Sunday, March 12, 2006

Hemingway Liked Oysters: Corrections & Amplifications

Modern pronunciation ... Last Sunday we went to New Canaan to walk around Irwin Park and look at the Gores Pavilion, a small pool house designed by Landis Gores. The town of New Canaan bought the park but is threatening to tear the house down. Here’s what I wrote; it led to the discovery that I did not know the correct pronunciation of the architect’s name:

The house was designed in 1959 by Landis Gores for Jack Irwin, a lawyer, an ambassador (to France) and an Undersecretary of State, and his wife, Jane Watson, whose father happened to be the founder of IBM. Gores designed it as a pool house and personal lodge for the Irwins, and it is set among the pines and hemlocks a hundred yards or so from the Irwins' more conventional house and carriage house, between a well-pruned apple orchard and fields of little bluestem grass. New Canaan bought the property as a park a couple of years ago and is in the process of trying to figure out what to do with the houses. The New Canaan Historical Society, a champion of preserving modern architecture, has put together a friends group, which sent out a letter last week:

"The Town of New Canaan has given the Friends of the Gores Pavilion a very short time to come up with a plan to save this iconic building and provide access for all; otherwise it faces demolition. …"

Gores (his name is pronounced Land-iss Gore-ayz) was one of the Harvard Five architects (Breuer, Johnson, Noyes and Johansen were the others) who lived and worked in New Canaan in the years after World War II (only Johansen survives).

A few days later I received the following e-mail:

Dear Mr. Andersen:

It was with interest I read your article about the Irwin Pool House in New Canaan, Ct.

T.J.Watson bought the land and an handsome well-built house probably in the 1930's
It was not winterized and the second Mrs. Irwin demolished it and built another on the same site.
It is surprising you were able to enter the little house as we were told it was securely locked.

My husbands first name is pronounced as it is spelled. His mother's family surname was Landis and the settled in Pa. long ago. Gores rhymes with Doris.

Thank you for your articles about the "modern" houses.


Pamela W. Gores
(Mrs. Landis Gores)

Bullwhips ... About a year ago, after we had returned from a skiing trip to the Alps, I wrote this post, about a fad, as I termed it, that I found slightly annoying. Every evening, village boys would emerge from their houses carrying bullwhips and spend two ro three hours cracking them, the gunshot noises reverberating off the stone houses.

Out of the blue I received the following email two days ago:

Hello Mr Andersen

Far from being a 'fad', whips have been a part of Swiss life for many centuries. Their use in agriculture has largely faded away, but they still feature prominently in folk tradition and play a role in a number of festivals.

It is quite usual for young people to practice, especially around the dates of some of these festivals.

This page gives a little bit of info on such festivals, and on the types of whip used:

What you experienced was as much a part of Swiss life as the alpine villages and mountains.

D. Branch
English Whips

Ernest ... And finally, I reported back in July, in a post about whether the eastern oyster should be put on the endangered species list, the sentiment that Ernest Hemingway was not a fan of oysters.

"I will not eat oysters. I want my food dead." I think I found that quote in a book by MFK Fisher. Where she found it, I don’t know. But when I read it and wrote it down, I had forgotten about this passage, from A Moveable Feast, which I reread again last week:

I closed up the story in my notebook and put it in my inside pocket and I asked the waiter for a dozen portugaises and a half-carafe of the dry white wine they had there. After writing a story I was always empty and both sad and happy, as though I had made love, and I was sure this was a very good story although I would not know truly how good until I read it over the next day.

As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.


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