a child at the time. I can only recall my mother telling my brother and me to be very quiet.”

The publication of her memoir, The Vienna Paradox, accordingly, was more than just an event of interest for those of us close to this remarkable woman; it seemed a sort of personal answer to our dinner time questions.

That book’s reproduction of the first two chapters of her childhood travel journal, “Die Areise” (“The ‘A’ Journey”) poignantly reveal the mixed feelings of a six year-old girl experiencing the excitement of events, but perhaps not recognizing their intense danger and significance; she translates:

“On the Train”

 On the train, we went to sleep right away. But my cousins, as is
 typical of them, complained they didn’t sleep all night. In Innsbruck,
we had to get up and go to the police station where they unpacked
all our luggage and my poor Mommy had to repack everything.
There was such a mob and we had to wait so long that Mommy
said she would unpack a book and I sat down on our hatbox and read.
When we finished, we went to the station restaurant where we had
ham rolls that tasted very good. And as I was sitting in this
restaurant, I didn’t yet have any idea that later in America I would write a
book. Well, I hadn’t experienced much yet but, just wait, there will be more!

Perloff compares that charmingly innocent view of the family’s circumstance with a letter from her mother sent two days later to her sister in London, in which the family’s terror is quite clearly elucidated: the intense planning and packing up of family possessions, the sleepless night of March 12th, the “incessant shouts of ‘Sieg Heil!,” the sound of bombers flying overhead and vehicles rumbling through the streets, the hurried goodbyes, the tears. The same events of the young daughter’s travel journal are far more dramatically detailed in her mother’s recounting:

So we finished packing and left in the evening: my father-in-law,
Stella, Otto, Hedy and Greta, and Aunt Gerti. Those who didn’t
have the same last name had to pretend not to know one another.
This applied to the children as well: they were not allowed to speak
and in fact didn’t speak. We traveled comfortably second-class as
far as Innsbruck. The children slept. In Innsbruck, there was passport
control: for Jews, the order was,“Get off the train with your
luggage.” Aunt Gerti was allowed to continue. Evidently, they took
her for Aryan although no one asked. We were taken by the S.A.
to the police office, across from the railway station. There, we
were held in a narrow corridor, heavily guarded. One after another,
we were called into a room where our passports were examined,
our money confiscated (since the rules had been changed overnight).
They took 850 marks and the equivalent in schillings. We didn’t care
the slightest. Our thought was only: will they let us travel further?
Will we be arrested? Then all of our luggage was unpacked piece by
piece. Finally, we were allowed to leave. …Back on the train, we
passed one military convoy after another going the other way.
At 10 in the evening, we arrived [in Zürich].
…Here we are deciding what to do next.

This letter alone might have been a scenario for a film.

But Perloff’s profound memoir is more than another story of escape from Nazi control. For Marjorie is less interested in how her family escaped, than she is in why they and others like them had waited for the very last moment to leave their beloved home; how their seeming assimilation as Jews into the anti-Semitic Austrian culture so completely misled these brilliant individuals; and, just as important, how these assimilated Austrians readily adapted themselves to their new American situations.

Gabriele Mintz was born to Ilse Schüller Mintz and Maximilian Mintz in 1931. Her early childhood took place in the comfort of the Ninth District of Vienna near the University and Votifkirche (the neo-Gothic cathedral built in the mid-19th century on the sight of the attempted murder of the young kaiser Franz Joseph), the neighborhood she herself describes as “Austrian upper-middle-class.” Their apartment on Hörlgasse contained a high-ceilinged nursery painted white, heated by a large porcelain stove; a dining room and adjacent salon with floor-to-ceiling bookcases; and a maid.

Gabriele’s father, Maximilian was a lawyer with a passion for poetry and art, which he shared with a circle of friends known as the Geistkreis, which included noted economists Friedrich Hayek (the group’s founder and a major influence on American Libertarianism), Gottfried von Haberler, Oscar Morgenstern, and Fritz Machlup, legal scholar Herbert Fürth (also a partner in Maximilian and his father’s law firm), art historians Otto Benesch and Johannes Wile, musicologist Emanuel Winernitz, political philosopher Erich Voegelin (with whom the father continued to correspond from 1938 to the late 1950s), the phenomenologists Felix Kaufmann (also a member of the famed “Vienna Circle”) and Alfred Schütz, the historian Friedrich Engel-Jansi, and the mathematician Karl Menger (former tutor to Archduke Rudolf von Habsburg and, later, founder of the Austrian School of Economics). The group, in Perloff’s words, devoted “evenings to the theater, opera, concerts, and their own areas of reading.” But the group’s influence—with its interweaving memberships with other such Vienna groups: the earlier “Menger circle,” the first “Austrian school,” and the “Vienna Circle”—made it influential to 20th century thinking.

It must have been difficult for Gabriele’s mother, Ilse, to accept the role of silent hostess, serving coffee and cake before discreetly leaving the room at the Geistkreis meetings in Hörlgasse 6. For she, like her husband, was a “proud intellectual,” with a doctorate—a degree also attained by her two sisters—in economics. Some of the reviews of Perloff’s memoir refer to her mother’s role in her later life in the United States as a “housewife.” But in fact, she took a second doctorate in economics at Columbia University, later combining teaching at Columbia with a position, alongside noted economists Martin Feldstein (later president of that organization and chief economic advisor to President Reagan) and Milton Friedman (winner of a Nobel Prize) at the National Bureau of Economic Research. A search of the NBR website still calls up several essays by Ilse Mintz on such subjects as “Determination in the Quality of Foreign Bonds,” “American Exports During Business Cycles, 1879-1958,” and “Cyclical Fluctuations in the Exports of the United States Since 1879.” I recall Marjorie’s humorous dismay in our early friendship in Washington, D.C., when, after discussing Pound, O’Hara, and David Antin, she observed, “Of course, my mother is distressed that I’m not reading Goethe.”

The young Gabrielle’s grandfathers were even more illustrious figures in Viennese culture. Her maternal grandfather, Richard Schüller, born in Brno in what is now the Czech Republic, traveled to Vienna to study law with Karl Menger, later serving as the Austrian representative to the League of Nations. In the Austrian government, he served first in the Department of Commerce and later in the Foreign Office under chancellor Dollfuss (and the successor upon Dollfuss’s murder, Kurt Schuschnigg), a position from which he negotiated major trade agreements and foreign loans for the Austrian government (including a trade agreement with Mussolini). Schüller escaped Nazi-controlled Austria at the age of 68 by hiking through the Alpine pass into Italy. Her paternal grandfather, Alexander Mintz, was an eminent Justitzrat (King’s counsel) who, in his youth, was a member of the noted literary coterie meeting at the Café Griensteidl that included Arthur Schnitzer, Hermann Bahr, and Peter Altenberg.

In short, one could not imagine a family more involved in Austrian cultural life. How could they be so oblivious to the problems—particularly after Dollfuss’s murder? Perloff analyzes the problem first within the perspective of her own family: Richard Schüller was asked by his government superiors to allow himself to be baptized (he refused “the honor”); his brothers Hugo and Ludwig became Lutherans, the latter committing suicide in 1931 upon the collapse of his bank; and a distant cousin, Robert, was a devoted Nazi who after the Anschluss was sent to his death in Auschwitz. Perloff then considers these issues in the context of accounts such as that of art historian Ernst Gombrich (colleague of Perloff’s uncle, Otto Kurz) of the physical assault against Jews in the university, long before the Anschluss, where it became increasingly common for Nazis to beat up Jewish students, sometimes defenestrating them so that upon the sidewalk they might be charged (if they survived) with disturbing the peace (an incident also described in Lillian Hellman’s Pentimento story, “Julia”). How could they tolerate these assaults and still describe themselves as Austrians? she wonders, a question reverberating, quite obviously, back upon her own family’s acceptance of their disintegrating Viennese life.

Ultimately, she suggests that they saw their assimilation through a cultural lens that did not include ethnic and racial concerns. Since they shared cultural interests such as their love of Goethe, Stefan George and others, they perceived themselves as Austrians without realizing that for their countrymen in general they remained racially “outsiders.” Their allegiance to the Germanic tradition blinded them, in a crucial way, to the religious and ethnic differences embedded in German and Austrian thought.

Gombrich’s statement that he doesn’t “believe that there is a separate Jewish cultural tradition” may signify his failure to comprehend the deeply ingrained ideas of his countrymen, but it simultaneously points to the reason why many Austrian Jews, including Perloff’s parents, were able to quickly readjust their lives to their new American experience, were able to reinvent themselves as émigrés. While recognizing and disdaining the anti-intellectualism of their new home, Perloff’s parents quickly adapted to their now “lower middle-class” situation. Her father abandoned law to become an accountant, and despite now having to cook all meals by herself in their one-bedroom apartment, Marjorie’s mother still found time (and energy) to return to university studies.

Gabrielle, moreover, like young immigrants everywhere, adapted to her life at an even faster rate. Within a month of her arrival in a new country, she switches from German to English in mid-sentence of an autobiographical entry:

 Abe rim September musten [sic] wir angemeldet werden. Ich und
eben der Hansi [the son of Professor Felix Kaufmann, of Geitskreis
fame, and his physician wife, Else] kamen erst in de erste A, mein
Bruder in die drite [sic] A und meine Cousinen in die vierte B.
But my Kronstein cousins went to another school. After three days
I and George [as Hansi is now called!] skipped to 2A.

She has not only skipped a whole grade in three days, but crossed the language barrier as well. When Gabriele graduated high school, she changed her name to Margie, and later Marjorie.

Much of The Vienna Paradox recounts the education and transformation of its author from an Austrian-born child to a professor of contemporary poetry—answering some questions we had begun to ask at that dinner-time conversation years earlier. She recounts her education at P.S. 7 and at The Fieldston School—sponsored by the New York Ethical Society—as well as her later graduate education at Catholic University. She mentions also her early employment at the Bettmann Archive and her short-lived job as an M-G-M title writer, which included her work on The Long, Long Trailer and Kiss Me Kate. But Davy Crockett and his hat has disappeared from the narrative, replaced in her memoir by her recollection of composing rhymes for Nelson Eddy’s “Indian Love Song” of Rose Marie, a job which earned her a “trapper’s hat.” Was my memory wrong? Had my desire for connections been so strong that I had transformed Nelson Eddy into Davy Crockett? It hardly matters; as we know, memory is often unreliable, and the story was the same. Most likely Perloff’s research of the events of her life had revealed something different from what she herself had recalled that long-ago night.

 Over time perspective changes. As she relates of her 1955 return to Vienna, the city “looked like a set for The Third Man,” “I tried to find Hörlgasse 6…but something got mixed up and [we] took a photograph of the wrong house.” “From my vantage point in 1955, none of this seemed very real.” Perloff, accordingly, has little patience with those who perpetually tout the superiority of pre-war Viennese life over their new American lives in the present. The young Gabrielle clearly grew up more involved in American popular culture, perhaps, than her Iowa-bred student—and with the advantage of a cultural heritage that deepens and enlivens her observations on American literature and art. And in that sense Perloff is herself a “Vienna paradox.”

I first met the adult Marjorie in a classroom at the University of Maryland in 1975. I was a Ph.D student in American fiction, and, although I disliked poetry, I knew that I had better take a course in this mysterious genre before graduation. Word around the student-teacher bull-pen—as the large, open room containing over thirty desks was called—was that Perloff was an excellent but “difficult” teacher, by which I presumed my colleagues meant that she was “demanding.” Without any background in poetry, I felt it prudent to take another poetry course before enrolling in Perloff’s. With professor Milne Holton (who three years later would translate a book of Polish poetry with my close friend Paul Vangelisti), I studied Robert Lowell and Hart Crane. Lowell merely reinforced my belief that poetry was simply a chopped-up symbolic narrative, but, despite the sometimes heavy-handed symbolism of The Bridge, I was able to write a convincing-enough essay on Crane that it was published by a Canadian journal [see My Year 2007]. So, I felt, I was now ready for Perloff.

The moment this enthusiastic woman entered the room on the first day of class, I was spellbound. Her voice has something in common with the effusive croak of Jean Arthur’s vocal instrument, a voice I simply cannot resist. She brought just three poems with her, one by Frank O’Hara, a second by John Wieners (a poet of whom none of us, I am sure, had ever heard), and a third by Richard Wilbur.

She read the first poem, “The Day Lady Died,” and asked for our reactions. We were slow in responding, gradually coming forward with only a few obvious observations. Unknown to me, she was completing a critical book at the moment on O’Hara’s poetry (Frank O’Hara: Poet Among Painters), and since my classmates and I seemed unable to say anything original about the work, she brilliantly demonstrated its charms, elucidating the poem line by line.

 I was flabbergasted. Could a poem be so simple and yet complex, so rich in association without a symbolic structure to support it? I still remember my unspoken feelings as she read the poem. The “I did this, I did that” pattern of this work seemed at first like something out of an amateur writer’s journal; but gradually, as the references moved from simple acts–getting a shoeshine, eating a hamburger and malted—to the literature of the day. Then, things began to shift, the subjects changing from mundane actions in the American landscape to cultural experiences of significance (the new poets of Ghana [I had purchased the same volume a few years earlier], Verlaine, Bonnard, Hesiod, Brendan Behan, Genet’s Les Nègres [the book version of which I had stolen—as I describe in another essay in this volume—from an Iowa City bookstore]) before returning to more ordinary versions of things from around the world with the bottle of Strega purchased in a liquor store and the cartons of Gauloises and Picayunes bought with the The New York Post. Suddenly, as the narrator/poet walked into the 5 Spot with Mal Waldron at the keyboard, I recognized that the “she” who whispered a song— somehow related to these exotic beings and things (many of whom and which had Black or “outsider” associations)—was even more exalted by the fact that her voice literally stopped this seemingly endless catalogue of things and events, as “everyone”—the narrator and presumably the reader as well—stopped breathing. The current of this seeming narrative had been suddenly severed, leaving me with an image of her breathlessly stunned audience, an image, as well, of myself upon hearing the poem.

My reactions to the second poem, “Long Nook,” can be found in the second issue of my journal, Sun & Moon: A Quarterly of Literature & Art, published a year later, written originally for the course:

There she took her lover to sea
and laid herself in the sand.


 He is fast, was down the dune
with silk around his waist.
Her scarf was small.

She opened her clothes to the moon.
Her underarms were shaved.
The wind was a wall between them.
Waves break over the tide,
hands tied to her side with silk,
their mind was lost in the night.

 The green light at Provincetown
became an emerald on the beach
and like stars fell on Alabama.

The poem begins with a direct narrative statement in the past tense, with the vague “There” hinting at a world beyond time, like a “faraway country” of children’s tales. However, we are immediately made to question these expectations. The construction of “to sea,” because there is no article, makes us think of the infinitive “to see,” which changes the whole tone of the line and urges us to move to the second line to discover what it is that she wants him “to see.” But we are not told. The poet simply describes the process of her lying down in the sand. The word “laid” is wrong here, however, and the object of the verb, “herself,” makes no sense. Even

as a sexual pun it is, at first thought, ludicrous. Yet, when we think back to the previous line we recall that it was she who took her lover to “sea,” and, thus, we see the connotations of the pun. As the seducer, she encourages her love to have sexual intercourse by seductively lying down in the sand, a seduction which is reflected by Wieners’ use here of the l and s sounds (lover, laid; she, sea, herself, sand); but, in so doing, she is also taking the male role (as we shall see there are reasons for the stereotyping of roles) and, thus, in sexual slang, is “laying herself.”

Suddenly, in the next line, there is a shift. A command is whispered in the present tense, ostensibly her command: “Go up and undress in the dark.” But, in in its short, clipped iamb with a labial ending followed by two anapests, we are told more about the upward movement of the male than about her….”*

This goes on for three more pages!

My point in reproducing this passage is to demonstrate that suddenly upon hearing these poems I discovered what poetry was; and, although my graduate student eagerness to pin down the meaning of each and every word clearly belabors my writing, it is equally obvious that I could now talk about poetry in a meaningful way.

I can’t recall which poem Marjorie selected by Wilbur. It hardly matters; his poetry represented a direction different from one in which the course would proceed. By hour’s end, my life had changed! It was as if a cabinet containing rows of dusty objects d’art had been opened up, the objects taken out, inspected, and revealed to be pulsating beings ready to spring to life.

 Motivated as I suddenly had become, I undertook a class report of the theories of Ezra Pound. I’m still amazed at my youthful vigor: I think I read every prose work of that poet, including his Selected Letters, learning, in the process, the concepts behind much of modernist American poetry. I still recall my frustrations in attempting to describe the Vorticist image—as opposed to what Pound described as Amygism—outlined in Pound’s Gaudier Brezska: a record of an interchange between nature and the mind, an instant “when a thing outward and objective transforms itself, or darts into a thing inward and subjective.”

 “It’s sort of like when it’s raining,” whined one of my classmates, “and you’re listening to a certain song, and it makes you think of….”

 “No, no, not at all,” I interrupted. “It’s not an association; it’s more like music, an abstraction that represents the objective thing.”

“Like when you feel sad and it rains all over your windshield.”

 “No,” I began again. “It’s not like Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite, where the trombones imitate a donkey. His emotion carries the essence in the mind, where, like a vortex, it is purged of all ‘save the essential or dominant or dramatic qualities,’ emerging ‘like the external original,’ but as something new, something different.”

 “Oh, like when you’re thinking of….”

 Marjorie recalls that I grew angry, but I don’t remember feeling anything other than the frustration of attempting to explain something to my classmates that perhaps not even I completely understood.

Soon after that event, a few individuals in the class began to show their hostility to Perloff’s choice of the poets we read (Rimbaud, Apollinaire, Pound, Williams—and other figures who would ultimately become the subjects of her important critical study, The Poetics of Indeterminacy).

I had already published three of my classroom papers in academic journals, and I was, I now painfully recognize, rather cocky. One day, I knocked on Perloff’s office door, head down in embarrassed determination to apologize about my peers’ classroom demeanor. I believe she recognized my apology for what it was, not a representation of my superiority, but simply an expression of my fears that she might take their obstinate opposition as evidence that she was failing to communicate. Perhaps it was at that moment that we became something more than simply teacher and student, that we became friends.

I took one more course with Marjorie, a study of Yeats and Pound. I was not, I admit, a model student in this instance. I found Yeats boring. And I felt I had already learned everything there was to know about Pound. By that time, moreover, I had begun writing poetry myself, and was editing the first issues of Sun & Moon. I had other things on my mind.

Both Marjorie and I were reviewing, during this period, for The Washington Post Book World upon the invitation of the Pulitzer-prize winning editor, Bill McPherson. And I was reading poets in little magazines—an interest that grew out of my study of John Wieners—such as Roof, Big Deal, and United Artists, all of which presented the works of poets my mentor had not yet read. As I began to develop friendships with Bruce Andrews, Charles Bernstein and other younger poets, Marjorie and I often had heated debates—that is, when I could get a few words in between her remarks. Anyone who has met her will tell you, and Marjorie herself will be the first to admit it, she is an artful conversationalist, able to listen to someone speaking while simultaneously expressing her own sentiments. A shy person would have little success in communicating with Marjorie.

Some of the poets I found most interesting, she felt were not worth her attention. But, although she may sometimes be quick to judgment, Perloff is seldom closed-minded. Gradually, she began to read these poets and developed an interest in some of their writing, culminating in numerous essays, including her book-length study, The Dance of the Intellect. She always encouraged my own writing, moreover, in those days when I was still meekly imitating the methods of collage I’d discovered in the work of O’Hara and Ashbery.

In the midst of this developing friendship, Marjorie’s husband Joe, a prominent cardiologist and author of the most established textbooks on the subject, became head of that program at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Perloff family moved from Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia. Upon finishing my Ph.D., I was hired in 1979 by Temple University, located in the same city. So while Marjorie commuted back and forth between Philadelphia and Washington, I traveled in the opposite direction.

I recall visiting their Germantown home with Howard during my first year of teaching. Their daughter, Carey (who today is the director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco) was still in high school and Nancy was home from Princeton University. A huge dollhouse dominated one of their rooms. As we sat down to dinner, however, they began a discussion light-miles away from what one might have heard from teenage girls in any other home. Much of the work of Derrida had not yet even been translated (Of Grammatology, a work I had attempted to read without success, had been published in English only five years before), and postmodernism, let alone “post-structuralism” was not yet a term readily applied to literature. Carey and Nancy, however, had read Derrida’s work in French and brilliantly debated his theories over the roast chicken.


Soon after, the family moved to Los Angeles, where Marjorie became a professor at the University of Southern California, and over the next several years our discussions and debates were continued through the mails and telephone talks. The Perloffs were immediately delighted by their new surroundings, and Marjorie joyfully reported on her new cultural experiences, including a performance by actress Beatrice Manley of Molly Bloom’s soliloquy—in her own bed! Upon my first visit to Los Angeles for a reading, I stayed in the Perloff’s Almafi Drive house—alone, since they were traveling. Marjorie’s continued expressions of love for Los Angeles helped me adapt quickly upon our move to the same city in 1985. I jocularly admitted to all reports that I was following her around the country!

I had, in fact, moved to Los Angeles on account of my companion’s job. But sometimes I wonder if there wasn’t, after all, an ineffable force behind our friendship. How else to explain my utter fascination with a large German-language novel I’d spied in the Fifth Avenue New York shop of Brentano’s by the Austrian novelist Albert-Paris Gütersloh, Sonne und Mond; several times I asked for that glass cabinet to be unlocked so I might turn its pages, just to glimpse the book which, had I had any money, I most certainly would have purchased—despite the fact I did not read a word of German! Not even my previous pleasure in reading Robert Musil and Hermann Broch could not have have explained my obsession. It is no coincidence that my literary and art magazine and publishing house had taken its name from that lost treasure. What led me one day, I now wonder, to telephone the Knopf rights editor (the very first year of my book-publishing activities) and make an offer for the rights to reprint Heimito von Doderer’s great two-volume opus The Demons, a fiction recounting many of the events leading up to the Anschluss? Von Doderer’s Every Man a Murderer was the second book for which I purchased rights, and, when an unknown woman living in Austria, Vinal Overing Binner, wrote me to report that she translated von Doderer’s The Merovingians, I readily published that book as well (of which I think we sold something like 200 copies). Why did I suddenly choose to read Arthur Schnitzler’s Traumnovelle, soon after reprinting it as well? Two Schnitzler novels, Lieutenant Gustl and Bertha Garlan, followed. How did such a small American press as Sun & Moon come to publish Friederike Mayröcker and Ingeborg Bachmann (the tale of that acquisition is worthy, some day, of recounting)? I cannot remember Marjorie suggesting any of these titles to me. From my youth on I simply have been inexplicably drawn to Austrian literature and history.

As Perloff has made clear, however, although she was shaped in many respects by her Austrian heritage, she is most definitely a product of the USA. And, although I often describe her as my mentor, my inborn sense of individuality combined with what The Music Man composer-writer Meredith Willson has described as “Iowa stubbornness,” has made me a difficult disciple. Fortunately, Marjorie never sought devotees, and our special friendship has remained. As her poignant memoir has reminded me, moreover, we have far deeper links than any frontiersman’s hat.

Los Angeles, August 23-24, 2006

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