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Two Ransom Center authors long listed for 2011 Man Booker Prize

By Alicia Dietrich

Cover of 'The Sense of an Ending' by Julian Barnes.
Cover of 'The Sense of an Ending' by Julian Barnes.

Authors Julian Barnes and Sebastian Barry, both featured in the Ransom Center’s current exhibition Culture Unbound: Collecting in the Twenty-First Century, were selected for the long list of nominees for the Man Booker Prize. The Ransom Center holds the archives of Barnes and Barry.

Barnes was nominated for his novel The Sense of an Ending, and Barry was nominated for On Canaan’s Side. Both are previous nominees for the award.

Barnes has been shortlisted three times for the prize: in 2005 for Arthur and George, in 1998 for England, England, and in 1984 for Flaubert’s Parrot. Barry was previously shortlisted in 2008 for The Secret Scripture and in 2005 for A Long Long Way.

Cover of 'On Canaan's Side' by Sebastian Barry.
Cover of 'On Canaan's Side' by Sebastian Barry.

Materials from both authors can be seen in the Ransom Center’s galleries in Culture Unbound, which is on display through Sunday, July 31.

The shortlist of six authors will be announced on September 6, and the winner of the 2011 Man Booker Prize for Fiction will be announced on October 18.

To celebrate this news, Cultural Compass will be giving away signed copies of books by each author. To be eligible to win, tweet a link to this blog post and mention @ransomcenter. If you’re not on Twitter, send an email to hrcgiveaway@gmail.com with “Booker Prize” in the subject line. All tweets and emails must be sent by midnight CST, and winners will be drawn and notified tomorrow. [Update: Winners have been drawn and notified.]

In the Galleries: "Love and Relationships"

By Christine Lee

Photo by Anthony Maddaloni.
Photo by Anthony Maddaloni.

In one of Tennessee Williams’s early writings in which he interviews himself, he identifies his audience as “the wild at heart kept in cages.” He also notes that the play Battle of Angels is a prayer for “more tolerance and respect for the wild and lyric impulses that the human heart feels and so often is forced to repress in order to avoid social censure and worse.”

The human heart and its freedom becomes a theme in both of the current exhibitions, whether about the personal life and work of Tennessee Williams, as seen in Becoming Tennessee Williams, or in the characters and novels featured in Culture Unbound: Collecting in the Twenty-First Century.

Williams’s draft of The Glass Menagerie, when it was still titled The Gentleman Caller, represents Williams’s personal and professional life. You see him working through what will become his iconic play, but you also see doodles and a dedication to his grandma Rose, who “perforated the lid of my own particular cubicle, thus preventing suffocation and allowing me to continue certain activities inside.” Another important Rose in his life was his sister, whose correspondence to her brother demonstrates their close bond. She writes: “The memory of your gentle, sleepy, sick body and face are such a comfort to me… if I die you will know that I miss you 24 hours a day.”

A more tempestuous relationship is brought to a close in an elegantly written letter from Williams to former lover Pancho Rodriguez. Williams writes: “One thing for which I don’t pity myself is the two years we spent together… You were you, wild, wonderful, a poem.” He caringly instructs Rodriguez to “keep faith with all the beautiful things in your heart… Walk tall, walk proud through this world.”

The exhibition demonstrates how film adaptations modified relationships in Williams’s written work. In Sweet Bird of Youth, the ending was changed to achieve a happy Hollywood resolution, and in A Streetcar Named Desire, the dialog about Blanche’s first love was heavily revised to appease the censors.

Culture Unbound: Collecting in the Twenty-First Century reiterates the topic of love and relationships, specifically in writings by Tim O’Brien, Don DeLillo, and James Salter. In Tim O’Brien’s typescript from The Things They Carried for the chapter “Stockings,” love supersedes borders and war zones. Henry Dobbins uses his girlfriend’s pantyhose as a talisman, and we see O’Brien crafting the passage, crossing through lines and adding a large handwritten section of notes. The story ends with the girlfriend breaking up with Henry, but the power of the remembered love keeps him, and his fellow soldiers, going.

A strong marriage bond connects Jack Gladney and his current wife Babette in Don DeLillo’s White Noise. Gladney muses: “Sometimes I think our love is inexperienced. The question of dying becomes a wise reminder. It cures us of our innocence of the future. Simple things are doomed, or is that a superstition?” He continues: “Babette and I tell each other everything… turned our lives for each other’s thoughtful regard, turned them in the moonlight in our pale hands, spoken deep into the night… In these night recitations we create a space between things as we felt them at the time and as we speak them now.” DeLillo’s handwritten notes for the novel are featured in the exhibition.

James Salter’s novel The Light Years charts the trajectory of another marriage. At the start, the husband, Viri, “wants to enter the aura surrounding her [his wife], to be accepted… [but] soon after they were married, perhaps an hour after… the desperate, unbearable affection vanished, and in its place was a young woman of twenty condemned to live with him… the mistake she knew she would have to make was made at last… She had accepted the limitations of her life.” Later in the novel Nedra explains how impossible it is to live with her husband and summarizes it as “what turns you to powder, being ground between what you can’t do and what you must do. You just turn to dust.” The novel portrays what happens when one’s heart’s passion is not pursued, as Williams seems to warn against in his “prayer for the wild at heart kept in cages.”

The exhibitions are rich with original materials that give glimpses into human emotion, fictional and personal. Becoming Tennessee Williams and Culture Unbound: Collecting in the Twenty-First Century are on view through July 31, 2011.

In the galleries: Mailer's character timeline for "Harlot's Ghost"

By Courtney Reed

Norman Mailer's character timeline for 'Harlot's Ghost.' Click image to view larger version.
Norman Mailer's character timeline for 'Harlot's Ghost.' Click image to view larger version.

Norman Mailer was among the most prominent cultural and literary figures in late twentieth-century America. His talent as a writer was apparent early in his career; he received a Pulitzer Prize nomination for his debut novel, The Naked and the Dead, which was published in 1948 when he was only 25 years old. In the 1950s Mailer began publishing commentary about such topics as race, feminism, sexuality, politics, literature, art, culture, and society, in magazines including Dissent, Esquire, Partisan Review, and The Village Voice, which he co-founded in 1955.

Norman Mailer’s 1991 novel, Harlot’s Ghost, is a sprawling, 1,300-page chronicle of the Central Intelligence Agency that blends both fictional and factual characters and events.

On a detailed timeline of the novel, Mailer charts world events and various characters’ activities over more than five years. Mailer created a systematic grid; dates on the left side chronicle the events of various subject headings that run across the top of the chart, including Hunt & Cuban Exiles, JFK, and Judith Campbell. The timeline is covered in pencil and black, red, green, and blue ink.

The chart can be seen in the current exhibition Culture Unbound: Collecting in the Twenty-First Century, on display through July 31.

Mailer remained a prolific writer and cultural commentator throughout his long and colorful career. The Ransom Center acquired Mailer’s archive, which fills more than 1,000 archival boxes and makes it the Ransom Center’s largest single-author collection, in 2005.

In the galleries: Bob Woodward's typed notes about his meeting with Deep Throat

By Courtney Reed

Bob Woodward's typed notes about his meeting with Deep Throat.
Bob Woodward's typed notes about his meeting with Deep Throat.

Between 1972 and 1976, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein broke one of the biggest stories in American politics. Beginning with their investigation of a burglary at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex, Woodward and Bernstein uncovered a series of crimes that eventually led to the indictments of 40 White House and administration officials and ultimately to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. While reporting on the scandal for The Washington Post and for their subsequent books, Woodward and Bernstein kept all of their notes and drafts. The result is a meticulous record of the Watergate scandal from beginning to end, providing a behind-the-scenes perspective into the nature of investigative journalism, the American political process, and the Nixon presidency.

Bob Woodward’s secret source about the Watergate scandal, famously referred to by the reporters and their editors as “Deep Throat,” was identified as FBI Associate Director Mark Felt in 2005.

In his typed notes from an early morning parking garage meeting on October 9, 1972, Woodward simply refers to the exchange with Felt as “interview with x.” These notes can be seen in the Ransom Center’s current exhibition Culture Unbound: Collecting in the Twenty-First Century, on display through July 31.

Woodward’s notes with Felt were used for the October 10, 1974 Washington Post story that exposed the Watergate burglary as part of a larger plan. The notes, marked up with spelling corrections and asterisks, quote Felt saying, “no names but everyone in the book.”

Soon after winning the Pulitzer Prize for their reporting in May 1973, Woodward and Bernstein signed a contract with Simon and Schuster to write a book about Watergate. Working nights and weekends while still covering the scandal for The Washington Post, the reporters tried several approaches, including telling the story from the burglars’ perspective. In an early outline of the book, the reporters briefly describe a day in the life of many of the major conspirators. Eventually Woodward and Bernstein decided to tell the story of their own investigation of the break-in and cover-up.

In 1976 the film version of Woodward and Bernstein’s 1974 book, All the President’s Men, was a box office success. In the publicity surrounding the film, Woodward and Bernstein received as much notoriety as the stars who portrayed them, Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman.