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The importance of both diving and lounging

Sovereign State

Getting the name-dropping out of the way, can you hear John Updike thudding to the floor?, the Rabbit novelist instructs us that Redux is pronounced Ray Dooks, not Ree Ducks. So here we go — West Cornwall Redux.

Early ’70’s I am in Yutzler‘s country store and I realize I am standing next to Charles Van Doren, a childhood hero of mine, before the Quiz Show scandal.

I nudged my wife and whispered his name. He then left, jumped into a sports car, top down, and with his left foot slid the car down the driveway, jumped back in, popping the clutch, the car humming, and he was on his way.

Why was this significant to me? Van Doren, when I was growing up in the 50’s, made being smart cool. It was OK to be the best in class and, besides, my mother loved him. Then there was The Fall. But at that time, it didn’t matter to a kid in Chicago. Being smart was still cool.

There was a program on public TV that had a series of conversations between the great poet/playwright Archibald MacLeish and Mark Van Doren, the nation’s premiere academic and a fine poet as well, as they visited each other’s homes. The former somewhere in Massachusetts and Van Doren in Cornwall. I don’t recall what they spoke of, it was all over my head, but I was fascinated. Little did I know that years later I would be seeing VD’s son popping his clutch.

I don’t recall which it was, I think Mark sitting by a pool and Archibald diving into the pool, calling Mark to dive in and Mark demurring saying that lounging was plenty fine for him. Why does that memory linger? One diving; the other lounging. Two approaches to life, my being the lounger.


It was twee and silly, but I was star-struck by Charles. A mentor of mine in Drama School shared a cab to the airport with Mark on his way to DC to testify about his errant son’s debacle on 21, the name of the rigged quiz show. My mentor marveled how Mark could concentrate enough to write him a recommendation there and then in the cab, all the while about to face a grilling by a Senate Committee about his cheating scion.

The great Paul Scofield played Mark in the good movie “Quiz Show” that Robert Redford made. Ralph Fiennes played Charles and John Turturo was his opponent. It was more than implied that Turturo was Jewish (the actor is Italian) and his Jewishness was somehow lower-class and sweaty while Fiennes was upper-class and sweatless.

One dives; the other lounges. What will it be? Perhaps it’s because I have never learned to swim. I have dived, dove, diven in a different manner.

Is it too late? I am guessing so.

My precious 19-year-old daughter, good at lounging, is a lifeguard at Cream Hill Lake. Doing both is what The Young’uns do so well.


Lonnie Carter is a writer who lives in Falls Village. Email him at lonniety@comcast.net.

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