David Gans (tnf) Thu 25 Feb 99 18:57
Which is to say: Please get ME interested in her.
Smouldering Lust And Motorcycle Mechanics (jmara) Fri 26 Feb 99 16:59
I remember reading somewhere that Mary McCarthy was taken seriously as an intellectual until she wrote "The Group" and then dismissed because she wrote a book about WOMEN. Is this just an idle rumor, Carol?
Carol Brightman (brightman) Fri 26 Feb 99 17:56
This was Norman Mailer's opinion, writ large in the New York Review of Books, whose importance in intellectual circles up until about 25 years ago is hard to imagine today. (As is the very existence of 'intellectual circles.') THE GROUP was in a sense one of the first popular novels about women in the twentieth century, and not only about women but about sex (from a woman's point of view),, diaphragms, breastfeeding, infidelity without punishment, social relations as the stuff of life. MM was the first Material Girl, for all her radicalism on Vietnam and on other subjects. She didn't break ranks so cleanly on McCarthyism. She was a great satirist, brilliant critic, and her novels in the end were probably weakened by the degree to which their characters were rooted in real life. This is part of their fun of course, but if you know the world she moved in you sense that she was captive to it, in that the fiction became the life, the battle, by other means. David: Mary McCarthy was a real ball-buster (as they used to say) who revered marriage when she was married (four times). For me there were some personal connections, which I didn't think about in the 60s. A generation apart, we were both raised Catholic, went to Vassar, and I too maintained an interest in literature and politics. Like her I mistrusted sentiment in prose, preferred sense to sensibility, etc. Before I started interviewing her (at length, until her death in 1989), however, it was her generation that interested me most, and always had. After our interviews she became this wonderful character, bristling with contradictions.. A character in creation in conversation, as in her best writing: MEMORIES OF A CATHOLIC GIRLHOOD, I think, and the stories in THE COMPANY SHE KEEPS.
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 26 Feb 99 22:45
In Sweet Chaos you compare Mountain Girl to Mary McCarthy... that was intriguing. Mountain Girl seems like such a strong character and soul, yet she was caught in the kids & cooking routine. Poor Mom. Almost sure to be left behind. But the deadheads remained loyal to her. Can you say more about her role and choices?
Steve Silberman (digaman) Fri 26 Feb 99 23:22
Hi, Carol. There are still "intellectual circles" in New York City -- where they always were, I suppose. Here in SF, it's hard to get a minyan <grin>.
Mud Love Buddy, Feelin' Groovy... as long as you've got your health! (almanac) Fri 26 Feb 99 23:58
Nice to see you here, Carol -- I was sorry that we just barely missed meeting during your recent swing through the Bay Area, and this is a nice Next Best Thing kinda way of getting together. The line that got Mary McCarthy sued by Lillian Hellman is right up there in the Great Literary Insults Hall of Fame. If I remember right, it went something like, "Every word she writes is a lie, including "and" and "the."
Cynthia Heimel (plum) Sat 27 Feb 99 13:03
Carol, the Mary McCarthy stuff is so great! I'm loving to read about it. digaman, you complain about intellectual circles and then do a <grin>? Please.
Steve Silberman (digaman) Sat 27 Feb 99 14:09
Hm, not sure how I offended there, but onward.
Carol Brightman (brightman) Sat 27 Feb 99 18:19
Gail: MG reminded me of MM because she has such a fierce persona in conversation, at least during our interview at her house in Oregon. She loves conjuring up the past in a few sharp images, as did McCarthy, recalling personal confrontations as if they were affairs of state. MG has a more collective memory, which is probably why deadheads love her. Her feeling-memory is strong, and one hope it gets into the memoir she's currently writing. She sees over her shoulder. She's not tied into her own knots. She has a feel for the times. But I have to admit she's a real charmer, as was McCarthy, outrageous, opinionated, and you want her to be RIGHT even when you can realize how others might find her pushy and wrong. As for having been "caught in the kids and cooking routine," does this make her a weakling? Context is all. Up there in Oregon with her kids and her sheep and later Jerry's BMW convertible, she's hardly a suburban Mom. It's a feminist hoax (second wave) to see women raising kids as somehow having sold out the team--the team being lead by the supermoms with briefcases, Organization Women, who pay others to run the family shop, while they grab for those gold rings their fathers struggled for, and so nothing really changes. Another subject. Steve: I think it's hard to get a minyan (with girls) going in New York too. What's missing everywhere are free-range intellectuals, free to respond to a larger world outside the quarrels going on inside academe or NY media circles. Like for months you could see all of them falling down like dominoes over Monica, ending with David Remnick and the Mona Lisa cover on the New Yorker. But even bright young culture critics like Tom Frank are organ-grinders for their magazines (The Baffler in the case of Frank), and rarely say anything that surprises you. What matters for this discussion is how you define "intellectual circles," or "intellectuals." Who"s Mud Love Buddy? I love these names. Gary Lambert? Hellman deserved it, I think. She was an overrated writer, and too many young women I knew swooned over her famous memoirs (JULIA, which turned out to be a fake, PENTIMENTO, SCOUNDREL TIME). The question to which McCarthy responded was, Who do you think are overrated writers? BTW, the other one she mentioned was John Steinbeck....I ask myself, who are the overrated writers today? And you have to say that noone remains on the shelf long enough to become a candidate, except perhaps Toni Morrison, who is wrapped in a similar can-do-no-wrong mantle that Hellman was. So is the poet Maya Angelou. I've only read one of Morrison's novels, and liked it. I've read nothing by Maya Angelou but have enountered her several times with her entourage, and found her personally obnoxious, but what does that say about writing?.... Mud Love Buddy, you're right about that line of McCarthy's. She thought LH was a liar in prose, that she bent historical events out of shape to dramatize her own heroism, etc. McCarthy, of course, was self-dramatizing in prose, too, only she specialized in dramatizing her faults--her horrible slips.
Andrew Brown (andrewb) Sun 28 Feb 99 02:23
Is the book to be published in England?
Gail Williams (gail) Sun 28 Feb 99 11:52
Carol, maybe I would have been smarter to avoid the word "routine" in that expression. I didn't mean it in a cynical song&dance sort of way, I was really thinking of the daily routine enforced by taking on the roles you described. And yes, the back-to-the-land adventure is a formidable and admirable one, no quarrel. I was reading the secton where you comment along this line -- "Besides, she wasn't a musician, she adds. She tried to run the soundboard for a while, but with Sunshine in tow she was distracted and missed too many cues, and was dismissed." And I was not thinking of briefcaseland, but of the novelist/thinker you compared her to, Mary McCarthy, and of your sister, the strong creative female participant in the thread of your book. I don't want to dishonor Carolyn, certainly. Reading about the division of labor and the need she decided to fill, and thiking about her place as a cutlural icon, I was thinking about women in the GD world. It's an intersting set of roles and ideals, not easily glossed over by generalizations. And MG is one of the prime role models. But to get a bit more personal for a minute, my main involvement with the GC scene was via two long-term lovers who were deadheads. Too me, the scene was magical but in my life it was centered around my love for those two guys. I was moved by shows (and tapes) which were the soundtrack to some vivid experiences and synchonicity in the 70's and early 80's, but some of the "religion" offered a very different female archetype and identity than my more political pals and I embraced and projected in our daily lives. During the Donna era of the band, in particular, there was a compelling strong and in some ways classically feminine presense on stage. She sang, and didn't simply twirl and waver her arms, as other pretty hippie dancers had done on other stages. To me and to a few women I talked to in that period, this was affirming, in a satisfying counterpoint to other respected role models and choices outside the 'church' of GD. for some of us, this might have been another attraction of the 'secret world' aspect of the GD. I don't want to reduce MG to an Earth Mother icon, but we do seem to lack and crave Earth Mother icons. And your description of her as a matriarch is just right. Years later, when a group of women set up an all-female WELL conference <msgd.pri.> for women involved in the GD scene I began to think of how many of us experienced some of those contradictions and conrasts. I'm glad MG is writing her own story. I think she's important to many women, and that leads me to guess that she's important to a lot of men in other interesting ways. In another vein or chapter... Did your research on LSD and the CIA lead you to any insights about current government policies around drugs, or was that part of the investigation limited to the past? The descriptons of government acid experiments and interviews of paid-to-trip subjects are eye-opening.
Carol Brightman (brightman) Sun 28 Feb 99 12:42
Andrew Brown: No, SWEET CHAOS is not to be published in England, as far as I know. Crown/Potter sold it to Simon & Schuster/Pocket for the opaperback, due out in September '99. Gail: The sad thing about MG, I think, is that she always wanted to be one of the boys, and succeeded only with the Pranksters, before she had kids with Kesey and Jerry. But there was a lot of showmanship to that, and it may be that she grew stronger up there in Oregon with her daughters. Anyway, there's not ONE role model for women in the GD's "secret world," is there? There's room for Candace and Betty Cantor as the creative types holding out there with the lions in the pit, along with the quiet backroom efficiency of Eileen and Cassidy Law, Sue Swanson and Sue Stephens (and others), and the outrageous "matriarch," Mountain Girl. But all in all, given the patriarchal side to the GD, not to mention the usual adolescent macho side to rock&roll, the GD was not a place where women were invited to spread their wings. It wasn't quite as bad as life with the Black Panthers, where a woman's place was "prone," but not a whole lot better, no? But I don't have direct experience of this--only observations, and the more I talked to deadheads, I have to say, the less these stereotypes held up. How interesting that you had an all female WELL conference on the Dead. When? Still active.?.I have to run out right now. More tonight.
Gail Williams (gail) Sun 28 Feb 99 13:43
Yes, active, open to female WELL members... there's a public description of the conference at http://www.well.com/conf/msgd
John Berger (jberger) Sun 28 Feb 99 22:55
Carol, I watched the E! biography of Jerry tonight, and found it extremely interesting to see the difference in the way that the subject of drugs was treated. Your book went much more into the cultural reasons about the way that acid came into the Prankster scene, going back to the experiments at the VA hospital; and how widespread concurrent use allowed a group energy to spin out of the energy of the individuals, taking on a life of its own. The E biography seemed much more interested in sensationalizing the issue, with frequent shots of lines of coke and needles, trying really hard to make the point "don't do this at home, kids".
Carol Brightman (brightman) Mon 1 Mar 99 19:06
First, thinking about Gail's question re how past "paid-to-trip" experiments may be related to current govt. policies around drugs, two things come to mind. One, how draconian mandatory minimum sentencing, especially where marijuana and hallucinogens are concerned, stand in such loony opposition to the earlier rounds of CIA experimentation. But the more important fact about current drug roundups, especially crack busts which imprison many more blacks than whites, while surveys show many more whites than blacks use it, is how the War on Drugs business underpins the burgeoning prison industry--the largest in the world, just as the US imprisons more people per capita than any other country in the world, not just any other "democracy" as the papers say, but any other country, including China and Iraq. As for the E! Biography of Jerry Garcia, it's hard to imagine them doing anything else but sensationalizing the drugs. Or leaving the context and history behind. Or mixing up the hard and the soft. I didn't see it, but heard that Mountain Girl gave an interview, which surprised me. Was she in it?
John Berger (jberger) Mon 1 Mar 99 22:51
She was in it several times, as were Tiff, lots of Joel Selvin, and brief appearances by David Gans (tnf) and David Crosby (croz). They managed to deal with the repeated tragedies in jerry's youth, but only because there was a sensational story angle to them. Once they got to 1970, the story lost me. Almost no context in the show to cover the other social events of the times.
Carol Brightman (brightman) Tue 2 Mar 99 19:36
I was asked to do an interview and refused, thankfully. You have no way of knowing how what you're saying is going to be packaged, except that with media like this, you know the subject is going to be hopelessly cheapened. AS for MG, I figured her participation then was somehow related to her battle with Deborah Koons.
Gail Williams (gail) Wed 3 Mar 99 10:49
While reading the book I had this thought that this was the sort of treatment a history of the early days of the WELL would need. And it was interesting to see the crossover of GD and WELL history bubble up in the story. Which brings me to the polinator in this context, Mr. David Gans... David, you had some quotes in this book which were pretty biting. Your descriptions of the sociology of the group and the relations with the deadheads were.... right out there. Sorry, don't have it in front of me right now, can't type any of them in. But outspoken, certainly. Any sensitivity to that from interviewer and/or interviewee? Any regrets or repercussions (like you'd say!) or, Carol, was there any body of other remarks left off the record but supporting some of the disfunctional dynamics?
David Gans (tnf) Wed 3 Mar 99 11:06
I have not suffered any repercussions (yet). My experience of the Grateful Dead world is that the people who want to fuck with you do so regardless of who you really are or what you say. I have been assigned a role in the movie by various people that has little or nothing to do with who I really am, and nothing I say or do can change that. The people who know me trust me, and telling the truth is part of the deal.
Gail Williams (gail) Wed 3 Mar 99 11:48
Not to make this topic into a suck-up-a-thon, it was impressively candid.
Carol Brightman (brightman) Wed 3 Mar 99 19:38
If Mr. Gans doesn't mind my saying so, his "biting" remarks were/are the tip of the iceberg. His iceberg. Next to Candace he gave me the most compelling picture of the Dead's "disfunctional dynamics." Most of the rough stuff I picked up over the five years of researching and writing the book is only suggested.
David Gans (tnf) Wed 3 Mar 99 20:17
Heh! I don'[t mind your saying so.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Thu 4 Mar 99 17:19
So Carol, were there things you came across in your research that you left out of the book, stuff that you will talk about here? I'd love to know what *extra* stuff you got that you couldn't fit between the covers.
Dave Waite (dwaite) Fri 5 Mar 99 11:59
Hi Carol. Greetings from Chicago, This book has reminded me of the caos that was prevelent during the 60's outside of the midia blitz of 'Dinner with viet Nam'. Your insights to the courses of Freedom and how it affected those around and not associated with the Grateful Dead has me yearning for more writings. I really enjoy your style of presentation, Are you considering persuing a harder look at this era uf unrest and freedom fighting?
Harry Claude Ca (silly) Fri 5 Mar 99 12:01
<scribbled by silly Fri 5 Mar 99 12:02>
Members: Enter the conference to participate