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Saturday, July 22, 2017

NABOKOV | His One-Off Response to Criticism

Vladimir Nabokov famously refused to respond to criticism. Lolita was subjected to a flurry of critical comments, starting with his American publishers who refused to touch it in 1954.

He published it in Paris in 1955 and sailed on, as the book gained acceptance and broke all records for one-week sales when it finally appeared in the USA in 1958, despite being called "repulsive" by a reviewer for The New York Times.  It was made into movies in 1962 (and again in 1997), and Nabokov was seemingly oblivious to critiques.

In a January 1964 Playboy interview, Alvin Toffler asked Nabokov whether he regretted writing Lolita: "With the American publication of Lolita in 1958, your fame and fortune mushroomed...  to both acclaim and abuse."

Nabokov responded in the negative: "There is a queer, tender charm about that mythical nymphet."

Toffler then reminded Nabokov of two different kinds of critiques:
The Book that Smoked Out
Nabokov.
Though many readers and reviewers would disagree that her charm is tender, few would deny that it is queer—so much so that when director Stanley Kubrick proposed his plan to make a movie of Lolita, you were quoted as saying, “Of course they’ll have to change the plot. Perhaps they will make Lolita a dwarfess. Or they will make her 16 and Humbert 26.” Though you finally wrote the screenplay yourself, several reviewers took the film to task for watering down the central relationship.
Nabokov as a matter of principle brushed aside criticism, with the one exception of a screed he wrote in 1971.

What smoked Nabokov out of his non-responsive cave was a 193-page book published earlier that year by New York University Press and written by a Russian Literature Professor at George Washington University, Dr. William Woodin Rowe. The book was called Nabokov's Deceptive World.

Nabokov's commentary on Rowe's book appears in the October 7 issue of The New York Review of Books. He doesn't take issue with the first two parts of Rowe's book, but objects to the third, where Rowe identifies sexual allusions in Nabokov's work. Nabokov readily admits to such references:
One may wonder if it was worth Mr. Rowe’s time to exhibit erotic bits picked out of Lolita and Ada—a process rather like looking for allusions to aquatic mammals in Moby Dick.
But he strenuously objects when Rowe goes too far. Nabokov compares Rowe to a student (Wellesley? Cornell?) whom he failed in his course, he says,
for writing that Jane Austen describes leaves as “green” because Fanny is hopeful, and “green” is the color of hope.
It is not my place or interest to add to or settle the argument. My wish is to make a record of Rowe's responses and three judgments of independent commentators, since I delved into the  kerfuffle and discussed it with Professor Rowe as part of my research on his illustrious grandfather, FDR's first Treasury Secretary, William H. Woodin, after whom Woody Rowe (as he calls himself) is named.

Woody Rowe, 1934-.
Courtesy of Dr. Rowe.
Rowe responded swiftly to Nabokov's comments in a November letter to The New York Review of Books entitled "Arbors and Mists." He acknowledged that Nabokov's that his October 7 article was "entertaining." Rowe also wrote an article for a British journal, “W. W. Rowe on Nabokov,” published in Encounter, No. 234, March 1973

Three reviewers familiar with the dispute give more credit to Rowe’s book than Nabokov did:
  • Eric Naiman, in Nabokov, Perversely (Cornell University Press), http://bit.ly/2vpSzpZ
  • Andrew Field in “Review of William Woodin Rowe's critical study of Vladimir Nabokov's world, Nabokov’s Deceptive World.” Contemporary Literature Vol. 14, No. 1 (Winter, 1973), 132-135 (University of Wisconsin Press, JSTOR preview at http://bit.ly/2umP1ba).
  • Duncan White, in Nabokov and His Books, argues that Nabokov did himself a disservice by overreacting to Rowe's book.
Nabokov died in 1977. The coast was clear for Rowe to write two more critical studies of Nabokov, in 1979 (Nabokov and Others: Patterns in Russian Literature) and 1981 (Nabokov's Spectral Dimension). Forty years on, Woody Rowe is thriving in Arizona in his 80s, the youngest of three surviving grandchildren of Will Woodin (the other two are in their 90s).

Friday, July 14, 2017

REVOLUTION | July 14 – Bastille Day

Storming of the Bastille (Artist unknown)
This day in 1789 the French Revolution began in Paris with the storming by an angry crowd of the Bastille,  a 14th century medieval fortress long used as a prison, especially for opponents of the royal family.

The Parisian mob wanted to commandeer the ammunition that Bernard-René Jordan de Launay, the military governor of the Bastille, had just brought into the Bastille — 250 barrels of gunpowder.

The origin of France's problems was the financial stress from supporting the American colonies' war of independence (a fact that Americans sometimes forget when they remember American help to France during the two World Wars).

Higher taxes provoked questions from French citizens about their government and its finances. Rebellions occurred in different parts of France. Louis XVI relied on Jacques Necker, finance minister and effectively prime minister, for answers. Necker tried to negotiate his way to some solutions, organizing the return of the Estates-General, an assembly consisting of clergy, aristocrats, and commoners (the "Third Estate"), for the first time since 1614.

The Estates-General came to no agreement. Necker either did not fully appreciate that political reforms were required or decided that the King wouldn't agree to them. On July 11, Louis dismissed Necker, unleashing mob violence.

The fighting at the Bastille, three days later, lasted several hours, with nearly a hundred attackers killed and one guard. The mob broke in only to find just just seven prisoners to liberate. They killed the governor of the Bastille, de Launay, and paraded his head around the city on a pike.

When the King returned that evening from a day of hunting, a duke told him the story of the day's events at the Bastille. Louis asked, "So this is a revolt?" The duke replied: "No, Sire, this is a revolution!"

King Louis was executed in January 1793 as was his wife Marie-Antoinette ("Let them eat cake") and during the next few years tens of thousands of the nobility who had not fled. Shortly afterwards, The Third Estate was  reborn as the National Assembly.

While the day is celebrated as the birth of the French Republic, not all French people celebrate the day. They may remember ancestors who had their heads removed by a guillotine during the years following the taking of the Bastille, or they may have left France. The defeat of the French Navy at Trafalgar is attributed by some to the lack of experienced naval officers, who before the revolution had to be "four quarters" nobility (all four grandparents).

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

CALUMNY | What Are Its Antonyms?

The Junior House, Ampleforth College, York,
England, c. 1954. I am Second-Hand Rose—
 second row, second from the left.
July 11, 2017—J. K. Rowling earlier this month took President Trump to task for his CNN tweet with the wrestling video.

She quoted George Washington: "To persevere in one's duty, and keep silent, is the best answer to calumny."

That has spurred new interest in the obsolescing word calumny.

It brought back to me one of the very fine talks that Fr. Peter Utley (Richard Utley in his pre-monastic life) gave to his Junior House flock at Ampleforth College, which I attended in 1953-1955.

Fr. Peter devoted an entire talk to the subject of detraction and calumny. The somewhat obsolete word calumny (the preferred word for a civil complaint about slander today would be "defamation") is the subject of many a Catholic homily, because it describes the eighth commandment, "Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness against Thy Neighbor." A sample of Biblical references to calumny may be found here.

Fr. Peter was an impressive monk, who played cricket for the RAF and exemplified the British Public School model of Muscular Christianity. What I found memorable about his talk on calumny was that it was so analytical about the word. Calumny is actually two offenses wrapped into one.

Fr. Peter did not just contrast calumny with speaking well of people, which is what you will find if you look up "calumny antonym" on the internet. He did not present calumny as a choice between speaking well of people vs. telling lies about them.

No, he presented two dualities:
  • Speaking well of people vs. speaking ill of them. 
  • Telling the truth vs. telling lies.
Calumny is two sins, he said. Detraction is saying negative things about someone for no reason. Calumny goes beyond that to add lying. Fr. Peter said that Christianity brought a higher standard than the eighth commandment. It was not enough to avoid lying about one's neighbor. We should also not engage in spreading negative truths about people.

One defense against libel (bearing false witness in writing) and slander (bearing false witness orally) is that the negative information is true. Fr. Peter would say that true negative statements are still wrong if they are made out of revenge, or envy or just maliciousness. Detractors seek lower someone else's reputation for no reason.

Fr. Peter made exceptions for people whose job it is to make comparisons, such as teachers grading their pupils. That includes all of us in the marketplace as we seek a service provider. The relative quality of the goods or services being provided is of importance and we can share our experience blamelessly because we are trying to help someone make a purchase. In the marketplace, comparing one's own product favorably to that of the competition is part of conducting business. But in one's personal life, we are expected to show restraint.

That's what I remember. It was a good lesson, for our understanding of our language and of our lives.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

TENNIS | July 9, First Wimbledon Tournament Begins

Report on the first Wimbledon Final (Men's
Singles) £26 in 1877 = c. $2,600 in 2017.*

July 9, 2017—This day in 1877 the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club at Wimbledon, a suburb of London, offered a tennis tournament.

The 21 men who showed up for the Gentlemen’s Singles were reduced to 11 on the first day, six the next day, and three on the third. The final, postponed for two days to allow spectators to to watch the Eton vs. Harrow cricket match, was rained out. On the rain date, July 19, about 200 spectators paid a shilling to see W. Spencer Gore, an Old Harrovian, the dominate William Marshall, a Cambridge tennis Blue, with a strong volley at net. But at the second Wimbledon in 1878, Gore lost out to challenger Frank Hadow, who had mastered the lob.

Tennis originated with the 13th-century French handball game (jeu de paume, or “game of the palm”), which led to an indoor racket-and-ball game called réal, or “royal,” tennis. This went on to become lawn tennis, which spread to the United States. In the 20th century, half of all tennis players in the world were American.

The All England Club was established in 1868 on four acres of meadowland outside London. Originally founded to provide a place to play croquet, the Club added tennis. In 1877, the Club announced in The Field:
The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon, propose to hold a lawn tennis meeting open to all amateurs, on Monday, July 9, and following days. Entrance fee, one pound, one shilling [one guinea].
The All English Club purchased a 25-guinea (about £26) trophy and drew up formal rules for tennis, deciding on a rectangular court 78 x 27 feet. It adapted the real tennis method of scoring based on a clock face—i.e., 15, 30, 40, game, decided that the first to win six games wins a set, and allowed the server one fault.

As the game gained in popularity, Wimbledon added:
  • Lady’s Singles in 1884 (Maud Watson won). 
  • The national men’s doubles championship, moved from Oxford.
  • Mixed doubles and women’s doubles in 1913. 
  • A Stadium in 1922 the Wimbledon Stadium was built. 
  • Professionals to the competitions in 1968.
The Wimbledon Championships are today the only major tennis event still played on grass.

*Eric W. NyePounds Sterling to Dollars: Historical Conversion of Currency, accessed Monday, July 10, 2017, http://www.uwyo.edu/numimage/currency.htm.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

FDR AND WOODIN | Warm Springs, Georgia

Treasury Secretary Will
Woodin (L) and FDR.
John Reagan (“Tex”) McCrary, who lived from  1910 to 2003), ran a radio show for NBC from the RCA Building.

On August 12, 1949 he wrote to General Motors financial executive John J. Raskob (1879-1950) at 350 Fifth Avenue, the Empire State Building).

Tex McCrary enclosed a copy of Westbrook Pegler’s column for August 4, 1949 and a transcript of his own broadcast comments on Pegler's column. (The correspondence may be found at http://digital.hagley.org/raskob-1456.)

The correspondence is interesting from two perspectives.
Al Smith (L) and John J. Raskob (R). 

First, there is venom in Pegler's bite at Raskob for accepting a "bribe" from FDR. It was also a side-swipe at FDR himself. 

In the New York Journal American (syndicated by King Features), Pegler said:
[Al] Smith never told publicly the truth about the bribe of $250,000 which John Raskob underwrote as Roosevelt’s price for coming out of his convalescence to run for Governor in 1928. That was the year Smith ran for President.
McCrary reported on Pegler's column in a broadcast the next day:
Yesterday [Pegler] hit an all-time low in unsubstantiated slander. According to Pegler, John J. Raskob underwrote a bribe of $250,000 as the price of persuading the late Franklin D. Roosevelt to come out of his convalescence to run for Governor … According to Pegler, the $250,000 was milked from Raskob as a contribution to Warm Springs Foundation for Crippled Children. 
The other interesting aspect of the correspondence is the sweeping denial that Raskob wrote back to McCrary on August 16:
I know nothing whatever about the financing and operation of Warm Springs except that the late William Woodin, former Secretary of the Treasury, did head a drive for funds some years ago to which I contributed.
What is going on here? I have read elsewhere about Raskob's involvement with solving FDR's financial problems at Warm Springs. I consulted a new book by Kaye Lanning Minchew, A President in Our Midst: Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Georgia (Athens, Georgia: The University of Georgia Press, 2016), and on page 74, it is all spelled out:
In addition to health concerns and his fear that 1928 might not be the year for the Democrats, Roosevelt hesitated to run for governor because of his heavy financial commitments at Warm Springs. John J. Raskob, a wealthy businessman who had recently been named chair of the National Democratic Committee, talked to Roosevelt on the phone on October 2. Following their discussion of Roosevelt's obligations to Warm Springs, Raskob wrote a check for $250,000. When Roosevelt refused the check, Raskob formed a committee to raise funds while committing $50,000 to the cause. Following that conversation, Roosevelt agreed to run for governor.
What there seems to be agreement on is that Roskob recruited Will Woodin to head the committee to pay off the Warm Springs debt. Woodin also served on the board of the Warm Springs Foundation. If Minchew's story is accurate, then Raskob was being disingenuous in his letter of August 16 (in other words, he lied or had severe amnesia). His suggestion to McCrary that Woodin was the man who knew was a safe one, since Woodin was entombed in his Berwick mausoleum 14 years earlier.

Even if Pegler's facts are correct, it is hardly fair to label FDR's agreeing to run for governor in return for assistance to the Warm Springs Foundation as a "bribe". The Warm Springs debt was an obstacle to FDR's running for Governor of New York State. I have read that FDR's mother Sara Delano Roosevelt said she would not give FDR any money for his campaign unless and until he paid off the Warm Springs debt. The committee's contributions to the Foundation removed this obstacle to FDR's running for governor.

What is peculiar about all this is Raskob's denial of any knowledge about the Warm Springs finances. Doubtless he was not familiar with every detail, but he had to be aware of the large size of the Foundation deficits. In 1928 Al Smith wanted FDR to run for governor so that New York State would be safe for Democrats. It was when FDR ran for President himself four years later that Raskob decided FDR was a dangerous radical and from then on perhaps he preferred not to take any credit for having helped him become governor.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

WOODIN | July 2, Helen Wills Wins Her Final Wimbledon

Helen Wills
July 2, 2017—This date in 1938, Helen Wills won her final Wimbledon singles championship. The dominant female tennis player of the 1920s and 1930s, she perfected her powerful forehand by playing against men.

Wills was the first American woman athlete to become a global celebrity, although she did not make an effort to be famous. She was on the cover of Time magazine twice, in 1926 and 1929.

She played a strong game with grace, and she helped introduce knee-length skirts for women on the tennis court, thereby adding greatly to the mobility of the players and the visual appeal of women's tennis. Charlie Chaplin said that the most beautiful thing he had ever seen was "Helen Wills, playing tennis."

"Helen Wills, playing tennis."
Wills was helped in her success by the Woodin Gold Cup, an invitational challenge tournament for women that was sponsored by the Maidstone Club in East Hampton, New York, between 1926 and 1949.

Many Woodin Cup winners went on to become Grand Slam champions. In addition to Helen Wills, they included Alice Marble, Helen [Hull] Jacobs and Molla Mallory.  Helen Jacobs and Helen Wills were fierce opponents whose games were called "the battle of the Helens." Sarah Palfrey, Margaret Osborne duPont and Louise Brough were others who participated often in the Woodin Cup.

In 1949 the three Woodin Cups, valued at $30,000 each in 2017 dollars, were all retired. They were challenge cups (as opposed to permanent cups), meaning that if they were won three times by the same player or doubles team, they could be taken home. Brough won the singles championship in 1949, and she won the doubles championship with duPont. Both of Brough's cups were given to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, along with the smaller trophies given to all winners (a silver cup, 5 inches tall, with the Maidstone coat of arms on it). (Source: Phone interview with Nicole Markham, Curator of Special Collections, International Tennis Hall of Fame, July 5, 2017.)

In 1926, the year that the Woodin Gold Cup was created, Wills first traveled across the Atlantic to play tennis. She reached the final of the Wimbledon singles, but lost to England’s Kitty McKane. This was the only Wimbledon that Wills would ever enter and lose. She went on to win eight Wimbledon singles titles.

From 1927 to 1933, Wills (she added Moody to her name while she was married to Frederick Moody in the years 1929-1937) won an impressive 180 consecutive matches. In 1933, a back injury forced her to sit out the tournaments for two years. Returning in 1935, and winning Wimbledon, Wills said she would retire. Coming back in 1938, however, Wills defeated an injured Helen Jacobs to win her eighth Wimbledon singles title. The victory was the final major championship for her.

Born in Centerville, California in 1905, she grew up in the Bay Area. She won the Girl’s National Championship in 1921 and 1922, and then won her first U.S. Open (then called the U.S. National Championships) at 17, in 1923. Her record of eight Wimbledon singles titles was not broken until Martina Navratilova won her ninth Wimbledon title in 1990. Wills died in 1998 at 92.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

WOODIN | Will's Daughter Libby — Beautiful and Talented

Detail of portrait of Libby Woodin,
courtesy of the Woodin family.
Elizabeth Foster (Libby) Woodin of New York City and East Hampton and William Wallace Rowe (Harvard '20) of Cincinnati announced their betrothal in early April 1922. Then she went on a trip to Europe on the S.S. Paris.

A beautiful photo of Libby appears in a magazine and may be viewed with a Getty Images watermark on it here: http://bit.ly/2sjZP9H.

A detail of a portrait of her obtained from the Woodin family also shows her appeal.

Libby Woodin's father Will Woodin was in 1922 president of the American Car and Foundry Co. He accompanied his daughter on the trip. The wedding took place in 1923.


Gloria Swanson (L) and her
husband, the Marquis de la Falaise.
When the great American actress Gloria Swanson (1899–1983) went in 1925 to Paris with her husband, Marquis Henri de la Falaise  de la Coudraye, they chose the same ship.


Dining on the French ocean liner S.S.Paris was the height of luxury. The staterooms were supremely comfortable. The French Line brochures advertised its ships as morceaux flottantes de France, "floating pieces of France."

The S.S. Paris cuisine was so haute that an extra cadre of sea gulls followed it for scraps. The ship had more followers than any other. The French Line's success took off when a third ship joined the relay: the Île de France.

The S.S. Paris was laid down in 1913 at Saint-Nazaire, France for the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique. The builder was Chantiers de l'Atlantique of St. Nazaire. The ship's launching was delayed by the war until 1916, and it was not fully completed until 1921 because of wartime priorities and then postwar scarcities. When the “Paris” was finally completed, it was the largest liner under the French flag, at 34,569 tons. A short (2.5 minute) YouTube video shows the “Paris” in operation, 1921-39— https://youtu.be/u3853AWYAaU.


The end of the S.S. Paris was as spectacular as its commencement and life. The tragic burning and sinking of the ship in its LeHavre dock in April 1939 is shown in a shorter (1.5 minute) video — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98At2ve0BFU.


(This post will be incorporated into a soon-to-be published book about Will Woodin and his children.)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

WEDDING | Eli Rinzler and Ana Bennett, High Falls, N.Y.

June 17, 2017—Eli Rinzler puts the ring on the hand of Ana Bennett at
Crested Hen Farms in High Falls, N.Y. Photo by JT Marlin.
We have been attending the wedding of Eli Rinzler, son of Alice's Wellesley '66 classmate Cinnamon Rinzler and Curry Rinzler, to Ana Bennett. Here are three photos from the ceremony.

1. Groom Eli on Saturday is putting the wedding ring on the finger of blushing bride Ana at the Crested Hen Farms in High Falls, New York. Eli's brother Sean was Best Man. Ana's Matron of Honor was her sister.

2. At the reception, Alice is holding beaming Charlotte, who is called Charlie.

Charlie looks pretty pleased with the whole event and with Alice's attention.

3. Some of Eli's relatives and their friends gathered at the home of Curry and Cinnamon Rinzler in Woodstock, N.Y.
Back row, standing (L to R): Warren Boeschenstein, John Tepper Marlin, Cinnamon Rinzler (mother of the groom), Dan (husband of Dana), Karen Boeschenstein (also Wellesley '66), Terry Peard (Kit's husband). Front row, sitting: Kit (sister of Cinnamon), Chris (son of Kit), Dana, Alice Tepper Marlin, Curry Rinzler (father of the groom).

BIRTH | June 18—On his 75th, McCartney Gets New Queen's Honor

Sir Paul McCartney, Companion of Honor
June 18, 2017—Sir Paul McCartney turns 75 today (three and a half months after me, but you knew that).

He got a nice birthday present yesterday from Queen Elizabeth II.

The Queen's actual 91st birthday is on Wednesday, but her official birthday was celebrated yesterday. So that's when she bestowed her semi-annual honors.

Sir Paul was knighted by the Queen two decades ago when he was 55 and she was 71. At 75 his knighthood is being topped up with a Companion of Honor award — the centennial of which is this month, by the way — for services to music, on the same day as J.K. Rowling won the award for her services to literature and philanthropy. Sir Paul said of the new royal distinction:
I'm very happy about this huge honor and with the news coming on my birthday weekend and Father's Day it makes it colossal!
Sir Paul was born in Liverpool, England. He is a big believer in magic in reviewing his life. When he was 14, his mother died of an embolism. This led to his establishing a personal relationship with John Lennon, whose mother had also died when he was a teenager.

McCartney and Lennon are responsible for most of the most popular songs on the Beatles repertoire. McCartney is a two-time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the recipient of 21 Grammys. His Beatles song "Yesterday" is one of the most covered songs in musical history, and he has written more than 30 No. 1 songs. Other top-ten hits of his include "Hey Jude" and "Let It BeCome".

In trying to explain how he came to write songs and become part of the Beatles, Sir Paul turns to the language of alchemy, invoking both magic and chemistry:
Every time I come to write a song, there's this magic little thing where I go, "Ooh, ooh, it's happening again." I just sit down at the piano and go, "Oh my God, I don't know this one," and suddenly there's a song. ... Life is an energy field, a bunch of molecules, And these particular molecules formed to make these four guys.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

MEMORIAL | Silvia Tennenbaum (1928-2016)

Silvia Tennenbaum, 1928-2016.
June 9, 2017—A memorial service for our former neighbor Silvia [Pfeiffer] Tennenbaum was held today, Friday, at noon.

Her tombstone was unveiled at the Green River Cemetery on Accabonac Road in Springs.

Present were her brother and her three sons and many other relatives and friends.

Silvia died last year on June 27 at 88 at the Bryn Mawr Hospital in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. She had moved in 2014 from her home in Springs to the Quadrangle, a Jewish-affiliated nonprofit independent-living facility in Haverford, Pennsylvania, where she reportedly continued to follow her team, the Mets. 

At a reception following the unveiling at Ashawagh Hall, her eldest son, Jeremy, told us that the Quadrangle was founded by a couple of Haverford professors and that the Philadelphia area is heavily populated by nonprofit religion-based assisted-living facilities. It is close to where Jeremy lived, and he took charge of managing his mother's last years.

Jeremy reported that his mother was suffering from bleeding ulcers and pneumonia and asked that there be no intervention. "She was ready to go," he said. She had previously lost much of her mobility out of a reluctance to move around.

Two of Silvia's fellow Mets fans, who show in their
 hair their solidarity with Silvia and The Team.
Silvia had a defiance about her during her last decade of life in Springs, symbolized by the blue streak she put in her hair. 

Two of the women who came to the unveiling were retired Postal Service staff members at the Wainscott Post Office. They were grateful for the Mets tickets that Silvia subscribed to and would bring them in weeks that she couldn't use them. 

Silvia was born in 1928 in Frankfurt, Germany, daughter of a mixed-religion marriage between Lotti Clara Stern and Erich Pfeiffer-Belli. Perhaps because of the rise of Nazi-inspired anti-Semitism in Frankfurt, her parents divorced in 1930. (It turned out that the Nazis tended to leave alone couples with one Jewish partner and a Christian partner, but no one could be sure.) 
Silvia's brother.

Four years after divorcing her first husband, Silvia's mother married William Steinberg, a talented conductor. Together with Silvia, now eight years old, in 1936 the couple fled Hitler's German tyranny. Steinberg went to Tel Aviv, where he helped create the Palestine Symphony Orchestra. In 1938 he was recruited by Arturo Toscanini to assist him in running the NBC Symphony Orchestra. 

Silvia was a fervent Mets fan.
Silvia loved America. She graduated from New Rochelle High School in 1946 and attended Barnard, earning a BA with honors in Art History in 1950. As a new immigrant, she took to baseball as a way of embracing her new  homeland and followed the Brooklyn Dodgers until, through Walter O'Malley's teachery, they decamped for Los Angeles in 1957. (Ask a Brooklyn Dodger fan: "If you had a gun with only two bullets in it and were in a room with Hitler, Stalin and O'Malley, which one would you shoot?" The answer will be: "Shoot O'Malley, twice!") 

She switched her allegiance to the New York Mets and never for a minute ever left them.

Studying for an MA in art at Columbia University graduate school, she met and, in 1951, married Lloyd Tennenbaum, who was a student in mathematics and philosophy and became a rabbi. 

Meanwhile, Silvia's father, by then conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, became also a guest conductor of the New York Philharmonic and in the 1960s the family stayed in East Hampton during the summers.

The Tennenbaums moved for seven years to Lynchburg, Virginia, where Silvia gave birth to three sons. Her husband was eventually appointed rabbi to two congregations on Long Island's North Shore and the family settled in Huntington, New York. 

Million-dollar sale
of paperback rights.
There Silvia wrote her first book, Rachel the Rabbi's Wife (1978), a caustic roman à clef about the life of a self-important rabbi and a demanding congregation that believed in its entitlement to unlimited support services from the rabbi’s wife. The book was a huge success. Silvia told me she sold the paperback rights for a million dollars, and used the money in part to build on the property a studio where she liked to write. 

However, by 1981, when we became her neighbors, the couple had separated. Silvia retained the house. She was extremely welcoming and told us all about the merits of registering as Democrats in East Hampton.

During the next 33 years, Silvia continued to be outspoken and flamboyant. She had her front fence painted a bluish-tinged purple, not quite the same color as the streak in her hair.

In the 1980s, one of her letters to the East Hampton Star prompted a local resident to place in front of her house a sign, “Communist Headquarters”. A critic of Israeli policy toward Palestinians, she preferred not to be formally associated with the large Jewish Center of the Hamptons and instead affiliated with Sag Harbor’s Temple Adas Israel, the oldest synagogue on Long Island, led until 2014 by widely published Rabbi Leon A. Morris. 
Silvia's three sons, L to R, Rafe, David and (holding the "veil"),
Jeremy, with Rabbi David Geffen.

Silvia and her husband were divorced in 1986 (he was a few years older than Silvia and predeceased her by a decade). She had returned to Columbia, where she earned an MA in art history in 1983. Besides frequent letters to the East Hampton Star, she wrote for the New American Review and the Massachusetts Review. One story, “A Lingering Death,” was selected by Joyce Carol Oates for “Best American Short Stories of 1979.”  Her second novel, Yesterday’s Streets (1981), was a fictionalized account of her family’s life among upper-middle class Jews in Frankfurt, Germany from 1900 to 1936. In 2012, Frankfurt named this book its "Book of the Year”. 
She is survived by her three sons — Jeremy, David and Raphael (Rafe). She was buried at Green River Cemetery in Springs on June 29, 2016. Rabbi Daniel N. Geffen of Temple Adas Israel presided then and presided again over the unveiling, followed by a sharing of food, beer and memories at Ashawagh Hall.

Additional Comments


Silvia was generous. She gave us a few things she didn't need when we first became her neighbor. She was always responsive to our suggestions about improving our properties and planted pine trees between us after just one suggestion. We and others missed her greatly when she moved to the Philadelphia area.


Alice notes how much fun Silvia was to talk with. She always had an interesting individual point of view, and effectively marshaled facts, often little-known ones, to support her view. We enjoyed her hospitality when we first arrived and were beneficiaries of fertilizer generated from horses in her back yard. She also often shared lilacs from her prolific bushes.

Friday, May 12, 2017

NYC | Comptroller's Ofc Reunions May 2017

L to R: Peter Flynn, Eric Wollman, Andrew Rosenthal, Aya Gureil and 
Cristina Ottey (staff of the Contracting Unit). Photo: May 2017.
The big reunion coming up is at 1 pm on Friday, May 19 when Eric Wollman retires.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

WOODIN | Will Woodin's Oxford, Conn. Ancestors

William H[artman] ("Will") Woodin, FDR's first Treasury Secretary, was born in Berwick, Pa., but before his family settled in Pennsylvania they lived in Oxford, Conn.

His ancestor David Woodin left England because he did not conform to the Church of England. Being a dissenter was, for a time, a treasonous way of life.

The English dissenters with which the first Woodins identified appear to have been Congregationalists. Having first  tried settling in the Netherlands, the dissenters migrated in large numbers to New Haven.

Why New Haven Was a Magnet for Puritans

New Haven was founded in 1638 by John Davenport and some 500 other Puritans who left Boston to create a theocratic colony. Unfortunately there were lapses of discipline in Boston and immigrants to New England chose to go to a new colony that permitted only fellow dissenters. Called the New Haven Colony, it was originally independent of the Connecticut colony to the south.

The Congregational churches or meetinghouses in the United States broke more definitively with the Church of England than the Presbyterians, who were at times allied with the Anglicans. The distinctive feature of the Congregational Church is that each church runs its own affairs; there is no hierarchy. The Presbyterians, however, elect not only their elders but higher regional levels of church leaders—the American Constitution is modeled on the Presbyterian church organization, using some of the language of Free Masonry.

The Congregational churches led the migration to America and later the revolt by Oliver Cromwell and others against Charles I. In 1630, Puritans founded the first American Congregational Church in Watertown, Massachusetts, under the leadership of Sir Richard Saltonstall. They chose Rev. George Phillips from Norfolk County, England, as their first pastor.

Because of their emphasis on thinking for themselves, the Congregational churches put great emphasis on learning and founded some of the first colleges and universities in America, starting with Harvard in 1636 and then (as with Cambridge leaving Oxford) through dissent with Harvard thinking, Yale. Then they started Dartmouth, Williams, Bowdoin, Middlebury, and Amherst—and later, Beloit, Carleton, Grinnell, Oberlin, and Pomona. 
As Harvard was forming, in 1635, seven of the Watertown Puritans who came in 1630 left the Boston area and settled in Wethersfield, Connecticut, becoming the second church organized and located in Connecticut (the first being in Windsor, earlier in the same year). In 1641, the New Haven Colony, at Rev. John Davenport's suggestion, offered land to 28 Wethersfield families within New Haven and they became the First Congregational Church of Stamford, six years before Stamford itself formally existed. Rev. John Sherman served as first pastor in Wethersfield (1635-1641) and Rev. Richard Denton, originally from Halifax, England, served as first pastor of the church in Stamford (1641-1644). Out of the migration to New Haven would come the momentum to found Yale.

William Woodin Migrates from England before 1642

Records of the First Congregational Church in New Haven indicate that three Woodin generations lived in New Haven at least part of their lives. The first William Woodin arrived three years after New Haven was founded, in 1842. He married Sarah Clark, who may have been the reason he chose New Haven, because she seems to have had family in the Colony. She died in 1691, seven years after her husband. Almost surely he or she had family or business connections in New Haven. They were members of the growing Congregational church, which would found Yale University in 1701, ten years after Sarah died. 

The first two American generations of Woodins appear to have sought security and lived long lives. The two Woodins born in New Haven to William and Sarah Woodin lived to an average age of 70. Will Woodin's g4[gggg] grandfather, Benjamin Woodin (1670-1738), was born when his father was 29. Benjamin married Mary Wilmot and he lived to be 67. His wife was five years younger and lived four years longer.

Benjamin and Mary Woodin had a son William in 1718. He married Katherine Harrington and moved to Oxford, Conn., He lived to 73 and his wife to 80.

The Oxford Woodins

Oxford, Conn. is located midway between Waterbury and Bridgeport, nestled between the Naugatuck River to the east and the Housatonic River to the west. The two rivers create an opportunity for good farmland and woodlands. Oxford, Conn. has a sawmill that would have been an Oxford export and generated the raw materials for builders of homes and boats in the region. Today there are many Woodins living in Oxford, with first names Alvin (connected with the Trowbridge family), Donald, Heidi, Lisa, and Pin Dylan.

The two Oxford-born Woodin ancestors were adventurous. Both had shockingly short lives. One Woodin died at sea as a young man and his son died of an illness in the same year his wife died.

Milo Woodin was born in 1774 in Oxford but decided to make his career on the open seas as a whaler — a dangerous but exciting profession. He was successful, rising to become captain of his own whaling ship, an Ahab (but presumably nicer) of his day. He married someone named Lucy (her last name is not recorded anywhere). Sadly, he was lost at sea as a young man of 28, in 1803.

Five years before he died, in 1798, Milo had a son, Will Woodin's great-grandfather, David Charles Woodin. David was an architect, and the last of the Woodins born in 1798 in Connecticut.

Pennsylvania, Ho!

David Woodin most likely left Oxford, Conn. in search of work. Pennsylvania was well-suited for the industrial revolution that was under way in the early 19th century, with ample coal and iron and rivers to carry them on. He was married in 1819 to Sarah Hartman (1792-1825), who was born in Catawissa, Columbia County, Pa., six years before her husband. David died, like his father, a very young man, on October 21, 1825, just 27, a month after his wife. Sarah’s brother Casper Hartman and his son and daughter-in-law were felled by an illness called the “flux”. The same illness seems to have killed David Woodin and his wife. It is considered today to have been a form of dysentery caused by bacteria or a parasite.

David and Sarah's children were William Hartman Woodin — Will Woodin's grandfather and co-founder of the Jackson & Woodin foundry — and two younger siblings, Joseph B. Woodin, and a daughter whose name is lost. All three of them were orphaned in 1825, the eldest being just five years old and the daughter aged two. These toddlers appear to have been brought up by Sarah’s brother Casper Hartman, and his wife Deborah Carr. Casper was born in Catawissa in 1777, the son of a pioneer German immigrant, Johann Wilhelm Hartman (1748-1831) from Baden Baden, Germany and a Quaker, Frances Reemy, so that there may have been some Quaker influences in the home of David Woodin.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

KENYA | Olga Marlin with Mboya Family (Updated Apr 10, 2017)

At birthday party (photo says 1975) with Alphonse, brother of Luo Leader
Tom Mboya (1930-1969) and Tom's widow Pamela and children, behind
whom is Olga. (Another Luo leader's son was U.S. President, 2009-2016.)












Tom Mboya was a fervent apostle for Kenya's freedom, following Jomo Kenyatta. However, Mboya sought to achieve independence without violence, and did not join in the Mau Mau uprisings against the British. Mboya led Kenya's second-largest tribe, the Luo, which included many Catholics and Anglicans and some Muslims like Barack Obama's father.

When Pamela Odede was engaged to be married to Tom Mboya, she attended classes at the Kianda cooking school. A graduate of Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio (now part of Miami University in Oxford) — also attended by Donna Shalala who now heads the Clinton Foundation — she decided to convert from the Anglican faith to her husband's Catholic faith. She came to several classes in Catholic doctrine with Olga Marlin.

Olga and Pamela became friends and the Mboya children called her "Auntie Olga".

JFK and Tom Mboya, assassinated six years
apart. JFK was 46 in 1963, Mboya 38 in 1969.
In her memoir, To Africa with a Dream, Olga writes about getting to know Tom Mboya. He told her several stories of how he was treated during pre-independence days (pp. 124-125, 2nd edition).

Prior to independence, Mboya worked on major documents for a future independent Kenya, including its constitution.

He also pleaded eloquently for a Marshall Plan for Africa and was appointed Minister of Economic Planning and Development in the first coalition government led by Mzee Kenyatta.

On July 5, 1969, a quiet Saturday afternoon, Mboya, was shopping downtown. He stepped into Chhani's Pharmacy to buy a bottle of lotion. When he came out, an assassin opened fire, escaping in the ensuing confusion.

Mboya was struck in the chest. Blood soaked his suede jacket. He died in an ambulance on the way to Nairobi Hospital.

Grieving Kenyans soon gathered in such numbers at the hospital that police with batons were called out to keep the crowd under control with batons.

In her memoir, Olga vividly describes how Tom Mboya's death affected her (pp. 160-162, 2nd edition).

Only 38, the handsome, articulate Tom Mboya embodied many of the qualities so urgently needed by the fledgling nations of black Africa. He saw beyond his tribe to Kenya's detribalizing urban classes. He made them his constituency. His loss was a big blow to Kenya.

Friday, April 7, 2017

PORTSMOUTH | Priory (Abbey) School 1958 and Today (Updated Apr 11, 2017)

Portsmouth Priory (as it then was called) had a community of 24 Benedictine monks when I was there in 1955-58. All but two of the monks are in the photo above. The year before, Fr Aelred ("Barney") Wall, Headmaster, was in the photo; he switched to a more contemplative monastery in my senior year. The strength of the monastery may have peaked a few years later when Luke, Paul, Anselm and Gregory became novices.

The lay faculty numbered 16 in 1958, as indicated in the photo below. So of a total teaching pool of 30 (24 monks and 16 lay), three-fifths was monastic.



As vocations to monastic life have fallen off, and older monks have gone to their eternal reward, the ratio of monks to lay staff has reversed. The lay faculty today outnumbers the monks. On the Abbey web site five monks are shown as actively involved in the school, while the Portsmouth directory shows 116 on staff.

Since 1958, the number of seniors has grown from 35 to 94 in the Class of 2017. The teaching faculty has grown from 30 to 50, supported now by, it appears, 66 listed non-teaching staff.

Similar trends are observable in other monastic institutions. Ampleforth Abbey and College in England is one of the houses of the English Benedictine Congregation (along with Downside) that founded Portsmouth. Ampleforth is one of the largest religious college-preparatory schools in the country. The number of monks has fallen at Ampleforth, from more than 100 when I was there in 1952-55 to about 30 today. 

At Ampleforth today, according to its Headmaster Fr Wulstan, who was in New York City this past week, monks are placed in roles where they can have a maximum influence on the spiritual life of the boys and girls at the school. Almost all of the teaching is now assigned to people who recruited for their teaching skills and academic background.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

VERO BEACH | Mar 12–Day of FDR's 1st Fireside Chat

Charlie Miner (Seated) and L to R: Alice Tepper
Marlin, Suzanne Hyatt, John Tepper Marlin and
Charmaine Caldwell. We were celebrating John's
75th birthday and Charlie's 95th.
Mar 12, 2017—Earlier today, on the 84th anniversary of FDR's first Fireside Chat, Alice and I were the guests for brunch of Charles Miner, Jr. in Vero Beach, Fla.

Charlie, as he calls himself (his cousins have called him Chas, pronounced Chaz), is one of three surviving grandsons of FDR's first Treasury Secretary, William H. Woodin. 

Charlie's mother Mary was the eldest daughter of Will and Nan Woodin. Mary married Charlie Miner Sr.

FDR was able to devote the time to perfecting his first Fireside Chat because he delegated the calming of the panicked financial markets entirely to Will Woodin, an unjustly forgotten Republican member (one of three recruited by FDR from the GOP) of FDR's first Cabinet.

Joining us at lunch were Charlie's daughter Charmaine Caldwell and his niece Suzanne Hyatt.

I picked up some new stories from Charlie about his life. His late wife Mary Mae (Maisie) was from the south. He had previously told me that marrying her opened up to him a part of America with which he was unfamiliar, and which he came to know more about, appreciate and love. He gave some examples and ended, as he often does, with some dry humor:
We had a man in East Hampton named George who would take care of things for us. When we had a problem, Maisie would say: "Let George do it."
Back then, the main job of girls in the south was to look pretty... nice hats, you know. We played tennis but she was more of a spectator at sports. When I stopped playing tennis I started playing golf more. 
Maisie is buried in the John's Island cemetery. It's on the river side. I asked them whether I could get a few more spots in the cemetery and they said I couldn't get as many as I wanted. I guess people are dying to get in.
Besides the first FDR Fireside Chat, we were celebrating retrospectively Charlie's 95th birthday in December and John's 75th birthday earlier in March.