aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Georgia Florida fires
The wind must have been blowing North yesterday because we awoke to a thick haze and the smell of smoke; it was so dark that the big exit lights were on at I-20 at 10 in the morning. Click to enlarge. WaPo updates the fire story.
Via My Confined Space.
Big news in my neck of the woods:
By outward appearances, Betty Hester was an unremarkable woman. She never married or had children, living instead with an aunt in a Midtown apartment. She rarely went out for fun. She took the bus each day to work as a file clerk for a credit bureau in downtown Atlanta.
Few people knew that Hester - an avid and insightful reader - was a close friend and confidante of the world-renowned Georgia author Flannery O’Connor, although the two rarely met in person. Over the course of nine years, though, from 1955 until O’Connor’s death in 1964, they wrote to each other nearly every week, discussing everything from Catholicism to current events in wide-ranging letters that were “the most personal” of O’Connor’s correspondence, according to Bill Sessions, Hester’s literary executor.
In an event highly anticipated by O’Connor scholars and fans, her nearly 300 letters to Hester will be opened to the public Saturday at Emory University, where, at Hester’s request, they have been kept under seal for 20 years.
Andrew Sullivan sees “O’Connor’s humane and ready wit” in this excerpt:
“You don’t look anything like I expected you to as I always take people at their word and I was prepared for white hair, horn-rimmed spectacles, nose of eagle and shape of ginger-beer bottle. Seek the truth and pursue it: you ain’t even passably ugly.”
Hepburn, who brought a fair share of East Coast entitlement to the film colony, had seemed at first to believe herself immune to the rules that governed other stars. She lived openly with a woman widely assumed to have been her lover, wore men’s trousers and aired unfashionably left-wing opinions that scandalized the fan magazines. One critic sniffed that Hepburn had been “stirring up trouble” ever since she’d arrived in Hollywood. Lessons like the “Sylvia Scarlett” debacle finally convinced her to start following the Hollywood playbook. And so began her metamorphosis from tomboy to glamour girl, from subversive to perpetual honoree.
Through it all, flashes of the original rebel still flared: In May 1947, an “angel in a red dress” (as one audience member described her) made a surprise appearance at Gilmore Stadium in Los Angeles to deliver a fiery speech in support of former vice president (and liberal hero) Henry Wallace. Hepburn lambasted the House Committee on Un-American Activities. “The artist, since the beginning of time, has always expressed the aspirations and dreams of his people,” she said. “Silence the artist and you have silenced the most articulate voice the people have.” The appearance led critics to brand her a “Red appeaser.”
Still, she was shrewd enough to gauge what the traffic would allow: Eventually she would claim that the red dress ("flaming" in some accounts) was really “pink,” and certainly not worn to make a statement. Ultimately she offset all the negative publicity by making “The African Queen.” As the Eleanor Roosevelt-inspired preacher’s daughter, she extolled God and country, chasing from collective memory the fact that she’d barely escaped a summons from the House committee and her career had almost imploded.
I see a similar sort of pragmatism in people here in the South who might otherwise, in other places, feel much freer to be who they are. The optimistic me believes the pendulum is swinging and they will be much freer one day soon.