Tag Archives: Harvard

Ex Libris

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant  www.drjeffreylant.com

Author’s Program Note.

First there was the thunderclap, sharp, unyielding sound overawing all, pulling me anxious from my bed; to be swiftly followed by a cascade of erratic sound, my sundered rest punctured by noises that made the end of the world seem puny and insignificant by comparison. I was alone and soon to be unhappy, bereft, no comfort, my world altered forever.

This is the story of what happened just the other day. I know that sympathetic folk worldwide will join me in my lamentation… for this is a tale any one of us could have penned and which all of us might easily share and could as easily experience.

I call it Ex Libris, and it is a sad tale.

“84 Charing Cross Road”

If you’re a Bibliophile like I am, I don’t have to introduce you to this cinema classic released in 1987. It features an adamant, opinionated, chain-smoking, wise-cracking, irreverent New York writer (is there any other kind?) expertly played by Anne Bancroft (1931-2005), a lady in love with books, the more obscure and esoteric the better. Her correspondent is a soft-spoken London-based expert in finding out-of-print English books. (perfectly rendered by Sir Anthony Hopkins b. 1937).

He has at first no clue quite how to handle this rather alarming customer; then discovers that she is what all writers and lovers of  language require, a Kindred Spirit, puckish, golden hearted, honest to a fault, friend, jousting companion, lover of words, lover of those who shape these words, dram at the ready but never to excess; willing to let the rest of us into their enthralling lives, changing us forever, even the ones who bathe infrequently and are too vocal about their ill-considered (and frequently
changed) politics.

I had absolutely no trouble adhering to the rites and precise rituals of their arcane mysteries, not just in London either, but New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Oxford, Chicago. Chicago?

Purists may wrinkle their fastidious noses but, yes, Chicago where I sprawled for hours (age 12 or so, thank you very much) in the magic caverns tottering in unimaginably lofty formations on Clark Street. Yes, Chicago, “my kind of town, Chicago is” where I often heard my mother warn me that I could have all the books I could carry but not one more. Then hear my practised wheedling for more and still more, for my mother believed in the curative powers of disintegrating fine tooled leathers and the cats which could lead you if they would to wondrous editions not yet found by my tardy and less persistent competitors. Yes, Chicago, too, by all means, and proudly.

Where have these discriminating tabbies and their erudite successors gone? I feel guilty and ashamed that I don’t know, such is the undeniable pull of these establishments and their silky inhabitants down my ages. Forgive me!

“The Look”.

I know now what I could hardly even imagine then; that I was either born with or early acquired the unquestioned demeanor and certain stance and undoubted swagger of a Bibliophile. That is to say, I was a lad for whom doors were open wherever I went, wherever books in all their aspects and appurtenances were favored, as they were widely and worldwide.

Unfavored school mates and taunting cousins (self designated sans peur et sans reproche, especially if a grid iron and locker room were involved) might deride, but they would do so at their considerable risk and undoing. Bibliophiles, remember, have the benefits of deep memory and the certainty that revenge is a dish best tasted cold.

In those long-ago days I brought home a steady stream of prizes with resounding names, grandiose certificates, the letters patent of our realm, and even Yankee cash on the barrel head. Such unanticipated (to them), irritating developments, which caused my more brawny, athletic peers to rethink their positions, and (no matter how reluctantly) to treat me with the reverence and veneration I so richly deserved. Parents of such sad scoffers might be heard, and in public, too, intoning this righteous sentiment: “Why can’t you be a scholar like Jeffrey?,” words which no doubt enlivened and encouraged the sorry lot. Their roles in life have no doubt been the better for it.

Every click a diminishment, a certain loss, a looming tragedy.

I live in the middle of the greatest constellation of words in the Great Republic, Fair Harvard and dozens of institutions of higher and other learning, over 70 such institutions just minutes away, the whole one of the greatest achievements of our species and a light to people everywhere who appreciate and advocate humane values and a world of peace, serenity, fairness, and equality, the hallmarks of this special place and its abiding message to the ages.

Generations from now historians and other researchers into our past will call this the Golden Age, the final days of what we have worked so diligently for a thousand years to create, foster, and maintain, including language and the books which enshrine it forever.

The proven vandals, the assured barbarians are not just at the gate, they are placed within our glorious precincts by our very children, placed here by committed parental thrift and scrimping; each more adept than the one before in their proven ways to eradicate what we have so loved, supported and honored; imposing standards which are no standards at all.
Come to Cambridge, to Harvard. The future is breaking here like a brand new, unwelcome dawn. As if by wizard’s wand, institutions once boasting that they were citadels of progress and the liberal arts now are teetering on the knife edge of extinction; buildings gone, faculties dismissed, the very idea of liberal arts and progress derided and dismissed; the potent weapons click by click on the agile fingertips of the young and careless, are dooming not just multitudes, useless cargo on Spaceship Earth, but our very species. Truly Father forgive them for they know not…

I’m forced to join the revolution

I have for the last many years, harbored a guilty secret. I cannot bear to send my books to other homes and foreign shores. I hide them in places where even I forget, but better work of literature misplaced by sympathetic hands than gone forever, a sacrifice to the savages and their wanton ways.

The books that fell were a small part of the thousands of books which have found sanctuary here and over the course of my entire life. They were stacked and crammed and buried and pushed and shoe-horned into a space sustained by the thickest of woods, mahoganey. Now and again I would look at them and sigh, for like “Sophie’s Choice” (1979) by William Styron, I knew I would have to make a decision, and that the decision would be unwelcome, whatever I decided to do.

And so, God stepped in, impatient with my inability to decide, and said, as sure as he’d send a telegram, “Clear the shelves of these books!” And He did.

Thus, my precious books, though only a few hundred of the total inventory, were marked for extinction, coming in the shape of the Goodwill truck from Somerville. They have pestered me often for them, and now, at last, they shall have their way. Of course I feel terribly, which is silly, isn’t it? Because as my assistant, Kris McNamara said as he helped me pick up the fruit of generations, “Everything you want is on the internet anyway, what’s the big deal?” But then, he is only 33, and can scarcely remember anything the outrage that I have lived with for so long. And so we in our turn shall be forgotten, too.

The Goodwill truck will come, life will go on, though admittedly altered and lessened. As for me, I have hidden as many of them as I can, in places no one would ever look. You see, I shall not go down without a fight, all flags flying, every page intact, every word. For even if I become known as the last man of suitable standards and goals, I shall accept that title, that honor, with gladness and pride, the stearnest demeanor… for even then there will be hope.

Envoi

Whether you have seen “84 Charing Cross Road” before (lucky), or, whether this is your first time seeing this magnificient film (lucky), this distinctly moving film, I advise you to go to any search engine and watch it. In the meantime, here is the film score to whet your appetite:

http://ow.ly/ZaYC304zvuM

In some ways, technology is a blessing.

About the author

Dr. Jeffrey Lant, Harvard educated, started writing for publication at age 5. Since then, he has published over 1,000 articles and 57 books, and counting. For information about his oeuvre, go to:

www.amazon.com/author/jeffreylant/

Remember, even rich and successful authors derive acute satisfaction from letters of ebullient content and affection.

Get a FREE Copy of “Create An E-Book Today. Publish It On Amazon.com. Profit From It for the Rest Of Your Life!” by Dr.Jeffrey Lant Get Your FREE Copy CLICK HERE

Excerpt from “My Harvard. A Love Story”

Proudly presented from the www.writerssecrets.com Book Series

Excerpts from “My Harvard. A Love Story”

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Tune in for a special reading by the author and read along with the text below.

"What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died...?" My Harvard. 
 A Love Story.

Perhaps the only shred of interest for my sister Shelby when she came to
Harvard to visit me at the time I received my first Harvard degree (1970),
was evinced when she looked at Harvard Yard and burbled some gleeful
comments of the “Look, here’s where ‘Love Story’ was filmed!” variety.

She being a younger sister, has always had a million ways to irritate me, but
that was a surefire zinger, to come to Harvard, and remember only Erich
Segal’s “Love Story” (1970), particularly the two protagonists sporting
in the snow.

Yes, instead of imagining generations of intellectual endeavor and achievement,
instead of commenting on the venerable buildings, so right for the august
institution, instead of taking a scholar’s interest in the Latin inscriptions on the
walls, mischievous and groaning puns, she commented on the lightest bit of
trivia of all, the filming of “Love Story” in the Yard.

The unbridled excitement she demonstrated was precisely what irked Segal’s
colleagues in the Classics Department at Harvard. Classicists, especially
Harvard trained classicists, must be suitably obscure, recondite, far above
the rung of common man, difficult in their personal relations. And, above all,
must be teetering on the brink of genteel bankruptcy. O tempora o mores.

Segal of course, with the publication of “Love Story”, which he wrote over a
weekend, broke every rule. His book was turned out in a minute, unendurably
pedestrian, dealing not with imperial subjects and irregular Greek verbs, but
the one subject in which we all have an often confounding interest… love.

“How long does it last?
Can love be measured by the hours in a day?
I have no answers now but this much I can say
I know I’ll need her till the stars all burn away
And she’ll be there”

This was light indeed.

This tawdry jeu d’esprit caused Segal’s Harvard stock to crash, an
embarrassment to the department. But my sister’s reaction, which so irked
me, was precisely why Segal didn’t care, grinning as he did all the way to the
bank. Harvard had found him, educated him, nurtured him, employed him,
extolled him… and he made millions embarrassing his eminent colleagues.

Harvard has everything… if you know how to find it

Erich Segal had proven what every bright and intelligent student comes to
know, that Harvard has every single thing one needs to succeed in life. The
problem is, no one tells you it’s here. For that, you must either discover it
yourself, or have an exceedingly generous mentor to help you on your way.

Segal knew that just the name Harvard was the key to the success of “Love
Story”… Can you even imagine it, set at say, Michigan State University? Just
saying this mundane name indicates how far they are from the nirvana that
emanates here in Cambridge, and permeates the world of every intelligent
person everywhere. Harvard. It is not just a place, not just an institution, but a
formula for success for those who know where to look.

Professor Mason Hammond

In my case, it was Professor Mason Hammond, Pope Professor of the Latin
Language (1903-2003). Professor Hammond must have liked me; I certainly
admired him. However, being the consummate litterateur I have become, I was
dismayed by his relative lack of published information. Still, his metier was not
in writing books, but in developing souls. He would look, assess, and decide
just what any worthy student might need, and then go about helping him find
it, for our betterment.

For instance, in my studies of European history, I had determined that I
needed to understand the crucial history of Greece, the role of the Orthodox
Church, and the scattered remnants of so many incursions by so very many
different armies and nations.

I remarked to him one day of my intention to visit Greece in just a few weeks,
in part to see Mt. Athos, the Holy Mountain. He responded, “Why then, you’ll
need a ‘dago dazzler'”. I had never heard the term before.

It was a laissez passe which recommended the traveller to senior authorities
wherever his travels took him. I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t know it existed, Hammond
might well have passed on clueing me in, but Harvard has everything if one only
knows where they can get it. It was a crucial lesson I learned from Professor
Hammond, and have never forgotten.

Harvard is not just an institution, not just a pile of ancient stones, and ancient
knowledge, it is a place where already privileged people get more and more;
as much as they need, if they are only cooperative and receptive.

Not merely instruction

I went to Harvard not just because Harvard accepted me, but because
Harvard has an insider’s system of opening its vast worldwide resources, which
the people of the next generation can use to their best advantage. Harvard is
like a rich uncle who means to supports you throughout your life, if only you
have the good sense to welcome and befriend your benefactor.

Most people, even many Harvard people, go through life uninformed, uneducated,
and completely clueless on the benefits in front of them. In my case, that meant
creating a program for inviting eminent people from Harvard and those visiting the
area.

I was appointed a tutor at Dudley House. The master was well known nutritionist
Professor Jean Mayer (1920-1993). I explained to Professor Mayer, whose
assistant I thus became, my idea for a special lunch program. It would bring any
number of celebrated people to Harvard, and of course to him, and place them in
close proximity with the students, who would thereby get an extra educational
advantage. He, a snob of the deepest hue himself, immediately saw the advantages
of my delivering a steady stream of celebrities. “Here’s a few bucks,” he said, “let’s
see what you can do with it.”

And thus my nimble fingers sped rapidly over the keys of my much loved and travelled
Olivetti typewriter. When my father died, he had arranged to send me a mahogany
box he had built himself, which was filled with information about me he had been
collecting his entire life. In this box were my typed letters to him in which I listed the
people I had invited to a tea party, or a lunch party with typical student fare. One letter
in this sequence speaks for all…

I found a letter I had received from Alger Hiss (1904-1996), made infamous by
Richard Nixon’s red-baiting in the 1940’s. Hiss had been found guilty of perjury,
a charge stemming from allegations that he was spying on behalf of the U.S.S.R.,
and served three and a half years in prison. I thought the students of Harvard
should hear what he had to say for himself, so many years later. In his response,
Hiss informed me he couldn’t come to a luncheon just at that moment, but would I
please ask him again?

This was typical of me, of Mayer, and of Harvard in general. We did not want to
read about history in a book, we wanted to meet the people who made it, and hear
what they had to say. And so, I commenced with a will…

The Wicked Witch of the West

In this program, Margaret Hamilton (1902-1985), best known as the Wicked
Witch of the West from “The Wizard of Oz”, came, snuggled against me, and
gave me a kiss which promised much, and was no mere formality. Henry Cabot
Lodge Jr. (1902-1985), ambassador to everywhere, came and proved the adage
against him “I never met a man I liked.”

Pulitzer Prize winning poet Anne Sexton (1928-1974) came, and a rumor was
launched that I was having an affair with her. Her daughter believed it. She hinted
as much in her biography of her mother, brought to my attention by my mother.
But my role was not carnal, but care giver. Julia Child (1912-2004) came to lunch
with me too, and said the carrots were watery. She was a certified charmer.

Frank Capra (1897-1991), one of the most influential U.S. film directors with a
pocket full of classics came. I think of him every Christmas, when Jimmy Stewart
and Donna Reed show us why “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Emlyn Williams (1905-1987), a famous Welsh author whose autobiography
“The Corn is Green” gave him a platform for one of Bette Davis’s more notable
performances, came. Newly elected U.S. Representative (future Kentucky
governor) Carroll Hubbard (b. 1937) came, and newly elected U.S.
Representative (future New Jersey governor) James Florio (b. 1937) came.

Philip Hoff (b. 1924) came, the first Democratic governor of Vermont in over a
century. He sat drinking in my room for hours, the reason this charming and bright
man was never a candidate for a national office which he would have served so
well. And so many more…
No one told me to do this, no one urged me to do this, I just did it, and thereby
received an award for services to Harvard College. I didn’t need it, I didn’t ask for
it, I was grateful for it, but I would have done it just as I did it, even without any
recognition. And still more came…

Cardinal Humberto Medeiros (1915-1983) came. I sensed he was lonely, and was
glad to befriend him. He liked me, and it showed. Thanks to him, my mug was on
the front page of “The Crimson”, arm in arm with His Eminence. Massachusetts
State Senator Joseph Timilty (b. 1938) came. He travelled with the man we called
“the Waterboy”, Thomas Menino (1942-2014). Timilty ended up in prison. What ever
happened to Menino, anyway?

Jimmy Carter (b. 1924) came, and promised he would never lie to me, a statement
which immediately made me suspect him. Senator George McGovern (1922-2012)
came, and I stood waiting to be of assistance, while he, pale and wan, struggled to
help his only son through the depths of his addictions. It was painful watching him,
knowing how much he wanted to help, but could not.

“Where do I begin to tell the story of how great a love can be?”

I have a confession to make. I have loved Harvard my entire life. One day, when I
was about 11 or 12, my parents asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I
can remember just where we were when they asked me, in the car in our garage,
getting ready for some excursion. So family legend goes. I didn’t pause for a second.
“I want to be a millionaire, write best-selling books, and go to Harvard!” This prompt
detailed response prompted consternation.

No one from my town had ever gone to Harvard, no one in my family had ever gone to
Harvard. I was just an ambitious boy from the prairies with big ideas, and no
immediate way of achieving them. I’m sure my parents brushed it off as yet
another one of my exaggerated declarations.

But, in truth, right from that moment, I was Harvard-bound, in my mind, if nowhere
else. I loved Harvard from the first day I stepped foot in Cambridge… Labor Day
weekend, 1969. I had $44 in my pocket, knew no one, had no place to live, had
never been East before, and had an incipient case of Mononucleosis. As I have
written before, it was the happiest day of my life.

“She fills my heart with very special things
Angel songs and wild imaginings”

And now, it is my privilege, through the pages of this book, to provide you with
a glimpse of this special world, and my place in it. Every decision has consequences.
Going to Harvard had immense consequences for me, for the people I love, and
my entire life. There have, over the last 40 years or more, been the usual lover’s quarrels
and spats, the usual quota of irritations and aggravations on both sides, but through
it all, I never fell out of love, and never expect to.

“With her first hello
She gave new meaning to this empty world of mine
They’ll never be another love another time”

Shelby, this is the love story I had hoped you would find in Harvard Yard. And
so, I dedicate this book to you.

Musical note

The lyric music accompanying this Introduction, composed by Francis Lai with
lyrics by Carl Sigman, must of course be the theme for “Love Story”. It
perfectly captures the wistful mood of a time and place gone forever, and
remembered with love… and some sadness.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjbQY8_vk1M

A special note on and for Erich Segal ’58

In 1982, I came up with the bright idea of editing a book of essays on Harvard
by some of its eminent graduates. Erich Segal was one of the authors who
contributed — for a pittance — to this notable volume. The result was called
“Our Harvard. Reflections on College Life by Twenty-two Distinguished
Graduates”.

This book, literally a labor of love, has sold well since its publication so long ago.
This is due to the skill of Segal and his twenty-one Harvard colleagues. You
can get your copy by going to www.amazon.com and entering my name,
Jeffrey Lant. You’ll see at once why it has weathered the test of time, and is
such a good read.

While there pick up your copy of “My Harvard. A Love Story”

Get a FREE Copy of “Create An E-Book Today. Publish It On Amazon.com. Profit From It for the Rest Of Your Life!” by Dr.Jeffrey Lant Get Your FREE Copy CLICK HERE

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