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Matt Weinstock -- March 12, 1959

March 12, 2009 |  4:00 pm

A Nose Is Thumbed

Matt_weinstockdThe National Book Award for fiction, you may have read, went to a collection of short stories, "The Magic Barrel," by Bernard Malamud, English prof at Oregon State. To short-story addicts this is a triumph indeed. It is also a slight nose thumbing at magazine editors who insist on relegating short stories to a secondary position behind stale, repetitious articles.

It also could reflect a feeling by the judges that no novel worthy of the award was published last year. Short-story collections rarely win an award; in fact, publishers are reluctant to bring them out at all.

Several Hollywood writers were discussing the decline of meritorious fiction and came up with some bitter comments.

1959_0312_attack THEY AGREED on this sad truth: "If you're not writing for television, you're not eating very good."

One outlined the writer's dilemma as follows: "OK, I'm working on a script that is junk but will pay me $750 or $1,500. It's a fairy tale, full of cliches, with maybe a twist that's different. I come to a situation that is so strained it's on the edge of travesty. I could write a line of dialogue that would destroy the whole business. It would make me feel better. But I back away from it and play it straight, the way they want it, so there will be no suspicion that anybody thinks I'm kidding. That way I get paid."

Another challenged, "Well, if you hate TV so much, why do you keep writing it? What about your novel?"

"What are you talking about?" the first retorted. "How can I write junk one day and good stuff the next?"

* *

SPEAKING OF TV, a Santa Monican, while asleep, slugged his wife so savagely in the back she could hardly move for three days. He was subconsciously re-enacting a brutal fight scene in a TV western he'd watched before retiring.

It has come to this.

* *

A softness steals into the air,
While birds new mates are choosing.
Grandpa gets out his rocking chair,
To sun-tan while he's snoozing.

* *

THERE'S AN apocryphal story about a stranger who asks an old-timer downtown how to get to the post office, and the old-timer, after deep thought, says, "You can't get there from here."

Then there's the case of Jack Clarke and his brother, visiting here from Chicago.

Jack arranged to pick him up the other day at 8:15 a.m. at 36th and Hoover. He wasn't there. Jack scoured the neighborhood in vain. When an hour passed he phoned the place where his brother was staying and learned he had left there on schedule.

When two hours passed he phone again. He was told the brother had phoned and said he was waiting at 36th and Hoover but had seen nothing of Jack.

On an impulse Jack toured the SC campus area and found his brother. As he suspected, there are two of them -- 36th and Hoover Street and 36th and Hoover Boulevard -- blocked off from each other.

"It's impossible," the brother said.

"Not in L.A.," Jack said.

* *

A typographical posy to Playhouse Pictures for the shaggy dog take-off on Viceroy's "thinking man" commercial. Excerpt "Do you think everyone should be a dog?" "Well, that's something everyone should decide for themselves" . . . No truth to the rumor there's an underground move to bring the Brooklyn Zoo here.