Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Jack Matthews (1925-2013)

Jack Matthews has been gone for almost a year now and the world is a diminished place. This past weekend, I went to the book sale at the Athens County Public Library, a place he frequented, and found one of his books, The Charisma Campaigns from 1972. I read the book straight through last night. I must say what a pleasure it is to read the work of Jack Matthews. On every page, you will find a gem of a sentence, scene, insight, or line of dialogue or description. The Charisma Campaigns is one of the funniest books I have ever read, but you would be wrong to think that because it's funny, it's also a bit of fluff. The book reminds me a little of Portnoy's Complaint, another very funny book that turns out to be serious in its intent. It comes as no surprise to me that Walker Percy nominated The Charisma Campaigns for a National Book Award. Like Jack Matthews, Walker Percy was a writer who was at once funny and serious. The Charisma Campaigns reminds me of a Percy novel (or one by Saul Bellow) in which a man in his middle years finds himself in crisis. There is even a bit of one of Percy's favorite topics, semiotics, in Mr. Matthews' book. Oddly enough--and of interest to the Appalachian Ohio reader--there is also mention of Ambrose Bierce (a native of Meigs County) and the collapse of the Silver Bridge. Odder still, for me, there is a kind of coincidence in reading about the protagonist's eccentric brother, who keeps his collection in a number of railroad cars on his property, and of the death last week of former U.S. Representative Phillip Crane, whose father, George Crane, moved a railroad car onto his family farm in Hillsboro, Indiana, where it remains.

The photograph above is from before Jack Matthews' fiftieth birthday and shows him smoking a cigar--perhaps a Dutch Masters panatella--and sporting a string tie like his Charisma Campaigns protagonist, Regius "Rex" McCoy. The events in the book come to an end in October, a month just passed and one of nostalgia and bittersweetness. Jack Matthews died in November 2013, nearly a year ago as I write this. He inscribed the copy of his book that I found this weekend in December 1975, almost forty years ago now. As Mattie Ross in True Grit says, "Time just gets away from us." You might say also that it does away with us, but Jack Matthews will go on living in the memories of the people who knew him (or like me, knew of him), and when we are all gone, in his books, which are so full of life and living.

Original text copyright 2014 Terence E. Hanley
Photograph by Max Schaible
Jacket design by Lawrence Ratzkin

Monday, October 6, 2014

Armstrong Sperry (1897-1976)

Armstrong Wells Sperry was born on November 7, 1897, in New Haven, Connecticut, and attended the Yale School of Art and the Art Students League. During World War I he served in the U.S. Navy, and in the 1920s he traveled in the South Seas. Returning to New York City, Sperry found work as a commercial artist and illustrator. His first book for children was published in 1933. Call It Courage was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1941.

The book shown here, The Amazon: River Sea of Brazil, is from 1961 and a series called "Rivers of the World Books." It is illustrated with photographs and with maps by Sam Galy. The jacket design is by Ernest Kurt Barth.

Armstrong Sperry died on April 26, 1976, at age seventy-eight.

Original text copyright 2014 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, July 7, 2014

Anne Marie Jauss (1902-1991)

Anne Marie Jauss, daughter of two painters, Georg Jauss and Caroline Jauss, was born in Munich on February 3, 1902. She studied in Munich, Merano, and Stuttgart, then at the State School of Applied Arts in Munich. Anne Marie became a painter and was noticed in her home city and in Berlin, but in 1932, fearing the coming Nazi regime, she emigrated to Portugal, where she remained for fourteen years. Living in and around Lisbon, she made her living as a painter, illustrator, interior architect, designer, and ceramic artist. In 1946, she removed to New York, afterwards to New Jersey, where she built a house in 1962 and where she lived out the rest of her days. Anne Marie illustrated more than seventy books, mostly children's books. One, The Pasture, was her own, and she won a prize for it. Anne Marie Jauss died on September 13, 1991, in Milford, New Jersey, at age eighty-nine.

Original text copyright 2014 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Jack Matthews (1925-2013)

I learned yesterday that Jack Matthews died last year. I regret that I didn't know about his death until yesterday. I regret more that I never knew him, although I saw him often for several years. John Harold Matthews was born on July 22, 1925, in Columbus, Ohio. His résumé‎ alone makes interesting reading, but you can find that on your own. Mr. Matthews was a novelist, short story writer, poet, playwright, essayist, professor of English, and book collector. He was a regular at the local library book sale. Always in good humor, he spoke to everyone he knew and some he didn't. Invariably he wore a sport coat and a bolo tie. Jack Matthews died on Thanksgiving morning, November 28, 2013. I was away and didn't learn of his passing until yesterday when I picked up one of his books at the library. It is called Hanger Stout, Awake!, and it was Jack Matthews' first novel, published in 1967. I have read the first chapter and I am hooked--or maybe I should say I'm hanging on each word.

Jacket design by Robin Sherwood
Original text copyright 2014 Terence E. Hanley