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inkwell.vue.426 : Philip Fradkin, "Everett Ruess: His Short Life, Mysterious Death and Astonishing Afterlife," Nov 10-24
permalink #26 of 109: David Gans (tnf) Sun 13 Nov 11 18:15
    

Your book worked just fine for me.

How big an impediment was the withdrawal of cooperation from the Ruess
family?
  
inkwell.vue.426 : Philip Fradkin, "Everett Ruess: His Short Life, Mysterious Death and Astonishing Afterlife," Nov 10-24
permalink #27 of 109: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sun 13 Nov 11 19:53
    
Please say more about plagiarism in Angle of Repose.
  
inkwell.vue.426 : Philip Fradkin, "Everett Ruess: His Short Life, Mysterious Death and Astonishing Afterlife," Nov 10-24
permalink #28 of 109: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Mon 14 Nov 11 04:48
    
Wallace Stegner's been on my "to do" as a reader for many years.  And
now the bio is too.

On the question of bipolar disorder, I reserved judgment until I
finished the book, which I did last night, but I agree with your
conclusions.  I don't have any particular scientific expertise either,
but there are plenty of clues in the journal quotes.  Wild mood swings
from exaltation to misery and back are clearly described in dozens of
quotes from his journals.  I think you deserve credit for not simply
losing these indications in the clutter of high-flown early 20th
century prose.

One thing that amazed me was Everett's reading list, as it were. 
Judging by the books he asked his family to send during his travels,
Ruess was an *astonishing* culture vulture, reading one classic after
another - many of them the sort of books most PhD students would
approach with a certain amount of trepidation.  I'm tempted to pose the
question as "Jeez, didn't the kid ever read a comic book?" but more
seriously, was his sort of reading more common within a certain subset
of early 20th century Americans?
  
inkwell.vue.426 : Philip Fradkin, "Everett Ruess: His Short Life, Mysterious Death and Astonishing Afterlife," Nov 10-24
permalink #29 of 109: those Andropovian bongs (rik) Mon 14 Nov 11 08:12
    
What Sharon asked.  I just finished "Angle of Repose" the night before 
last.  An awesome piece of work.
  
inkwell.vue.426 : Philip Fradkin, "Everett Ruess: His Short Life, Mysterious Death and Astonishing Afterlife," Nov 10-24
permalink #30 of 109: mother of my eyelid (frako) Mon 14 Nov 11 13:30
    
I'm still back in 1931, but I am really loving the practice of putting
Everett's own words in italics right in the middle of your paragraphs. It's
so much more direct than the wearisome and repetitive "he wrote," "he said,"
etc. And it adds a level of detail and writing style that is vivid.

I'm fascinated by the strange entertainment provided by Yosemite staff back
in 1930: bear feeds on garbage, firefalls. I had no idea there were such
crowds in Yosemite during the Depression, but it makes sense since you
didn't have to reserve a particular campsite back then and I'm guessing you
could stay for a longer spell than you can now.

I'd also forgotten how involved Everett's mother Stella was in the high Los
Angeles culture of her day. I missed that she trained under the Japanese
dancer Michio Ito. (I'm now watching a Japanese TV production about him on
YouTube)
  
inkwell.vue.426 : Philip Fradkin, "Everett Ruess: His Short Life, Mysterious Death and Astonishing Afterlife," Nov 10-24
permalink #31 of 109: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Mon 14 Nov 11 17:45
    
Yeah, that technique (the italics) really worked for me too.  It made
me feel like I was getting inside Ruess's head, which in a way I guess
I was.

My mother worked in Yellowstone as a young girl during the 40s.  They
still did the feeding the bear thing there at the time.  I assume with
grizzlies, although she's still living, so I'll ask her next time we
talk.
  
inkwell.vue.426 : Philip Fradkin, "Everett Ruess: His Short Life, Mysterious Death and Astonishing Afterlife," Nov 10-24
permalink #32 of 109: Philip Fradkin (philfrad1) Mon 14 Nov 11 17:52
    
I first want to go back to Gary's Greenberg's (#25) correction of what
I posted. He is correct. My post is wrong. I should have read what is
in the book, which is correct. In terms of the depth of the research,
which David asked about, I also read Kraepelin, who I cite twice in the
endnotes. Kraepelin united the extremes of emotional behavior, stating
that the illness was "a single morbid process." Probably what I was
thinking was what I stated in the book: there was no cure, other than
institutionalizing someone, and think what that would have done to
Everett had he lived, until the 1970s when lithium came on the market.
This is what I wrote, and I don't think the Ruess family can object to
it: "Since much less was known about the illness in the 1930s, Everett
was never examined for the disorder, and as his life ended abruptly in
1934, there can be no certainty about whether he was in the early
stages of the illness or what the progression would have been had he
lived longer." P. 94 There is also an important footnote at the bottom
of that page that is directed to mental health professionals. Through
his letters and journals, Everett volunteered a history of what
disturbed him without any knowledge of what that might be, as opposed
to a mental health professional taking a history from a patient who has
sought treatment for a specific illness and who might tilt his or her
history in that direction. That kind of unprejudiced history I think
would be invaluable for professionals interested in someone suffering
from extreme emotional highs and lows. Lastly, the literature I read
gave the mid-teens as the approximate age of onslaught for bipolar
disorder. The symptoms start occurring in Everett around that time.

David asks how big a factor was the withdrawal of the Ruess family
from cooperation with me because of their objection to my dealing with
the bipolar issue. Not great. First, they cooperated for a few months
and helped me with details, such as how to pronounce Ruess (both ways).
Almost all the information is available at the University of Utah and
elsewhere. The family has a collection of photographs and art work that
would have widened my selection for the pages devoted to
illustrations. Where I could have really used them, and where they shot
themselves in the foot, I believe, was to read a draft and comment on
it for errors of fact and differences of interpretation. Although not a
legal condition for any book I have written, that kind of input, in
which I have the last say in what goes into the book, is invaluable for
catching errors and rethinking what I have written. So far I am not
aware of any errors in the text, but I wondering what some of the sharp
readers of this discussion will find. 

I am going to pass on describing my take on the plagiarism issue in
Stegner's "Angle of Repose" and refer you to my book, "Wallace Stegner
and the American West." The explanation is complex, and best to stick
to Ruess here.

Mark comments on the sophistication of Everett's reading list, meaning
what he asks his parents to send him and what he reads and thinks
about. First of all, it is at such a high level that I had to
frequently resort to Google searches for information on many of the
titles. In this way, and others, I think Everett was unique among
teenagers in his time. Judging from the undergraduates I have taught at
UC Berkeley, Stanford, and Williams College, he was beyond unique in
terms of the level of literature he read and digested of current
college students. In terms of what he read, I would place him at the
graduate level of a first class university. In other ways, he was just
a kid. That is what is so wonderful about him.

What I find gratifying about mother of my eyelid's reading of the book
is the kick she is getting out of what is happening around Everett.
She cites the entertainment provided by the firefall and the feeding of
the bears at Yosemite. I never saw the bear show, but I can clearly
recall seeing the firefall in the late 1940s at Yosemite. The time, or
era, provides a setting and gives additional meaning to the life, I
believe. I feel young, which I was, when I recall that show provided
with the blessing of the Park Service, and I feel old when I think of
how far the Park Service has progressed in what it deems valuable in
the park since then. That is part of the arc of time I wrote about at
the start of this discussion. Remember, Everett is at the beginning of
that arc of time in a life.

 
  
inkwell.vue.426 : Philip Fradkin, "Everett Ruess: His Short Life, Mysterious Death and Astonishing Afterlife," Nov 10-24
permalink #33 of 109: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Mon 14 Nov 11 18:03
    
One thing I was kinda curious about - and I don't remember reading all
that much in the book about this.  What were Everett's attitudes
towards the living Indians of the Southwest?  There are lots of journal
excerpts which talk about his love of the landscape, and you talk a
lot about his fascination with Anasazi ruins, but I didn't get much of
a sense of his attitude towards the Navajo and the Hopi.

He seems to have gotten along famously with at least some of the Hopi
- given that he was invited to participate in the Antelope Dance.
  
inkwell.vue.426 : Philip Fradkin, "Everett Ruess: His Short Life, Mysterious Death and Astonishing Afterlife," Nov 10-24
permalink #34 of 109: Philip Fradkin (philfrad1) Tue 15 Nov 11 14:54
    
Everett romanticized the Indians in the abstract as a youngster in
Indiana, but when he encountered them in reality, other than their
hardiness and songs, he found little to like about them. Arriving on
the Navajo Reservation in 1931, his first impression was that they were
poor and lived in "filthy conditions." After experiencing thefts of
his equipment, he branded them "scrupulously dishonest." To gain
possession of his dog, Curly, he wrestled with an Indian woman,
breaking her strand of beads. "Even then I had to manhandle her and
pinched her fingers before she would let go of Curly." Over a week in
1932, during his most extensive experience living with the Navajos
while working in their fields, they played tricks on him. His response
was: "I think less and less of these people." He never mastered the
Navajo language, despite the fact that his parents thought he was
fluent in it. In 1931 he quickly passed by the mesas where the Hopi
settlements were located, finding nothing of merit during the intense
summer heat. By 1934, when he returned to the mesas, he seems to have
absorbed enough of the different cultures to be welcomed into their
kivas to watch dances, an honor for an anglo. He also participated in
Navajo ceremonies that year. My guess is that he had made progress on
the tolerance curve for others. (Remember he was seventeen in 1931. Had
you been that age and alone and relating your experiences in private
correspondence to your family, how would you have responded?) I let
Everett's separate encounters with Native Americans stand on their own,
since I didn't think he ever expressed himself fully enough to
encapsulate his view.
  
inkwell.vue.426 : Philip Fradkin, "Everett Ruess: His Short Life, Mysterious Death and Astonishing Afterlife," Nov 10-24
permalink #35 of 109: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Tue 15 Nov 11 17:37
    
Thank you - that's a wonderful answer.
  
inkwell.vue.426 : Philip Fradkin, "Everett Ruess: His Short Life, Mysterious Death and Astonishing Afterlife," Nov 10-24
permalink #36 of 109: David Gans (tnf) Wed 16 Nov 11 09:20
    

And that sort of leads me to another question about his state of mind.  When
I was a 17 I had lots of huge mood swings, experienced florid bursts of
creativity and crushing depressions.  How does one differentiate between
normal developmental hysteresis and clinical bipolarity?  And I suppose a
companion question is, how much does it matter in this case?  I think
Everett's story is an important and compelling one regardless of whether or
not he was diagnosable.
  
inkwell.vue.426 : Philip Fradkin, "Everett Ruess: His Short Life, Mysterious Death and Astonishing Afterlife," Nov 10-24
permalink #37 of 109: Philip Fradkin (philfrad1) Wed 16 Nov 11 12:19
    
I couldn't agree more with your last sentence. I took the question up
because others had raised it and I thought it needed as complete an
airing as possible. Also, his mood swings seemed extreme enough (beyond
what I had experienced, for instance) for a discussion of the illness.
Lastly, he disappears, and you can't discount suicide, since he talks
about it so often; and suicide is one of the symptoms of manic
depression. To include those two or three pages of discussion of the
illness was a decision I didn't take lightly, but it all became
worthwhile when at a reading a Park Service ranger, who suffered from
manic depression, thanked me for presenting it in a sensitive manner
that she could relate to. It helped her realize she was not different
or strange. She couldn't understand why the Ruess family was ashamed of
the possibility that Everett was suffering from bipolar disorder. 
  
inkwell.vue.426 : Philip Fradkin, "Everett Ruess: His Short Life, Mysterious Death and Astonishing Afterlife," Nov 10-24
permalink #38 of 109: David Gans (tnf) Wed 16 Nov 11 12:54
    
Very good.  It was definitely worth including in the book!
  
inkwell.vue.426 : Philip Fradkin, "Everett Ruess: His Short Life, Mysterious Death and Astonishing Afterlife," Nov 10-24
permalink #39 of 109: Frako Loden (frako) Wed 16 Nov 11 13:09
    
I'm now reading about Everett's sojourns in the Grand Canyon and Sequoia.
I'm astonished at how our attitudes have changed about 1) stealing stuff
from cliff dwellings and ancient sites and 2) killing every single
rattlesnake you come across.
  
inkwell.vue.426 : Philip Fradkin, "Everett Ruess: His Short Life, Mysterious Death and Astonishing Afterlife," Nov 10-24
permalink #40 of 109: Gary Greenberg (gberg) Wed 16 Nov 11 16:06
    
I;m really looking forward to this book. it will make an excellent
sequel to The Lost City of Z, which I am reading right now. People who
disappear strike a chord with me. My grandfather's father did it, and
the ripples continue a century later.

And David, the question of who is bipolar and who merely moody is not
entirely answerable. In the 1930s, simply by not being in an
institution, and being able to function, however strangely, on his own
(and he seems to have been really resourceful and competent in his own
way) was enough to say he wasn't manic-depressive. When you were a
teenager, late 60s-early 70s I  think, it would have been pretty hard
to find a doc who would diagnose you manic depressive based on that
thumbnail description. In fact, at that time manic depression was still
considered a psychosis,i.e,. a mental illness that caused loss of
contact with reality in a pretty florid way. Nowadays, thanks to a DSM
that has given criteria for diagnosis, it's a little easier to
determine "caseness," as they call it, and there's a whole new form of
bipolar, called bipolar 2, which doesn't require full-fledged manic
episodes. So the threshold for being considered sick, as opposed to
growing up, has lowered substantially over the years. 

None of this, of course, answers your question about that line between
illness and strangeness. It's not like we're getting better at finding
it. It's more like we've gotten better at finding ways to categorize
various troublesome behaviors/experiences as mental illnesses. Not
coincidentally, since Ruess's time, the benefits of diagnostic
expansion have increased. At least they have if you think that drugs
like Zyprexa and Abilify are beneficial. That's an open debate, and
hard to settle if you can't be sure the patients were sick to begin
with. 
  
inkwell.vue.426 : Philip Fradkin, "Everett Ruess: His Short Life, Mysterious Death and Astonishing Afterlife," Nov 10-24
permalink #41 of 109: Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 16 Nov 11 16:59
    

> I'm astonished at how our attitudes have changed about 1) stealing 
stuff
>  from cliff dwellings and ancient sites and 2) killing every single
>  rattlesnake you come across.

And about inscribing your name on things.  Although, in this case, it did 
seem to help answer a few questions.

I'm still early in the book, and, for the moment, tickled by the fact 
this his father was briefly pastor of the Alameda Unitarian Church.  I'm 
not a member, but I do live in Alameda.  Almost all the places in 
Northern and Southern California resonate with me - Boyle Heights! - 
which is drawing me into the story and making me feel a connection 
to these extremely real people.  I'm loving all of the details, and 
marveling at the depth of your research.
  
inkwell.vue.426 : Philip Fradkin, "Everett Ruess: His Short Life, Mysterious Death and Astonishing Afterlife," Nov 10-24
permalink #42 of 109: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Wed 16 Nov 11 19:27
    
Yeah, that stuff was odd to read about, but not that surprising.  I
had older relatives, now long dead, who would have been born about 15
or 20 years before Everett.  That was just what you did.  There was
lots of stuff lying around, there were a lot fewer people, and there
was no one to tell you not to do it.  Or even to call it wrong.

One of the interesting things about the book is that you can feel that
era ending just as Everett comes along - the places are being made
into parks, the parks are getting caretakers and staff, and the rules
are starting to be enforced.  The freedom people experienced in the
West in those days is both exhilarating to read about and a little
horrifying.  It was hard for me not to think of Everett as an entitled
little twit when I read about his attitude towards antiquities, but
then I reminded myself that his attitude was probably the default
setting in that time and place.
  
inkwell.vue.426 : Philip Fradkin, "Everett Ruess: His Short Life, Mysterious Death and Astonishing Afterlife," Nov 10-24
permalink #43 of 109: Gary Greenberg (gberg) Thu 17 Nov 11 04:31
    
>One of the interesting things about the book is that you can feel
>that era ending just as Everett comes along

One thing that comes across in the Lost City of Z, and just abnout any
other account of exploration in the Victorian age is the entitlement
people felt to take waht they had stumbled on--not just relics and
artifacts, of course, but in some cases the real estate and the people
as well. It's as if being civilized meant you had the right, if not the
obligation, to civilize what you found. No doubt this was the default
mode, and the American West was surely uncivilized. That attitude
persisted well into the 20th century. 

A very interesting account of this is Alan Moorehead's books about the
"discovery" of the Upper Nile region--Thje White Nile and The Blue
Nile. Breathtaking arrogance that seemed entirely normal, indeed
exemplary, at the time.

Also, on a related note, Jonathan Lethem has a whimsical little essay
on the end of freedom in the West as portrayed in The Man Who Shot
Liberty Valance. 
http://www.believermag.com/issues/201110/?read=article_lethem
  
inkwell.vue.426 : Philip Fradkin, "Everett Ruess: His Short Life, Mysterious Death and Astonishing Afterlife," Nov 10-24
permalink #44 of 109: David Gans (tnf) Thu 17 Nov 11 09:35
    
THe early chapters of Stephen Ambrose's "Crazy Horse and Custer" include
(now-) horrifying accounts of the destruction of millions of square miles of
forest in Ohio to make room for "civilization."  Not just that, but
everything the white man did in the push west was pretty damn heedless of
nature's balance, let alone the wishes or needs of the humans they forcibly
displaced.
  
inkwell.vue.426 : Philip Fradkin, "Everett Ruess: His Short Life, Mysterious Death and Astonishing Afterlife," Nov 10-24
permalink #45 of 109: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Thu 17 Nov 11 10:13
    
I've always connected that spirit - and the rage at limits on it -
with the Tea Party movement.

"No more trees to cut! No more Indians to kill! Waah! Waah!"
  
inkwell.vue.426 : Philip Fradkin, "Everett Ruess: His Short Life, Mysterious Death and Astonishing Afterlife," Nov 10-24
permalink #46 of 109: From Scott Thybony (captward) Thu 17 Nov 11 11:26
    
Sorry for jumping into the middle of this, but I’ve been on the run.
A comment on Everett and the Indians:  He mentioned participating in a
Hopi Antelope Dance, but there’s one problem.  The Hopi don’t have an
Antelope Dance.  Traditional Hopi have told me the Hopi in 1934 were
probably having fun with an enthusiastic and inquisitive white boy.  I
was once dragged into the plaza by Yellow Clowns during a ceremony and
made to dance – to the laughs and cheers of rooftops full of Hopi
spectators.  They have a long history of pulling the legs of earnest
visitors and curious anthropologists.

In your chapter on the Comb Ridge bones controversy, you mentioned
exchanging e-mail messages with Dennis Van Gerven, the forensic
anthropologist.  Did he indicate any remorse, any humility for having
gotten it so wrong?  Also, in your final paragraph you mention the
wider implications of the faulty DNA testing.  Have you had any
response from the legal community on how this case might affect other
cases dependent solely on DNA evidence?
  
inkwell.vue.426 : Philip Fradkin, "Everett Ruess: His Short Life, Mysterious Death and Astonishing Afterlife," Nov 10-24
permalink #47 of 109: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Thu 17 Nov 11 17:51
    
Hah!  I wondered why I'd never heard of that dance!  Not that I'm any
kind of an expert on the Hopi.  I show up, I admire the scenery and the
architecture, I buy trinkets, I leave.  
  
inkwell.vue.426 : Philip Fradkin, "Everett Ruess: His Short Life, Mysterious Death and Astonishing Afterlife," Nov 10-24
permalink #48 of 109: Peter Richardson (richardsonpete) Fri 18 Nov 11 07:33
    
Philip, I first heard about Reuss when reading Jon Krakauer's Into the
Wild, where he's presented as kind of precursor for Chris McCandless.
Do you care to comment about where that resemblance begins and ends? 
In McCandless's case, he seems to have taken a strain of American
romanticism/transcendentalism very seriously.  I'm thinking of figures
like Thoreau and Muir, whose writings about wilderness rarely stress
its dangers.  
  
inkwell.vue.426 : Philip Fradkin, "Everett Ruess: His Short Life, Mysterious Death and Astonishing Afterlife," Nov 10-24
permalink #49 of 109: Frako Loden (frako) Fri 18 Nov 11 10:39
    
Mr. Fradkin, you have a lot of questions and comments to respond to so I
won't bombard you with any more of mine for the time being. But I just
wanted to commend you, on my having finished your book at last, on a truly
wonderful bringing-together of the whole Everett Ruess saga. The past 8 days
have been pure pleasure having the book by my side. It's brought back all
the Ruess-related reading I did in 2000 while I was exploring the Utah-
Arizona desert, as well as the desert travels I did this past summer at
Hovenweep, Mesa Verde, Grand Canyon North Rim, and the loneliest stretches
of Nevada. The photos you personally took and the way they dramatize the
world Everett explored really "get" the heart and appeal of the desert for
me.
  
inkwell.vue.426 : Philip Fradkin, "Everett Ruess: His Short Life, Mysterious Death and Astonishing Afterlife," Nov 10-24
permalink #50 of 109: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Fri 18 Nov 11 11:28
    
Yeah, it was a great read.  I've been to many of the places mentioned
many times, especially in and around the big rez, which added to the
fun.
  

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