Last day in the Archive

I woke up early, scribbled a few things down, answered some emails and the off to BU for my last trip to the archive. It was a less productive day today which in some ways was good because it made me feel that I had got the timing of my trip just about right; it was an impossible thing to judge from back home. How many days will I need? How much do sixteen boxes hold? Would I want a day a box? I looked again at Uncertain Times, at some of his letters again a) because they’re useful and b) because they’re often hilarious – and also at Lie Down in Darkness. I’d forgotten what a good Introduction George Bluestone wrote for that.

I left the archive after about three and a half hours – not so much as a blink from the large lady in the corner. And here I was thinking I was important! I was sad that ‘my’ archivist, Charlie, was out when I left because I wanted to say goodbye to him. He is a petrol head and had somehow discovered my brother writes about Formula One – oh yes, he’d spotted my birthplace in my passport which I had to hand in each day. ‘Oh, Nigel Mansell country?’ he said quizzically on the first day. So, every day, when I had to sign in and write in who my archivist was, I put a different F1 driver. Well, it amused him.

Just before I went, I had a copy made of the first two pages of Revolutionary Road – written in pencil and full of crossings out. It was a sort of sentimental thing. So pleased I did it though. I’ll frame them one day, tattered though they are…..

I rushed back to Brookline, began my packing by chucking things around and hoping they hit an open case, wrote another email to Monica asking, bravely (rudely??) whether I might possibly just sneak in at the back of Friday night’s screening. My friend in LA was shouting at me to ‘Get ON with it, Kate! Stop being so hesitant….just do it!’ Well, he didn’t say any of that but that’s what he meant and, as usual he was right. Then it was time for my last meeting with DeWitt. I rushed out, got on the T line to Bolyston and hoped my little recording device would work. It did.

We had just over an hour together and he was great and so patient. I wish I’d read his own book, The Marriage of Anna Maye Potts, but I can’t pretend I have and he’d know if I was pretending anyway. Sadly, I don’t think I was really ‘on the ball’ as I felt rather weak and jaded however we covered quite a lot of ground about Yates and the ‘mess’ of the Ploughshares interview and how difficult it was….dogs, people, coming in and out, RY’s shyness and reluctance and yet it remains such a great piece. I suggested that they re-issue the Ploughshares interview, unexpurgated. He seemed interested in the notion but didn’t think Ploughshares would be interested in doing it. We then discussed Yates’s screenplays with obvious emphasis on Lie Down in Darkness but DeWitt was talking about Iwo Jima as well. I haven’t seen that screenplay; where is it? He talked too about the difficulties Yates had in getting published, despite the enormously powerful figure of Sam Lawrence behind him. We talked about the number of people now ‘coming out’ as Yates enthusiasts DeWitt told me, for instance, that Woody Allen was an early fan. We then discussed the untapped area of humour in Yates – it pervades everything.

Now to sort out my day for tomorrow: Virginia here I come!


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