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By The New Yorker Magazine
Published by Modern Library on 2016-07-05
Following on the previous anthology, The 40s (2014), the editors of the New Yorker continue to mine the magazine’s impossibly rich history.
Superb: a gift that keeps on giving and a fine introduction to the life and letters of a supposedly (but not really) gray decade.
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The 50S THE STORY OF A DECADE
50STHE The Story of a Decade T H E N E W Y O R K E R Edited by Henry Finder Introduction by David Remnick MODERN LIBRARY New York
2016 Modern Library Trade Paperback Edition Copyright ? 2015 by The New Yorker Magazine Illustrations copyright ? 2015 by Simone Massoni All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Modern Library, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. Modern Library and the Torchbearer colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC. Originally published in hardcover in the United States by Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC, in 2015. All pieces in this collection were originally published in The New Yorker. The publication dates are given at the beginning or end of each piece. library of congress catalogingin-publication data The 50s: the story of a decade / The New Yorker; edited by Henry Finder; introduction by David Remnick. pages cm isbn 978-0-8129-8330-2 ebook isbn 978-0-679-64482-8 1. United States? Civilization'1945? 2. Nineteen 'fties. I. Finder, Henry, editor. II. New Yorker (New York, N.Y.: 1925) III. Title: Fifties. e169.12.a187 2015 973.92'dc23 2015030067 Printed in the United States of America on acidfree paper randomhousebooks.com modernlibrary.com 246897531 Book design by Simon M. Sullivan
Contents Introduction? '? David Remnick? xi PART ONE ? AMERICAN SCENES A Note by Elizabeth Kolbert? 3 Success (On Jackie Robinson, TV salesman)? '? J O H N GR AHAM AN D R EX L AR D N E R 7 Fallout (On radioactive debris)? '? DAN I E L L AN G 9 Ahab and Nemesis (On Rocky Marciano vs. Archie Moore)? '? A . J . LI E B LI N G 25 Mr. Hunter's Grave (On a Staten Island cemetery)? '? J OS E PH M ITCH E LL 39 The Cherubs Are Rumbling (On juvenile gangs)? '? WALTE R B E R N STE I N 68 PART TWO ? ARTISTS & ENTERTAINERS A Note by Rebecca Mead? 93 The Perfect Glow (On Oscar Hammerstein II)? '? PH I LI P HAM B U RGE R 97 Throw the Little Old Lady Down the Stairs! (On John Huston and the making of The Red Badge of Courage)? '? LI LLIAN ROS S 112 Humility, Concentration, and Gusto (On Marianne Moore)? '? WI NTH RO P SARGE ANT 136 The Duke in His Domain (On Marlon Brando in Kyoto)? '? TR U MAN CAPOTE 159
vi? '? CONTENTS A Woman Entering a Taxi in the Rain (On Richard Avedon)? '? WI NTH RO P SARGE ANT 191 PART THREE ? SHIFTING GROUNDS A Note by Jill Lepore? 213 The Foolish Things of the World (On Dorothy Day)? '? DWI GHT MACDO NALD 217 Notes and Comment (On the case against Senator McCarthy)? '? E . B . WH ITE 238 The Psychosemanticist Will See You Now, Mr. Thurber (On 'fties jargon)? '? JAM E S TH U R B E R 241 A Meeting in Atlanta (On an NAACP assembly)? '? B E R NAR D TAPE R 249 Letter from Chicago (On the Democratic Convention)? '? R I CHAR D H . ROVE R E 268 Letter from San Francisco (On the Republican Convention)? '? R I CHAR D H . ROVE R E 277 Letter from Washington (On Eisenhower and Little Rock)? '? R I CHAR D H . ROVE R E 286 PART FOUR ? FAR-'FLUNG A Note by Evan Osnos? 295 No One but the Glosters (On a Korean War battle)? '? E . J . K AH N , J R . 299 The Seventeenth of June (On an uprising in East Germany)? '? J OS E PH WECH S B E RG 308 The Old Boys (On Chiang Kai-'shek)? '? E M I LY HAH N 329 Letter from Paris (On the Algerian War)? '? JAN ET F L AN N E R 346 Letter from Gaza (On refugees in the Strip)? '? A . J . LI E B LI N G 350 Cuban Interlude (On Cuba and its rebels)? '? N O R MAN LEWI S 358
CONTENTS? '? vii PART FIVE ? TAKES A Note by Malcolm Gladwell? 375 Characters Ernest Hemingway? '? LI LLIAN ROS S 379 Jackson Pollock? '? B E RTO N RO U ECH ? 381 Toots Shor? '? J O H N BAI N B R I DGE 383 Harold Ross? '? E . B . WH ITE 387 Sylvester Weaver? '? TH O MA S WH ITE S I D E 390 Emily Post? '? GEO F F R EY T. H E LLMAN 394 Frank Lloyd Wright? '? GEO F F R EY T. H E LLMAN 396 Bobby Fischer? '? B E R NAR D TAPE R 399 Mort Sahl? '? WH ITN EY BALLI ET T 402 Leonard Bernstein? '? RO B E RT R I CE 404 Lorraine Hansberry? '? LI LLIAN ROS S 408 Computers I.B.M.'s New Brain? '? J O H N B ROO KS 413 The Nim Machine? '? R EX L AR D N E R 415 Data Processing Systems? '? J O H N B ROO KS 418 Election Results via Univac? '? PH I LI P HAM B U RGE R 420 The Perceptron Simulator? '? HAR D I N G MA SO N 423 Curious Developments The Home Freezer? '? B R E N DAN GI LL 425 Jazz Class at Columbia? '? WH ITN EY BALLI ET T 427 Vaccinating Against Polio? '? J O H N M CN U LT Y 430 Marketing Miltown? '? TH O MA S WH ITE S I D E 432 Rock 'n? Roll's Young Enthusiasts? '? DWI GHT MACDO NALD 436 The Push-'Button Phone? '? HAR R I ET B E N EZ R A 440 The Arrival of Videotape? '? LO U I S P. FO R STE R 443 The Quiz-'Show Scandals? '? J O H N U PD I KE 446
viii? '? CONTENTS PART SIX ? THE CRITICS A Note by Adam Gopnik? 453 Books The Vision of the Innocent (On The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger)? '? S . N . B E H R MAN 459 Green on Doting (On Henry Green)? '? V. S . PR ITCH ET T 466 Black Man's Burden (On Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison)? '? ANTH O NY WE ST 470 The Book-'of-'the-'Millennium Club (On Mortimer Adler's Great Books set)? '? DWI GHT MACDO NALD 475 Doctor Life and His Guardian Angel (On Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak)? '? E D M U N D WI L SO N 487 The Current Cinema Good Tough Stuff (On On the Waterfront)? '? J O H N M CCARTE N 504 No Sanctuary (On The 400 Blows)? '? J O H N M CCARTE N 506 The Theatre Bouquets, Brickbats, and Obituaries (On Guys and Dolls)? '? WO LCOT T GI B B S 508 Something to Remember Us By (On Cat on a Hot Tin Roof )? '? WO LCOT T GI B B S 510 Beep the Meem (On Marcel Marceau)? '? WO LCOT T GI B B S 513 Shaw with Music (On My Fair Lady)? '? WO LCOT T GI B B S 515 Points West (On A Raisin in the Sun)? '? KE N N ETH T YNAN 517 Cornucopia (On Gypsy)? '? KE N N ETH T YNAN 519 Television Peeping Funt (On Candid Camera)? '? PH I LI P HAM B U RGE R 523 Bananas in General (On TV comedians)? '? J O H N L AR D N E R 525 Thoughts on Radio-'Televese (On on-'the-'air language)? '? J O H N L AR D N E R 530
CONTENTS? '? ix Art & Architecture Extremists (On Jackson Pollock et al.)? '? RO B E RT M . COATE S 534 Styles and Personalities (On an Abstract Expressionism show)? '? RO B E RT M . COATE S 536 The Mud Wasps of Manhattan (On tall buildings gone wrong)? '? LEWI S M U M FO R D 539 The Roaring Traf'c's Boom (On a congested metropolis)? '? LEWI S M U M FO R D 544 The Lesson of the Master (On the Seagram building)? '? LEWI S M U M FO R D 550 Music Jazz Records (On Sonny Rollins and Thelonious Monk)? '? WH ITN EY BALLI ET T 559 Man with a Manner (On Glenn Gould at Carnegie Hall)? '? WI NTH RO P SARGE ANT 561 Jazz Records (On Coleman Hawkins)? '? WH ITN EY BALLI ET T 563 PART SEVEN ? POETRY A Note by Paul Muldoon? 571 Boy at the Window? '? R I CHAR D WI LB U R 574 Frau Bauman, Frau Schmidt, and Frau Schwartze? '? TH EO DO R E RO ETH KE 574 Love for a Hand? '? K AR L S HAPI RO 576 The Artist? '? WI LLIAM CAR LOS WI LLIAM S 577 Living in Sin? '? AD R I E N N E CECI LE R I CH 578 Questions of Travel? '? E LIZ AB ETH B I S H O P 579 Sparrows? '? HAYD E N CAR R UTH 581 First Things First? '? W. H . AU D E N 582 Voices from the Other World? '? JAM E S M E R R I LL 583 Mussel Hunter at Rock Harbor? '? SYLVIA PL ATH 585 Just How Low Can a Highbrow Go When a Highbrow Lowers His Brow'? '? OGD E N NA S H 588 The Arctic Ox? '? MAR IAN N E M OO R E 589 The Goodnight? '? LO U I S S I M PSO N 591
x? '? CONTENTS Lying Awake? '? W. D. S N O DGR A S S 593 The Road Back? '? AN N E S EXTO N 594 PART EIGHT ? FICTION A Note by Jonathan Franzen? 597 Taste? '? ROALD DAH L 601 No Place for You, My Love? '? EU DO R A WE LT Y 614 The Other Paris? '? MAVI S GALL ANT 632 Six Feet of the Country? '? NAD I N E GO R D I M E R 652 Pnin? '? VL AD I M I R NABO KOV 663 The State of Grace? '? HARO LD B RO D KEY 677 The Country Husband? '? J O H N CH E EVE R 687 The Happiest I've Been? '? J O H N U PD I KE 711 Defender of the Faith? '? PH I LI P ROTH 725 Acknowledgments? 753 Contributors? 755
Introduction TH E N EW YORKER IN TH E FIFTIES David Remnick Jwandereddrawersday, ust the other feeling a ripple of melancholy after cleaning out desk and stacking books into orange moving crates, I into the of'ce next to mine. After ninety years in a micro-? pocket of midtown bordered by Times Square and Bryant Park, The New Yorker was heading to new quarters, at the southern tip of Manhattan. My colleague Pamela Maffei McCarthy greeted me at her door and, with a sly smile, pressed on me four fat folders. 'You're going to want to look at these,' she said. As deputy editor, Pam may have accumulated more 'les than anyone else in our of'ces, so I suspected that she was attempting a wily offloading maneuver, sticking me with a papery hillock of old expense reports. No backsies! But, after I took the 'les to my desk and started to sort through the delicate onion'skin pages, I realized that this was treasure'? hundreds of editing memos written by Harold Ross, who founded The New Yorker, in 1925, and ran it for a generation. The memos were dated 1950 and 1951, his last two years alive. Ross was suffering from lung cancer and other painful maladies in those 'nal years, but his eccentric, unstoppable obsessiveness, his unembarrassed habit of questioning every matter of grammar, usage, and fact, no matter how niggling, seemed undiminished. Encountering 'Bird of Passage,' a short story by a pup writer named Roger Angell, Ross riddled the query pages with numbered points of contention, a spray of editorial buckshot. A few pellets:
xii? '? INTRODUCTION I was told recently that banks stay open until 4 o'clock. Do people say executive, i.e., use it in conversation. It's pretty much of a writer's word. It is my recollection that most hotels have uncarpeted marble or floors that look like marble. Reading John Cheever's short story 'Clancy in the Tower of Babel,' Ross responds, 'One technical point in this piece bothers me. Cheever has Clancy, his elevator man Clancy, around the building early in the morning and late of the evening.' .' .' . I think under union rules, which govern these things, elevator men gain the day shift by seniority.' He senses that a reporting piece from Berlin by Joseph Wechsberg is overly sympathetic: 'I still think it is too soon for us to go pro-'German.' And, as he considers an essay by Lionel Trilling, you can practically hear the sigh of a man who set out to create a 'comic weekly? surrendering to the demands of a graver sensibility: 'I suppose there's no other way of doing this, but it always bothers me when a reviewer writes as if he's talking the book over with someone who has already read it, and knows what's on p. 236.' In those days, Ross had to spend many days in the hospital. He was quick to disappointment and exasperation, and yet he had a successor in mind, an editor as seemingly recessive in manner as he had been aggressive and incandescent. William Shawn, a shy newspaperman from Chicago, worked in the early thirties for Ross as an 'idea man.' Ben Yagoda writes in About Town, an excellent history of the magazine, that on Shawn's 'rst two days on the job he conceived ideas for ten Talk pieces, including the 'Jac Mac Famous School of Acrobatics'; pigeon farms on Manhattan rooftops; a rat exterminator on Riker's Island; and George Selkirk, the talented, if not quite immortal, out'elder whose destiny it was to replace Babe Ruth in right for the Yankees. Shawn made his mark as an editor by directing the magazine's coverage of the Second World War. Ross came to think of him as indispensable. As he wrote to Kay Boyle, in 1949, 'I can't do anything with Shawn away, for the future is in his head.' When Ross died in December 1951, Raoul Fleischmann, the magazine's owner, appointed Shawn. He remained in the job for the next thirty-''ve years. In his attention to detail and his urge to clarity, Shawn resembled
INTRODUCTION? '? xiii Ross. Yagoda relates how Shawn sent a memo to Matthew Josephson telling him that his Pro'le of William Knudsen, a leader of the automobile industry, was 'a stunning piece of historical reporting.' Then he wrote that he was appending 'a few questions.' There were 178. But Shawn, who took over the magazine in January 1952, was a distinctly different personality. Shawn assumed for himself far more authority than Ross, who was prepared to delegate a greater amount to his various deputies, or 'Jesuses.' Shawn was also quiet, subtle, secretive, elliptical, and, to some, quite strange. He was a variety of genius who enjoyed funny writing as well as serious 'ction, supported completely the individual artists and writers on a profoundly variegated staff, and expressed his myriad curiosities about the world by sending writers out to explore its many corners. J. D. Salinger called him 'the most unreasonably modest of born great artist-'editors.' Beneath the modesty, however, was a steely tactical will. Harold Brodkey suggested that Shawn combined the qualities of Napol'on Bonaparte and Saint Francis of Assisi. Shawn was also working in radically different circumstances than Ross. In the early years of the magazine, Ross was often at odds with ownership and battling over questions of principle and money. As with most fledgling editorial enterprises, the central concern was existence itself. Would the thing survive? The New Yorker almost closed its doors more than once. I have on my wall a rueful letter from Fleischmann informing a business-'side colleague that he was shutting the magazine down. It is dated May 1925''three months after the debut issue. There were many such moments of despair and rescue. But the magazine found its 'nancial footing, and, by the early 'fties, it was in happy synch with the postwar consumer boom. Educated middle-? and upper-'middle-'class readers seemed to want what The New Yorker was providing, and advertisers identi'ed the magazine as uniquely suited to reaching those free-? spending readers. With that kind of security, and with so many editorial columns to 'll, Shawn could think expansively about the magazine. He could build on the deepening ambitions of the forties with the plump resources of the 'fties. If he wanted reporting from the newly independent country of Ghana, the big East-'West summit in Geneva, or the Bandung Conference, in Indonesia, he did not consult the ledger books; he sent a writer. In fact, the sheer proliferation of advertising demanded that Shawn scramble in search of more and more editorial matter. This, he found, had an inevitable drag on quality. There is, in this world, after all, only
xiv? '? INTRODUCTION so much talent at a given time''only so much good writing. At a certain point, he found it necessary to limit the pages in a weekly issue to 248'? as fat as a phone book in some towns. In his tenure as editor, Shawn made innumerable hires, tried out countless freelancers, and ran long, multipart series''some forgettable, some central to the literary and journalistic history of mid-'century America. His relationship to advertising was distinguished mainly by the ads he found too distasteful to accept. A manufacturer of bathroom 'xtures once told me that his ads for bathtubs and sinks had been rejected, because, as Shawn told him, 'They are in the bathroom, which means they are next to the, well, you know? .' .' .' Decorum was important to Shawn, even though the world was changing. Rachel MacKenzie, a 'ction editor, rejected Philip Roth's forty-? thousand-'word novella 'Goodbye, Columbus? less because of its length''the magazine had just run J. D. Salinger's 'fty-'thousand-'word 'Zooey'''but, rather, because, as MacKenzie wrote, 'taste would rule out here much of what is essential to the narrative.' The magazine accepted Roth's 'Defender of the Faith? but not his more frenetic story 'Eli, the Fanatic.' 'We all agree that there are remarkable things in the story,' MacKenzie wrote to Roth's agent, 'but we feel that it keeps sliding off into caricature and farce and that in the end it falls between realism and didactic modern fable, the emotional thread breaking and the lesson taking over.' Shawn was also wary of the Beats, perhaps the most lasting school of literary outrage in the 'fties. When the 'ction editor Katharine White rejected the author of On the Road, she wrote, 'We read with a great deal of interest John Kerouac's 'Go, Go, Go,' and it makes us hope that he will have other short stories to send us.' .' .' . We hope that Mr. Kerouac will try something for us that is not about this particular group of wild kids.' Similarly, the magazine, which was alive to the work of young poets like James Merrill, Adrienne Rich, and Sylvia Plath, was not a home for 'Howl? or 'Kaddish.' Jane Kramer would write a marvelous multipart Pro'le of Allen Ginsberg, but not until the late sixties. Critics like Seymour Krim worried that The New Yorker, which had exhibited so much bite in its 'rst few decades, was now getting complacent and reserved in middle age. But no magazine can be a completist omnibus of the cultural or political moment, and this one never aspired to be one. History will inevitably 'nd it wanting in some way or another. A reader looking in the 'fties archives for a Pro'le of Chuck Berry will be disappointed. The coverage of jazz did not prove worthy of the form
INTRODUCTION? '? xv until Shawn gave Whitney Balliett a jazz column, in 1957, by which time rock and roll was under way. Shawn's magazine was much more in the groove of its time with other arts, as some of the pieces here make thrillingly evident: Lillian Ross's irresistible Hemingway Pro'le, Winthrop Sargeant's Pro'les of Richard Avedon and Marianne Moore, Berton Rouech''s piece on Jackson Pollock, Truman Capote's barbed portrait of a youngish Marlon Brando, Thomas Whiteside's Pro'le of Pat Weaver, the executive-'maestro of NBC. One of the lasting triumphs of cultural reporting for the magazine in the 'fties was Lillian Ross's 've-'part series about John Huston, Hollywood, and the making of a mediocre adaptation of Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage. Ross had joined the magazine during the war, one of a small number of women who found a place there when so many men were in the service. Having obtained unfettered access to Huston, the cast, the set, and the relevant executives, Ross painted a dramatic, detailed, and wicked portrait of all the ambitions and compromises that go into even a failed and ephemeral production. Ross's prose is direct, and unembellished, but the simplicity is deceptive. The influence of the work was signi'cant. Norman Mailer, when discussing The Executioner's Song, credited Ross as a pioneer in non'ction. Political and foreign reporting had become a great deal more serious during the Second World War, and there was no going back to the wide-? eyed, we-'are-'confused-'little-'men fripperies of the bygone world. Reading the best of it here, you get an uncanny sense of writers coming to grips with issues and maps that are with us today. A. J. Liebling in Gaza and Janet Flanner in Algeria confront the emerging Middle East; Joseph Wechsberg in Berlin and Emily Hahn in China draw the fault lines of the Cold War. Bernard Taper's travels with Thurgood Marshall, in his days with the NAACP, is an early look at the civil-'rights movement. And Richard Rovere, a Communist who, as a result of the Molotov-? Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, had become an anti-'Communist liberal, covered Washington as an outsider living in Rhinebeck, New York. His running portrayal of the malign phenomenon of Joseph McCarthy was some of the most impressive political coverage that the magazine had yet produced. Harold Ross liked to pose as anti-'intellectual''he famously declared himself unsure whether Moby Dick was 'the man or the whale.' Shawn was without any such ambivalence toward intellectual ambition. One of the 'rst writers he hired was Dwight Macdonald, who had been an edi-
xvi? '? INTRODUCTION tor at Partisan Review. Macdonald was capable of both outrageously witty criticism''as when he dissects Mortimer Adler's Great Books set''and vivid, sympathetic political reporting, as with his Pro'le of the Catholic social activist Dorothy Day. The postwar 'fties had a certain technological utopianism about them''not unlike our current era''and the magazine was notably alive to this. Shawn was wary of modern gadgetry (he would not ride in an elevator without an attendant), but that did not quash his curiosity. There are pieces here on the whizbangery of push-'button phones, videotape, home freezers, the 'perceptron simulator,' data processing, and, with real depth, the dawning of the Computer Age. Finally, Shawn had a sharp eye for that essential component of any institution that wishes to develop: new talent with new things to say. The 'fties saw the rise of one such talent in particular, John Updike, who, for the next 'fty-''ve years, was an unfailingly proli'c and versatile contributor to The New Yorker. His 'ne-'grained prose was there from the start, and, with time, his sharp-'eyed intelligence alighted on seemingly every surface, subject, and subtext. Updike was, out of the box, an American writer of the 'rst rank. He was profoundly at home at The New Yorker and, at the same time, able to expand the boundaries of its readers? tastes. He could seem tweedy and suburban''a modern, golf-'playing squire''and yet, as a critic, he introduced to the magazine's readers an array of modernists and postmodernists, along with writing from countries far beyond the Anglo-'American boundaries; as a writer of 'ction, he was not a revolutionary, but his short stories make up a vast social, political, and erotic history of postwar America, or at least some precincts of it. One of the more persistent myths of the magazine came up in those Ross-'era 'les''the putative tyranny of its stylistic prejudices. Roald Dahl, whose story 'Taste? is published here, wrote to one of Ross's editors that he was in a 'howling fury? because of the outrageous and peremptory changes reflected in a set of proofs that had just arrived in the mail. 'You have sprinkled commas about all over the pages as though you were putting raisins in a plum-'pudding,' Dahl wrote. 'I know what commas I want. I know what phrases I wish to use. It is my story. I wrote it.' And yet, as any reader will see, even in the 'fties, before the arrival of experimentalists like Donald Barthelme and Max Frisch, writers in possession of a real voice did not lose it, despite the magazine's at times persnickety ministrations. Nabokov, Welty, Flanner, Ross, Liebling,
INTRODUCTION? '? xvii Mitchell, Capote, Thurber, Updike''they are utterly themselves, their preferences and hesitations as distinct as can be. Now we've moved downtown to the end of Manhattan island and into the tallest skyscraper in the city. From our floor, there is an astonishing view of the harbor that used to be Joe Mitchell's beat. At a certain point, certainly by the 'fties, Joe told editors and friends that the city was changing''''changing so profoundly that he no longer saw it as his own and, gradually, he wrote more about the past, about his interior New York, about the memories that carved through the present like initials gouged in old tabletops. This is often what happens. Young men and women arrive and it is their work to describe the world that is becoming. That's the way it is now.
PART ONE: AMERICAN SCENES? '? 3 A NOTE BY ELIZAB ETH KOLB ERT 'TBy he Fifties were captured in black and white, most often by still photographers,' the journalist David Halberstam once observed. contrast, the sixties (and every subsequent decade) were 'caught in living color on tape or 'lm.' The shift in 'lm stock has ? produced''or maybe just con'rmed''a perceptual bias. In our cultural shorthand, the 'fties were a time of innocence, when Americans trusted their leaders, let their kids play in the street, attended church regularly, and had time to read weekly magazines. Like all such formulas, this one is, at best, half accurate. After the Second World War, many Americans doubtless did feel the need for calm and stability. But change came, anyway''exciting, disruptive, and even radioactive. If the 'fties were Leave It to Beaver, they were also Lolita. They were 'Be-'Bop-'A-'Lula? and the Montgomery bus boycott, Chevy Bel Airs and Sputnik, the opening of Disneyland and the invention of the H-'bomb. The pieces about the American scene that follow reflect the decade's dividedness. Taken together, they suggest a country in which little is changing and everything is. In 1950, it was possible to go to the Sunset Appliance Store, in Rego Park, Queens, and, if the stars were aligned, be shown a twelve-'inch TV by Jackie Robinson. 'We? did this one afternoon and watched Robinson sell a set to a 'short man in a heavy overcoat.' It may have been a stunt of salesmanship, but the authors of 'Success,' John Graham and Rex Lardner, play along, and, even when Robinson is hawking TVs, his modesty and essential decency come through. Besides stealing bases, he has, it turns out, a knack for moving merchandise. 'Mr. Hunter's Grave? is a classic Joseph Mitchell portrait of a marginalized New Yorker. In this case, his subject, George Hunter, lives, quite literally, on the edge of the city, in southwestern Staten Island. Eighty-? seven, he is the son of a former slave and grew up in a community of
4? '? THE 50S: THE STORY OF A DECADE black oystermen known as Sandy Ground. By the time Mitchell visits, the world of Sandy Ground is disappearing. The water has become too polluted for oyster farming and the village is all but abandoned. Mitchell and Hunter have a long, rambling conversation about revival meetings, about the two wives and the son Hunter has buried, about baking cakes, and about Revelation. Then they go to look at the community's overgrown graveyard. The piece is carried by the rhythms of Hunter's voice and by his dignity as death approaches. 'Ahab and Nemesis,' by A. J. Liebling, like Mitchell a stalwart of The New Yorker since the 1930s, and 'The Cherubs Are Rumbling,' by Walter Bernstein, best known as a screenwriter who was blacklisted during the McCarthy era, are both reflections on violence. Liebling's is the lighthearted sort. His piece chronicles the heavyweight bout between Rocky Marciano and Archie Moore, and, in true Liebling style, it is 'lled with punchy lines and witty allusions, some of which land and some of which don't. Bernstein is more somber. His subject is a gang of 'delinquents,' the Cherubs, who are involved in a turf war with a rival Brooklyn gang called the Stompers. A well-'meaning gym teacher, Vincent Riccio, is trying to keep the boys out of jail. 'Everybody thinks all you're good for is breaking heads,' Riccio tells the Cherubs. 'I know different''although I know you're pretty good at breaking heads, too.' Sixty years later, the toughs no longer seem very tough. They hang out in a candy store. They have nicknames like Johnny Meatball. They wield switchblades and issue threats that seem cribbed from the movies they've seen: 'Shut up a minute, or I'll bust you right in the mouth!' 'Fallout,' by Daniel Lang, tells the story of an H-'bomb code-'named Shrimp. Shrimp was detonated by the United States on Bikini Atoll on March 1, 1954, and, as Lang observes, it was 'the shot that made the world fallout-'conscious.' Calculations performed at Los Alamos had predicted Shrimp would have a yield of 've megatons. Instead the yield turned out to be three times as great. The 'ring crew was stationed in a concrete bunker on Enyu, an island twenty miles from the test site. A few seconds after the blast, the bunker started to shake, one of the men later recalled, as if 'it was resting on a bowl of jelly.' The explosion pulverized billions of pounds of coral reef and seafloor; much of this debris was sucked into the atmosphere by the rising 'reball. When the radioactive dust settled, some of it fell on a Japanese 'shing vessel, inaptly named the Lucky
PART ONE: AMERICAN SCENES? '? 5 Dragon, and some floated down on the residents of Rongelap, a tiny speck in the Marshall Islands. The crew members of the Lucky Dragon arrived back at port nauseated, feverish, and covered with blisters. The Rongelap Islanders suffered radiation burns and their hair fell out. The title of 'Fallout? refers both to the radioactive dust and to the awkward situation it created for the U.S. government. Lang's piece appeared more than a year after the 'shot,' and the Atomic Energy Commission was still trying to allay public fears. The AEC's scientists pooh-'poohed the burns and the hair loss and treated the Rongelap Islanders? forced evacuation as a sort of extended vacation. Lang seems, in large part, to accept the of'cial line; for instance, he notes that the exiled Rongelapers have 'been shown their 'rst Wild West motion pictures, which they think are terri'c.' But doubt creeps in, anyway. The Second World War is a decade in the past, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution a decade into the future, and Lang, in 1955, seems to be positioned, uncomfortably, in the middle. Reading 'Fallout,' you sense a writer holding back, and the world rushing forward.
PART ONE: AMERICAN SCENES? '? 7 SUCCESS John Graham and Rex Lardner JAN UARY 7, 1950 (O N JACKI E RO B I N SO N , T V SALE S MAN) Oevenings n learning that Jackie Robinson, the Brooklyn Dodgers? second baseman, is spending Monday, Wednesday, and Friday each week as a television-'set salesman in the Sunset Appliance Store in Rego Park, Queens, we hurried over to the place to see how he is making out. From a talk we had with Joseph Rudnick, president of Sunset, just before Robinson appeared, we learned that he is making out 'ne. Rudnick, a small, alert-'looking man, graying at the temples, whom we found in an of'ce on a balcony at the rear of the store, informed us that the accomplished young man had been working there, on a salary-'and-'commission basis, for 've weeks, and that if he liked, he could work there forever, the year around. 'Business booming like wild're since Jackie came,' Rudnick told us, looking down at a throng milling about among television sets, washing machines, and refrigerators. 'Sports fans flocking in here,' he said with satisfaction. 'Young persons, curious about the National League's Most Valuable Player and one of the best base-'stealers since Max Carey. Jackie signs baseballs for them and explains about the double steal. Since he's been here, he's sold sets to Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson, among others. The newsreel people shot him selling a set to a customer. He's a natural salesman, with a natural modesty that appeals to buyers. The salesman wrapped up in himself makes a very small package. Campanella, Hodges, and Barney dropped by to wish him luck. Campanella's his roomy. There's Jackie now! With his business agent.' Robinson and a bigger, more strapping man with a florid face were making their way along the floor, the big man in the lead. 'He'll be right up,' Rudnick said. 'Hangs his coat here. One other
8? '? THE 50S: THE STORY OF A DECADE thing we do,' he went on, 'when a bar buys a television set, we send Gene Stanlee over to the bar''the wrestler. Mr. America.' Robinson and his manager for radio and television appearances came up, and we were introduced, learning that the latter's name is Harry Solow. 'Jackie don't have to lay awake nights worrying about his condition, bucking that mob three times a week,' Solow said. Rudnick told us that Solow also manages Joe Franklin and Symphony Sid, and Solow explained that they are radio personalities. 'Jackie's all lined up for his own radio program,' he continued. 'He's mostly interested in boys? work, though. Spends all his spare time at the Harlem Y.M.C.A.' 'How I keep in shape is playing games with kids,' Robinson said in a well-'modulated voice. 'When I quit baseball, I intend to give it full time.' We learned that the Robinsons have a television set with a sixteen-'inch screen and that their only child, three-'year-'old Jackie, Jr., likes Howdy Doody, Mr. I. Magination, and Farmer Gray better than anything else on video. As Robinson was about to go down to the main floor, it occurred to us to ask him if he'd developed any special sales technique. He looked surprised and replied that he didn't think so. 'If a customer is going to buy a set, he's going to buy it,' he said philosophically. 'You can't twist his arm.' 'On the other hand,' Rudnick observed, 'the right angle for a salesman is the try-'angle.' We bade Rudnick and Solow goodbye and followed Robinson downstairs. A short man in a heavy overcoat got him 'rst. He wanted to see a twelve-'inch set. 'There's a bunch of them in the basement,' Robinson told him. 'All playing at once.' He led the man down to the basement. We followed. It was quite dark there, but we could make out rows and rows of sets and see customers being herded from one model to another by spirited salesmen. Robinson conducted his man to a twelve-'inch set, turned it on, adjusted the picture, and in rather a shout, to get his voice above the hubbub of the ampli'ers, named the price and outlined the guarantee. 'I like it!' the man hollered. 'Could my wife work it''all those knobs'? 'A child could work it,' said Robinson, and it was a deal.
PART ONE: AMERICAN SCENES? '? 9 FROM FALLOUT Daniel Lang J U LY 16, 195 5 (O N R AD I OACTIVE D E B R I S) For allout, the radioactive debris that accumulates in the upper atmosphere following the detonation of a nuclear bomb and sooner later comes to earth, often many hundreds, and even thousands, of miles from the scene of the explosion, is usually less visible than the soot that settles on Manhattan every day at the rate of a ton to every square mile. The particles of dust that constitute most fallout look like any other dust, cannot be smelled, felt, or tasted, and descend and land soundlessly. As a general rule, fallout can be detected only by instruments''notably, of course, by the Geiger counter but also by such less celebrated devices as the scintillation counter and the ion chamber. Scientists checking on the density of fallout frequently differ in their interpretations of their 'ndings, but there is clearly no room for disagreement about one thing: This dry rain of tainted matter increases the degree of radiation in any locality it visits. The point of conflict among the experts, as I have come to realize while looking into the problems presented by fallout, is over the danger, if any, of the increase, and this at present seems to be more a matter of opinion than of scienti'c determination. It appears indisputable, however, that no community need be apprehensive over a slight rise in the level of radiation (as commonly used, the word is synonymous with radioactivity), for in normally rainy weather certain radioactive natural gases that almost everywhere are constantly emanating from the ground do not diffuse as readily as they do at other times, and so increase the amount of radiation in the immediate vicinity, occasionally as much as 400 percent'? a phenomenon that
10? '? THE 50S: THE STORY OF A DECADE has been commonplace all over the world since long before anyone ever heard of fallout and has been de'nitely proved to be harmless. Fallout varies greatly in intensity, depending, in part, upon the amount of energy released''or, to use the technical term, 'yielded'''by the bombs that create it. This nation's high-'yielding bombs are tried out over remote islands in the Paci'c and its low-'yielding models over the Atomic Energy Commission's Nevada Proving Ground. Early in 1951, the A.E.C. became suf'ciently impressed by the fallout that its low-'yielding bombs were precipitating on widespread portions of this country to set up a nationwide system of observation stations for monitoring fluctuations in the density of radiation. The system now has eighty-'nine stations, and not one of them, whether near the test area or thousands of miles away from it, has ever failed to report a rise in radiation following a 'shot,' which is the A.E.C. people's term for the setting off of a bomb. Seemingly satis'ed by the reports from these stations, Lewis L. Strauss, the chairman of the A.E.C., issued a statement last February declaring that as far as the Nevada experiments were concerned, 'the hazard [of dangerously radioactive fallout] has been successfully con'ned to the controlled area of the Test Site.' A month later, however, two scientists at the University of Colorado were reported by the newspapers as having asserted that fallout over their state had reached a point where it could no longer be ignored by those concerned with public safety. The Governor of Colorado, a former United States senator who served on the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy while he was in Washington, responded to this by calling the scientists? warning 'phony? and saying that they ought to be arrested. The clamor quieted down when the president of the university issued a statement to the effect that the two scientists had quali'ed their warning by saying that the fallout would be dangerous if its radioactivity was maintained at the peaks it occasionally reached. The Colorado ruckus was only one, and by no means the 'rst, of a number of public warnings and bickerings over the issue of fallout. In 1953, the chairman of the Physics Department of the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City, in a state bordering on Nevada, expressed the belief that Americans? capacity for tolerating radiation was being sapped by fallout, and that same year 've sheep ranchers in Cedar City, Utah, some two hundred miles from the Proving Ground, sued the government for damages, claiming that fallout had been fatal to approximately a thousand of their animals. The A.E.C. investigated and found no evidence to support the contention that the death of the sheep had been caused by
PART ONE: AMERICAN SCENES? '? 11 fallout. The case of the sheep ranchers, which is still pending, brought back memories of the explosion of the 'rst atomic bomb, on July 16, 1945, in New Mexico, which, among many other things, inflicted burns on a nearby herd of cattle and caused the animals? hair to turn gray. (The cattle were presently sent to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where they and, more recently, their progeny have been studied ever since by members of the faculty of the University of Tennessee School of Agriculture, who are endeavoring to determine the long-'range effects of overexposure to radiation.) Fallout from that 'rst explosion in New Mexico also contaminated cornstalks in Indiana that were later converted into strawboard to make packing cartons; some of these found their way to Rochester, New York, where the Eastman Kodak people innocently used them to ship out a supply of 'lm, which is exceptionally sensitive to radiation. The 'lm was ruinously fogged. It is now standard practice for the A.E.C. to forewarn photographic-'supply companies of impending test blasts, so that they can take certain well-'established protective measures against possible fallout, but so far nobody has come up with any similar measures to alert the owners of cornstalks. Others who appreciate advance notice of forthcoming shots include archeologists, who, if they failed to allow for fallout, might be off by several centuries in calculating the age of ancient relics on the basis of how much carbon 14''a radioactive isotope that is present in a constant amount in all living things and disintegrates at a known rate after death''they still contain. Uranium prospectors, too, like to be warned ahead of time; back in the days before the far-'reaching effects of the tests were understood, more than one prospector was momentarily led to believe that he had at last come upon a bonanza when his Geiger counter set up a wild clicking in response to fallout. The manner in which a bomb is detonated also strongly affects the intensity of its fallout. If the bomb is exploded at a high altitude''high enough, that is, so that the mass of luminescent gas known as the 'reball, from which rises the now all too familiar mushroom, does not touch the earth's surface''its radioactivity has nothing to condense with except whatever dust it encounters in the air and the vaporized bomb casing. In such instances''and all shots of any consequence within the continental limits of the United States are of this kind''the dust and vapors, swept upward by the blast to an altitude of possibly forty thousand feet, are carried away on the strong winds of that altitude, which, owing to the earth's rotation, are generally westerly, and may remain
12? '? THE 50S: THE STORY OF A DECADE aloft for months. By the time the dust particles 'nally settle, they may well have travelled clear around the globe, becoming so thoroughly scattered and having so thoroughly dissipated their radioactivity in the atmosphere that they are presumed to be harmless. The higher the explosion the better, from the point of view of the eventual effects of its fallout, for the descent of the dust particles is apt to be hastened if they happen into a formation of rain clouds, which they are not likely to encounter until they have drifted down to within twenty thousand feet of the earth. A surface or near-'surface shot''the sort the United States restricts to the Paci'c area''is something else again; indeed, radiologically speaking, it is an extremely dangerous proposition. Immediately after such a shot, the bomb's 'reball (the biggest one yet reported measured from three to four miles in diameter) sucks up millions of tons of material from the surface of the earth''rocks, sand, vegetation, water''as it rises, almost with the speed of sound. Moving up through the stem of the mushroom to its head, this hideously contaminated, or 'hot,' material also soars up into the stratosphere, where it too is eventually blown away by the wind. But, unlike the radioactive dust of a high-'altitude shot, much of this debris is far too heavy to be blown around the world. The winds that bene'cently carry the dust of high-'altitude shots such great distances blow the fallout from a ground-'level shot only far enough away from the testing area to make it a menace. The debris falls rapidly while still intensely radioactive, polluting to a probably lethal degree what the A.E.C. has described as a 'comparatively localized? area. Just outside the comparatively localized area, however, lies a much larger one that is definitely jeopardized by the fallout from a ground shot, for during the 'rst few hours after the explosion some of the lighter fragments of debris spread out over thousands of square miles. Given reliable meteorological information, scientists can predict the size and general course of this fallout with a fair amount of accuracy, but, owing to the different weights of the bits and pieces that constitute the mass, and the erratic nature of the winds in the upper regions, they can't do much more than that. For whatever comfort it might afford people who fear the fallout from surface shots, Dr. Willard F. Libby, a commissioner of the A.E.C., a while ago ventured a guess that in the event of a thermonuclear attack on the United States the enemy would set off 'a large fraction? of its bombs high above the earth, since the blast and heat damage of aerial explosions is tactically superior to that of ground blasts. 'In other words, the fallout
PART ONE: AMERICAN SCENES? '? 13 problem might be minimized by the enemy's attempt to maximize the blast and thermal effects,' Dr. Libby said. ? ? ? The 'reball of a very large thermonuclear bomb that was set off on March 1st of last year on a coral island in a lagoon at Bikini Atoll touched the surface of the earth. This was the shot that made the world fallout-? conscious, and it earned its sorry distinction not only by dangerously contaminating seven thousand square miles of land and sea''an area somewhat larger than Connecticut and Rhode Island together''but by injuring people who were nearly a hundred miles away from the site. The Commission naturally felt deep chagrin at this outcome of the blast, especially since it had gone to great pains to make sure that no lives would be endangered. Weeks before the bomb was detonated, the Commission saw to it that marine and aviation navigational publications printed announcements of the forthcoming test and gave their readers explicit information about the boundaries of a thirty-'thousand-'square-'mile danger zone that had been decided upon. For days prior to the blast, aircraft crisscrossed the zone and the waters adjacent to it to warn away shipping. A meteorological study of the whole region was made, in which special attention was paid to the behavior of winds at all relevant altitudes. 'The area for which meteorological data had to be compiled and analyzed was far greater than just that thirty-'thousand-'square-'mile danger zone,' an of'cial of the A.E.C. said later. 'In fact, it was greater than that of the United States, and we had only eight or ten observation stations to cover it.' In its report of the shot and of what went wrong with it, the A.E.C. made the mildly consolatory point that without the knowledge derived from the test 'we would have been in ignorance of the extent of the effects of radioactive fallout and, therefore? .' .' . much more vulnerable to the dangers from fallout in the event an enemy should resort to radiological warfare against us.' In addition to the unanticipated lessons it learned about the vagaries of fallout during the March 1st test, the Commission collected some grim testimony as to its potency, expressed in terms of roentgens''one of the units in which radiation is measured. Having previously established that a person exposed to a total accumulation of four hundred and 'fty roentgens in the arbitrarily set period of thirty-'six hours stands only a 50 percent chance of surviving, the Commission found that during the 'rst thirty-'six hours after the March 1st blast, anyone on Bikini, ten miles down-'wind from the explosion, would
14? '? THE 50S: THE STORY OF A DECADE have been exposed to 've thousand roentgens, and even if he had had suf'cient warning to get to Rongelap Atoll, a hundred miles to the east, the roentgen count against him in at least one section of that tiny island would still have been twenty-'three hundred. The March 1st bomb went off shortly before four in the morning, announcing itself with a blinding flash over a broad expanse of the Paci'c. The islet that had served as its platform abruptly disintegrated into pulverized coral, which was swept up into the stratosphere, and it was there that things began to go wrong. As the particles of coral gathered like a pendulous cloud in the sky''this was one time when fallout was all too plainly visible''the wind, which had been counted on to blow them to the northeast, unexpectedly veered a few degrees and began to drive them due east. Natives of the Marshall Islands, Americans participating in the test, and Japanese 'shermen''all of them outside the of'cial danger zone, which extended some 'fty miles east of Bikini''were now directly in the path of the fallout, which, as it billowed toward them, assumed the shape of a monstrous cigar, two hundred and twenty miles long and up to forty miles wide. A total of two hundred and thirty-'six Marshall Islanders, all residents of the atolls of Rongelap and Utirik, were evacuated as hastily as possible by destroyer to Kwajalein. There only those from Rongelap''seventy-? four of them, constituting the island's total population''were found to have been seriously exposed. (Happily, none had been in the twenty-? three-'hundred-'roentgen section of the atoll.) All the Rongelapians were suffering from radiation burns of the scalp or neck''the most sensitive parts of the body that are usually exposed''and all had ingested, as the nuclear people put it, small amounts of fallout-'blighted foods or beverages; the hair of thirty-'nine of them had dropped out in patches. Five Navy doctors reported to the convention of the American Medical Association in Atlantic City last month that the children of Rongelap had lost more hair than their elders and that the counts of the children's white blood cells, which 'ght infection and which are always affected by serious exposure to radiation, had dropped to lower levels. According to the A.E.C., the islanders? burns are now healed, hair has grown back on their bald patches, and they all appear to be in good physical shape. They have not yet been taken back to their island, because it is still contaminated, but have been moved to Majuro Atoll, where, the Commission says, they are temporarily occupying 'buildings built for them? .' .' . of a new and improved type, better adapted to the comfort and the needs of
PART ONE: AMERICAN SCENES? '? 15 the people than the usual type of island houses.' There they have been shown their 'rst Wild West motion pictures, which they think are terri'c. There, too, they are being studied by American physicians. Now and then, one of the doctors makes a stab at trying to explain radiation to the Rongelapians, but without much success. As a rule, the attempt quickly turns into a party of some sort. 'You start talking to a couple of the islanders, and pretty soon the whole population has gathered around you, smiling and beaming and ready for some kind of fun,' an A.E.C. physician who was assigned to Majuro for a while told me. 'They're an extremely friendly people, which I suppose, considering the circumstances, is just as well.' The Americans who were threatened by the fallout''thirty-'one members of the Army, Navy, and Air Force''were on Rongerik Atoll when the wind shifted. They, too, were evacuated to Kwajalein, where they were examined by American physicians, and from there they were sent on to Tripler General Hospital, in Hawaii, for further examination. None of them was found to have been seriously affected and none has shown any aftereffects. The Japanese in the path of the fallout were, as the whole world presently came to know, the twenty-'three members of the crew of the Lucky Dragon, a hundred-'ton trawler engaged in 'shing for tuna. On the morning of the big blast, the vessel, which the warning aircraft had somehow missed, was about ninety miles east of Bikini, some forty miles outside the of'cial danger zone, when several members of the crew who happened to be on deck saw a white flash tinged with red far away on the pre-'dawn horizon. Seven or eight minutes later, they heard a loud explosion. In about three hours, a 'ne white dust of radioactive coral particles began to fall on the superstructure of the Lucky Dragon; it was so dense, one of the crew later reported, that it was faintly audible as it landed on the deck. The strange downpour continued until about noon, and by the time it let up, the dust had covered the boat, the men, and their catch like a white sheet; it lay so thick on the deck that the men left footprints when they walked on it. The 'shermen had no idea what all this meant, but it was something that they had never experienced before, and plainly something weird, and it made them so uneasy that they hauled in their lines that same day and headed for their home port of Yaizu. As a matter of good seamanship, they washed down their vessel, and this probably saved the lives of a good many of them. The voyage home took thirteen days, during which a number of the men 'lled bottles with the odd dust
16? '? THE 50S: THE STORY OF A DECADE to keep as souvenirs, and the whole crew, it was subsequently estimated by Japanese scientists, was exposed to the baleful assault of between two hundred and 've hundred roentgens. By the time the Lucky Dragon reached Yaizu, on March 14th, practically every one of the 'shermen was ridden with nausea, blisters, lesions, fever, conjunctivitis, abdominal pains, and other symptoms of overexposure to radiation. Americans who were in Japan in the days that followed the cruise of the Lucky Dragon had some dif'cult moments in their relations with the people there, but, in retrospect, most of them agree that the Japanese, tragically aware as they already were of the effects of a nuclear explosion, reacted to the incident pretty much the way the citizens of any other country might have. The Japanese were angry, anxious, and voluble. As soon as word of the peculiar condition of the Lucky Dragon's mariners reached knowledgeable authorities, the 'shermen''or at least those who could be rounded up at once''were hustled off to Tokyo and hospitalized. A few days elapsed before the last of the twenty-'three was accounted for, in the course of which a couple of them were picked up as they were bicycling through the streets of Yaizu, each with a grossly radioactive dried shark 'n from the boat lashed to his back mudguard. Japanese scientists, wearing protective gauze masks and rubber gloves, trooped aboard the Lucky Dragon, where they found some samples of radioactive coral ash still on the bridge and carried off the tuna that had not yet been sold. When they debarked, their masks were radioactive, which gave them good reason to believe that the crew had suffered serious internal injuries. Back in the laboratory, analysis of various items taken from the trawler, including some tuna that were still waiting for a buyer, revealed the presence of two telltale radioactive elements common to all fallout'? radioiodine and radiostrontium, both of which the body can ingest or inhale. Radioiodine tends to single out and damage the cells of the thyroid gland; radiostrontium has a special af'nity for the bones and, if enough of it works its way into them, may produce cancer. Word went out to the public-'health authorities to con'scate the tuna that had got to the market, but it was discovered that 'shmongers in the Osaka Prefecture had already sold parts of them to about a hundred customers. (Fortunately for the customers, the 'sh were dead at the time of the blast, so only their skin, according to the Japanese scientists, was affected and this had been removed before eating.) American radiation specialists in Japan offered their fullest coopera-
PART ONE: AMERICAN SCENES? '? 17 tion, but their Japanese counterparts, while always personally cordial, indicated that they would prefer to handle the situation themselves. American physicians were not allowed near the 'shermen, although they might have been able to make some helpful therapeutic suggestions. But even if there had not been this atmosphere of professional coolness, it is unlikely that the widespread resentment that boiled up in Japan over what had befallen the crew of the Lucky Dragon could have been avoided. And, as time passed, more or less extraneous events seemed to conspire to add heat to the resentment. On March 19th, the A.E.C., in preparing for two more shots on Bikini, announced that the danger zone would be expanded''a step that some Japanese appeared to feel was rather belated. Nor did the shots themselves, which came less than a month after the return of the Lucky Dragon, act as a precisely soothing influence upon the population. At about the same time, a rainstorm over the Atsumi Peninsula blurred the glass panes of several greenhouses with a peculiar substance that a researcher at the Nagoya Technical Research Institute said was dust infused with arti'cially induced radioactivity, and presently a professor at Kagoshima University asserted that he had found some local vegetables, milk, and drinking water to have been mildly affected by another 'radioactive rain.' In late summer, a thirty-'nine-'year-'old member of the Lucky Dragon's crew, Aikichi Kuboyama, who was suffering from hepatitis, took a turn for the worse, and his case became a primary national concern. Buddhist priests prayed for his life. Hospital bulletins reporting his condition were more prominently displayed in the press than most news of international importance, and they were broadcast hourly over the radio. Kuboyama died on September 23rd (all his fellow-'crewmen have survived and seem to be recovering) and his death took on political implications of the 'rst magnitude. The Japanese Foreign Minister and other dignitaries crowded into the hospital to pay their last respects to the 'sherman, and the American Ambassador in Tokyo sent a letter of condolence to the Japanese Foreign Ministry and a check for a million yen (about $2,800) to Kuboyama's widow 'as a token of the deep sympathy felt by the Government and people of the United States.' A Japanese Minister of State called publicly on the United States to show 'more sincerity? by increasing the amount of money''a million dollars''that had already been offered to his government as compensation for the injuries to the crew and for the loss to the nation's 'shing industry. (The United States eventually paid two million dollars in reparations.) Japanese labor organizations,
18? '? THE 50S: THE STORY OF A DECADE newspapers, leading citizens, and public opinion in general, impressed by the indiscriminating nature of fallout, called for an end to thermonuclear-'bomb tests anywhere, by any country. As the national temper rose, only one incident occurred that somewhat mitigated the wave of anti-'American feeling, and this, ironically, was a disaster of greater proportions, even if not of greater signi'cance, than that of the Lucky Dragon''the drowning of more than twelve hundred persons, including about eighty Americans, when a ferryboat capsized in northern Japan just a few days after Kuboyama died. 'The Japanese were quite sympathetic,' an A.E.C. man who was in Japan at the time told me. 'The accident seemed to clear the atmosphere a little by reminding them that Americans can also die.' ? ? ? The Japanese are not the only ones who have demanded that no more thermonuclear bombs be tested. Their views have been echoed by some highly articulate authorities in the United States as well as by various quali'ed critics in other countries. One of the latter''Dr. Frederick Soddy, a British winner of a Nobel Prize for studies in the chemistry of radioactive substances and the origin and nature of isotopes''has warned of the dangers of 'fouling the air with radioactivity.' In particular, much concern has been expressed over the hereditary effects of increased radioactivity on the genes of the human race. Estimating that seventy-''ve hydrogen bombs exploded at intervals over a period of thirty years will double the natural amount of radiation in the world, Joseph Rotblat, Professor of Physics at the Medical College of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, in London, has written, 'Rough as this estimate may be, it certainly shows that we are sailing much closer to the wind than many of us thought.' .' .' . It is no longer a question of two nations, or groups of nations, devastating each other, but of all the future generations of all nations, who will forever pay, through disease, malformation, and mental disability, for our folly.' In this country, the Federation of American Scientists has urged that the United Nations 'obtain and evaluate scienti'c opinion on the biological and genetic effects of radiation on human beings,' and last April, Senator Frederick G. Payne, of Maine, introduced a resolution calling on the President to instruct our chief delegate to the United Nations to propose such a study. Apparently, the President did so, for at the tenth-? anniversary meeting of the U.N. in San Francisco three weeks ago,
PART ONE: AMERICAN SCENES? '? 19 Henry Cabot Lodge suggested that all member nations pool their research on fallout to allay 'unjusti'ed fears.' The National Academy of Sciences, this country's most distinguished scienti'c body, has, with the help of the Rockefeller Foundation, embarked on an exhaustive survey of the problem. Dr. Linus Pauling, a Nobel Prize''winning chemist at the California Institute of Technology, noting that radioactive rains have fallen in Japan and Germany as a result of the tests, has suggested that these may have started 'a new cycle? of leukemia. And Dr. James R. Arnold, an associate professor at the Institute for Nuclear Studies of the University of Chicago, has come forward with the proposal that in the future the A.E.C. conduct all its thermonuclear tests within the continental limits of the United States. 'It may be objected that the number of casualties would very likely be increased,' he wrote in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists last November. 'This is true, but they would be American citizens. A nation which feels itself in danger has some right to ask certain of its citizens to run special risks on behalf of all. This is the principle behind compulsory military service. Even though the Japanese are our allies and the Marshallese our wards, we have no such right with them, in a world which holds to the idea of national sovereignty. Americans who were hurt would doubtless be properly indemni'ed. All the same, the taxpayer would bene't greatly, since the lowering of costs of the test operation would pay for any probable casualty list many times over.' In the face of all this outcry, the A.E.C., which possesses more information about fallout than any other agency''or individual''steadfastly maintains that the tests have not got out of hand. The Commission contends that in the ten years since this country started testing nuclear weapons''to be followed presently, of course, by the Soviet Union and Great Britain''not more than one-'tenth of a roentgen has been added to the amount of radiation normally absorbed by each individual in the United States. This is the equivalent of what a patient is subjected to in a single chest X-'ray, and as for its genetic effects, it is only one one-? hundredth of the normal radiation to which most men and women have always been exposed up to and through their reproductive lifetimes. 'Most of the categorical predictions of adverse genetic effects are about as reasonable as claiming that meteors from outer space are a major threat to highway safety,' Dr. John C. Bugher, Director of the A.E.C.'s Division of Biology and Medicine, assured me. The A.E.C. considers the amounts of radioiodine and radiostrontium
20? '? THE 50S: THE STORY OF A DECADE that have fallen in this country insigni'cant insofar as their immediate effect upon the population is concerned. In view of the fact that these elements, absorbed in the soil, may become part of plant tissues that are either eaten by human beings or eaten by grazing animals that, in turn, provide food for man, the Commission, by means of roving teams and experimental farms, carries on a series of year-'round checkups on the radioactivity in many localities all over the nation. Radioiodine has been found in the thyroids of cattle and sheep grazing near the Nevada Proving Ground; the thyroids of living human beings cannot be tested for small amounts of radioiodine, but urine analyses of persons living in the same area have indicated that they have been less severely affected than the livestock, showing only a minute fraction of the amount of radioiodine that would cause damage. As for radiostrontium, Dr. Bugher estimates that the amount now present in the United States would have to be multiplied by a million before an increase in the frequency of bone cancer would be perceptible. On the other hand, Dr. Bugher revealed some months ago in an address before the seventh annual Industrial Health Conference, held in Houston, Texas, that laboratory experiments conducted on animals have demonstrated that one of the possible effects of overexposure to radiation is a shortening of life expectancy. 'This phenomenon does not result from any speci'c cause of death but apparently from a general acceleration of the aging process,' he said, adding wryly that human beings have yet to experience the distinction between a condition that does not cause death but shortens life. However sound the A.E.C.'s position may be, the commissioners are 'nding it hard to win quite a number of worried citizens over to it. 'One of our big dif'culties is a popular tendency to confuse close-'in fallout with distant fallout,' an A.E.C. radiation expert told me. 'When people in the United States read about the hundreds of roentgens that hit those Japanese 'shermen, they think it's sheer luck the same thing hasn't happened to them, and 'gure maybe the next shot will be their turn.' Another thing that handicaps the A.E.C. in its efforts to present its case is the fact that the very word 'radiation? evokes dread in the public mind. 'On wet days, we get anxious phone calls from men and women who want to know if the rain is bringing fallout down on them,' a man in the A.E.C.'s New York of'ce told me. 'That's a perfectly rational question, but then they suddenly break down completely''crying and carrying on about what's going to become of the world.' It may be, he suggested, that radiation's bad name goes all the way back to the famous
PART ONE: AMERICAN SCENES? '? 21 case of the girls who, working in a New Jersey factory during the First World War, painted watch dials with radium, tipping their brushes with their tongues, and years later began dying, one by one, from overexposure. The big point the A.E.C. is trying to put across is that it's the cumulative exposure that counts, and not the mere presence of radiation. Air, water, and soil emit radiation under normal conditions; so do the cosmic rays that are constantly assaulting the earth from outer space. For that matter, man himself is radioactive, since his body contains potassium 40, carbon 14, and radium 226''all radioactive isotopes. 'The world is radioactive,' Commissioner Libby stated in an address he delivered last December at the Conference of Mayors, in Washington. 'It always has been and always will be.' And Merril Eisenbud, Director of the A.E.C.'s Health and Safety Laboratory, points out that since the very beginning of life, radioactivity has been one of the principal factors in the furtherance of evolution, causing changes, or mutations, in the genes of living organisms and so bringing man to his present stage of development, whatever one's opinion of that stage may be. 'Without radioactivity, we'd have less to think about today,' Eisenbud told me''a statement with which even the Commission's harshest critics would hardly quarrel. 'Without it, perhaps we'd all still be slime in the primeval swamp.' ? ? ? But in these times, as the A.E.C. knows all too well, the subject of mutations is a touchy one. Many people 'nd it much easier to contemplate''in theory, at least''the possible destruction of the world while they themselves are still inhabiting it than to reflect that their descendants, centuries hence, may inherit genes that were impaired by the current tests. There are sound scienti'c reasons for apprehension over radiation's effect on genes. Radiation, the A.E.C. believes, causes from 10 to 20 percent of all mutations, and about 99 percent of all mutations result either in prenatal death or in sterility or some other functional disability; what the public knows as 'monsters? and scientists call 'lethal mutants? are nearly always stillborn. In those rare instances where mutations are bene'cial to an organism, the law of natural selection dictates that the new form survive at the expense of weaklings or the parent form. In any society, the frequency of mutations depends largely on the total amount of radiation that its members? reproductive organs are subjected to before parenthood, and not on the intensity of exposure on any particular occasion.
22? '? THE 50S: THE STORY OF A DECADE Dr. E. L. Green, the A.E.C.'s geneticist, starting with the premise that for every billion genes (about one hundred thousand people) 've thousand mutations turn up, estimates that exposure to the extra tenth of a roentgen introduced by the nuclear tests will mean an additional ten to twenty mutations among each hundred thousand of the population. The 'eld of genetics is still a mass of unsolved riddles, but the authorities are generally agreed that if and when the tenth-'of-'a-'roentgen mutations start showing up, it will be dif'cult to single them out as the direct results of nuclear explosions. According to Professor H. J. Muller, a Nobel Prize''winning geneticist, 'each detrimental mutation, even though small in effect and lost to view in the jumble of a heterogeneous population, tends to continue from generation to generation and to hamper successive descendants, until at last it happens to tip the scales against one of its possessors, and that line of descent then dies out in consequence of the inherited disability.' In a speech before the National Academy of Sciences this spring, Muller condemned prominent publicists of the government, including physicians, who have claimed that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will have no harmful effect on the future populations of those cities and, indeed, may even improve them. He also cited the A.E.C.'s favorite analogy of the chest X-'ray, but he gave it a somewhat different twist; in genetics, he implied, the reproductive organs are really rather more important than the chest. Muller pointed out that the additional radiation to which Americans are being exposed because of the bomb tests must be considered in terms not of the individual but of the whole population; that is, one-'tenth of a roentgen multiplied by 160,000,000, or 16,000,000 roentgens. Muller noted that this means that the United States may expect about as many mutations to result from the current nuclear tests, wherever held, as he anticipates will turn up in Hiroshima, since the 160,000 survivors in that city were exposed to an average of one hundred roentgens. In both instances, he said, the number of mutations caused by the arti'cial increase of radiation to date will probably someday amount to around eighty thousand''or from two and a half to 've times as many as Dr. Green predicts''and in the end, several times that many lives will be adversely affected. Still, Muller went on, in view of the total number of people involved during the scores of generations in which the mutations will be occurring, it is unlikely that the population as a whole will be undermined, and he recommended that before calling
PART ONE: AMERICAN SCENES? '? 23 for a ban on all future tests, thought be given to what the alternative damage might be if the tests were discontinued. In a way, he said, the case was similar to that of people who visit their doctors regularly for X-? ray examinations as a precautionary measure against serious illness even though a Public Health Service survey has shown that every year the average person receives much more radiation from this source than from the nuclear tests. 'Have we no right to expect individual sacri'ces when the stakes are democracy and intellectual freedom themselves'? Muller asked rhetorically. To this, any person now alive would appear to be obliged to give a stoutly af'rmative answer, but the question also, of course, raises the nagging dilemma of the propriety of attempting to speak for those who are yet to be born into a world the nature of which no one can predict. There are those who believe that some of the A.E.C. scientists might, if they were not restrained by loyalty to that agency, be just as vocal as their present adversaries in expressing anxiety over the dangers of fallout. However that may be, it is unlikely that the scientists on either side of the fence are enjoying their wrangling. 'It's no fun, this constantly being cast in the role of villain,' an A.E.C. man told me. 'Some people apparently think that from our point of view it's all a great big game, and that we're just blowing up bombs for the hell of it. They seem to forget entirely that their country is mixed up in an international situation that makes these tests necessary. Is it a crime to try to hold our lead in this miserable race for superior weapons, in view of what might well happen to all of us if we should lag behind'? To many laymen who have come to expect scientists to be starkly objective in their approach to technical problems and whose schooling pretty much encouraged the belief that there is always only one right answer to any question concerning science, the current disagreement among the authorities is both exasperating and baffling, if not actually frightening. Part of the trouble is, of course, that in this instance the question is not purely scienti'c but is also a matter of ethics, statesmanship, and clairvoyance''three notoriously treacherous quagmires for theorists. Moreover, so much about the workings of genetics remains obscure that, as the A.E.C. has gently observed, 'there is still a wide range for admissible opinion? on the subject, and many scientists feel that there is an equally wide range when it comes to the more immediate effects of radiation. In other words, even if there is only one right answer
24? '? THE 50S: THE STORY OF A DECADE to any question concerning science, those who are critical of the A.E.C.'s seeming complacency feel that until more is known about the awesome mysteries involved there should be no attempt to give any answer at all. Such critics might be said to belong to the play-'it-'safe school of thought. And to them the A.E.C. may justi'ably reply, 'Yes, but which is the safe way to play it''
PART ONE: AMERICAN SCENES? '? 25 AHAB AND NEMESIS A. J. Liebling OCTO B E R 8, 195 5 (O N ROCK Y MARCIAN O VS . ARCH I E M OO R E) Btween ack in 1922, the late Heywood Broun, who is not remembered primarily as a boxing writer, wrote a durable account of a combat bethe late Benny Leonard and the late Rocky Kansas for the lightweight championship of the world. Leonard was the greatest practitioner of the era, Kansas just a rough, optimistic fellow. In the early rounds, Kansas messed Leonard about, and Broun was profoundly disturbed. A radical in politics, he was a conservative in the arts, and Kansas made him think of Gertrude Stein, les Six, and nonrepresentational painting, all of them novelties that irritated him. 'With the opening gong, Rocky Kansas tore into Leonard,' he wrote. 'He was gauche and inaccurate, but terribly persistent.' The classic verities prevailed, however. After a few rounds, during which Broun continued to yearn for a return to a culture with 'xed values, he was enabled to record: 'The young child of nature who was challenging for the championship dropped his guard, and Leonard hooked a powerful and entirely orthodox blow to the conventional point of the jaw. Down went Rocky Kansas. His past life flashed before him during the nine seconds in which he remained on the floor, and he wished that he had been more faithful as a child in heeding the advice of his boxing teacher. After all, the old masters did know something. There is still a kick in style, and tradition carries a nasty wallop.' I have often thought of Broun's words in the three years since Rocky Marciano, the reigning heavyweight champion, scaled the 'stic summits, as they say in Journal-'Americanese, by beating a sly, powerful quadragenarian colored man named Jersey Joe Walcott. The current
26? '? THE 50S: THE STORY OF A DECADE Rocky is gauche and inaccurate, but besides being persistent he is a dreadfully severe hitter with either hand. The predominative nature of this asset has been well stated by Pierce Egan, the Edward Gibbon and Sir Thomas Malory of the old London prize ring, who was less preoccupied than Broun with ultimate implications. Writing in 1821 of a 'milling cove? named Bill Neat, the Bristol Butcher, Egan said, 'He possesses a requisite above all the art that teaching can achieve for any boxer; namely, one hit from his right hand, given in proper distance, can gain a victory; but three of them are positively enough to dispose of a giant.' This is true not only of Marciano's right hand but of his left hand, too'? provided he doesn't miss the giant entirely. Egan doubted the advisability of changing Neat's style, and he would have approved of Marciano's. The champion has an apparently unlimited absorptive capacity for percussion (Egan would have called him an 'insatiable glutton') and inexhaustible energy ('a prime bottom 'ghter'). 'Shifting,' or moving to the side, and 'milling in retreat,' or moving back, are innovations of the late eighteenth century that Rocky's advisers have carefully kept from his knowledge, lest they spoil his natural prehistoric style. Egan excused these tactics only in boxers of feeble constitution. I imagine Broun would have had a hard time 'tting Marciano anywhere into his frame of reference. Archie Moore, the light-'heavyweight champion of the world, who hibernates in San Diego, California, and estivates in Toledo, Ohio, is a Brounian rather than an Eganite in his thinking about style, but he naturally has to do more than think about it. Since the rise of Marciano, Moore, a cerebral and hyper-experienced light-'colored pugilist who has been active since 1936, has suffered the pangs of a supreme exponent of bel canto who sees himself crowded out of the opera house by a guy who can only shout. As a sequel to a favorable review I wrote of one of his infrequent New York appearances a year ago, when his fee was restricted to a measly 've 'gures, I received a sad little note signed 'The most unappreciated 'ghter in the world, Archie Moore.' A fellow who has as much style as Moore tends to overestimate the intellect''he develops the kind of Faustian mind that will throw itself against the problem of perpetual motion, or of how to pick horses 'rst, second, third, and fourth in every race. Archie's note made it plain to me that he was honing his harpoon for the White Whale. When, during some recent peregrinations in Europe, I read newspaper items about Moore's decisioning a large, playful porpoise of a Cuban
PART ONE: AMERICAN SCENES? '? 27 heavyweight named Nino Valdes and scoop-'netting a minnow like Bobo Olson, the middleweight champion, for practice, I thought of him as a lonely Ahab, rehearsing to buck Herman Melville, Pierce Egan, and the betting odds. I did not think that he could bring it off, but I wanted to be there when he tried. What would Moby Dick be if Ahab had succeeded? Just another 'sh story. The thing that is eternally diverting is the struggle of man against history''or what Albert Camus, who used to be an amateur middleweight, has called the Myth of Sisyphus. (Camus would have been a great man to cover the 'ght, but none of the syndicates thought of it.) When I heard that the boys had been made for September 20th, at the Yankee Stadium, I shortened my stay abroad in order not to miss the Encounter of the Two Heroes, as Egan would have styled the rendezvous. ? ? ? In London on the night of September 13th, a week before the date set for the Encounter, I tried to get my eye in for 'ght-'watching by attending a bout at the White City greyhound track between Valdes, who had been imported for the occasion, and the British Empire heavyweight champion, Don Cockell, a fat man whose gift for public suffering has enlisted the sympathy of a sentimental people. Since Valdes had gone 'fteen rounds with Moore in Las Vegas the previous May, and Cockell had excruciated for nine rounds before being knocked out by Marciano in San Francisco in the same month, the bout offered a dim opportunity for establishing what racing people call a 'line? between Moore and Marciano. I didn't get much of an optical workout, because Valdes disposed of Cockell in three rounds. It was evident that Moore and Marciano had not been 'ghting the same class of people this season. This was the only 'ght I ever attended in a steady rainstorm. It had begun in the middle of the afternoon, and while there was a canopy over the ring, the spectators were as wet as speckled trout. 'The weather, it is well known, has no terrors to the admirers of Pugilism and Life,' Egan once wrote, and on his old stamping ground this still holds true. As I took my seat in a rock pool that had collected in the hollow of my chair, a South African giant named Ewart Potgieter, whose weight had been announced as twenty-'two stone ten, was ignoring the doctrine of Apartheid by leaning on a Jamaican colored man who weighed a mere sixteen stone, and by the time I had transposed these statistics to three hundred and eighteen pounds and two hundred and twenty-'four pounds, respec-
28? '? THE 50S: THE STORY OF A DECADE tively, the exhausted Jamaican had acquiesced in resegregation and retired. The giant had not struck a blow, properly speaking, but had shoved downward a number of times, like a man trying to close an over-''lled trunk. The main bout proved an even less gruelling contest. Valdes, eager to get out of the chill, struck Cockell more vindictively than is his wont, and after a few gestures invocative of commiseration the fat man settled in one corner of the ring as heavily as suet pudding upon the unaccustomed gastric system. He had received what Egan would have called a 'ribber? and a 'nobber,' and when he arose it was seen that the latter had raised a cut on his forehead. At the end of the third round, his manager withdrew him from competition. It was not an inspiring occasion, but after the armistice eight or nine shivering Cubans appeared in the runway behind the press section and jumped up and down to register emotion and restore circulation. 'Ahora Marciano!' they yelled. 'Now for Marciano!' Instead of being grateful for the distraction, the other spectators took a poor view of it. 'Sit down, you chaps!' one of them cried. 'We want to see the next do!' They were still parked out there in the rain when I tottered into the Shepherd's Bush underground station and collapsed, sneezing, on a train that eventually disgorged me at Oxford Circus, with just enough time left to buy a revivifying draught before eleven o'clock, when the pubs closed. How the mugs I left behind cured themselves I never knew. They had to do it on Bovril. ? ? ? Because I had engagements that kept me in England until a few days before the Encounter, I had no opportunity to visit the training camps of the rival American Heroes. I knew all the members of both factions, however, and I could imagine what they were thinking. In the plane on the way home, I tried to envision the rival patterns of ratiocination. I could be sure that Marciano, a kind, quiet, imperturbable fellow, would plan to go after Moore and make him 'ght continuously until he tired enough to become an accessible target. After that, he would expect concussion to accentuate exhaustion and exhaustion to facilitate concussion, until Moore came away from his consciousness, like everybody else Rocky had ever fought. He would try to remember to minimize damage to himself in the beginning, while there was still snap in Moore's arms, because Moore is a sharp puncher. (Like Bill Neat of old, Marciano hits at his opponent's arms when he cannot hit past them. 'In one instance,
PART ONE: AMERICAN SCENES? '? 29 the arm of Oliver [a Neat adversary] received so paralyzing a shock in stopping the blow that it appeared almost useless,' Egan once wrote.) Charlie Goldman, Marciano's hand-'chipped tactical adviser, would have instructed him in some rudimentary maneuver to throw Moore's 'rst shots off, I felt sure, but after a few minutes Rocky would forget it, or Archie would 'gure it out. But there would always be Freddie Brown, the 'cut man,' in the champion's corner to repair super'cial damage. One reason Goldman is a great teacher is that he doesn't try to teach a boxer more than he can learn. What he has taught Rocky in the four years since I 'rst saw him 'ght is to shorten the arc of most of his blows without losing power thereby, and always to follow one hard blow with another'''for insurance'''delivered with the other hand, instead of recoiling to watch the victim fall. The champion has also gained con'- dence and presence of mind; he has a good 'ghting head, which is not the same thing as being a good mechanical practitioner. 'A boxer requires a nob as well as a statesman does a head, coolness and calculation being essential to second his efforts,' Egan wrote, and the old historiographer was never more correct. Rocky is thirty-'one, not in the 'rst flush of youth for a boxer, but Moore is only a few days short of thirty-'nine, so age promised to be in the champion's favor if he kept pressing. Moore's strategic problem, I reflected on the plane, offered more choices and, as a corollary, in'nitely more chances for error. It was possible, but not probable, that jabbing and defensive skill would carry him through 'fteen rounds, even on those old legs, but I knew that the mere notion of such a gambade would revolt Moore. He is not what Egan would have called a shy 'ghter. Besides, would Ahab have been content merely to go the distance with the White Whale? I felt sure that Archie planned to knock the champion out, so that he could sign his next batch of letters 'The most appreciated and deeply opulent 'ghter in the world.' I surmised that this project would prove a mistake, like Mr. Churchill's attempt to take Gallipoli in 1915, but it would be the kind of mistake that would look good in his memoirs. The basis of what I rightly anticipated would prove a miscalculation went back to Archie's academic background. As a young 'ghter of conventional tutelage, he must have heard his preceptors say hundreds of times, 'They will all go if you hit them right.' If a 'ghter did not believe that, he would be in the position of a Euclidian without faith in the hundred-'and-'eighty-'degree triangle. Moore's strategy, therefore, would be based on working Marciano into a position where he could hit him right. He would not go in and slug with
30? '? THE 50S: THE STORY OF A DECADE him, because that would be wasteful, distasteful, and injudicious, but he might try to cut him up, in an effort to slow him down so he could hit him right, or else try to hit him right and then cut him up. The puzzle he reserved for me''and Marciano''was the tactic by which he would attempt to attain his strategic objective. In the formation of his views, I believed, Moore would be handicapped, rather than aided, by his active, skeptical mind. One of the odd things about Marciano is that he isn't terribly big. It is hard for a man like Moore, just under six feet tall and weighing about a hundred and eighty pounds, to imagine that a man approximately the same size can be immeasurably stronger than he is. This is particularly true when, like the light-'heavyweight champion, he has spent his whole professional life contending with boxers''some of them considerably bigger''whose strength has proved so near his own that he could move their arms and bodies by cunning pressures. The old classicist would consequently refuse to believe what he was up against. ? ? ? The light-'heavyweight limit is a hundred and seventy-''ve pounds, and Moore can get down to that when he must, in order to defend his title, but in a heavyweight match each Hero is allowed to weigh whatever he pleases. I was back in time to attend the weighing-'in ceremonies, held in the lobby of Madison Square Garden at noon on the day set for the Encounter, and learned that Moore weighed 188 and Marciano 188''? a? lack of disparity that 'gured to encourage the rationalist's illusions. I also learned that, in contrast to Jack Solomons, the London promoter who held the Valdes-'Cockell match in the rain, the International Boxing Club, which was promoting the Encounter, had decided to postpone it for twenty-'four hours, although the weather was clear. The decision was based on apprehension of Hurricane Ione, which, although apparently veering away from New York, might come around again like a lazy left hook and drop in on the point of the Stadium's jaw late in the evening. Nothing like that happened, but the postponement brought the town's theatres and bars another evening of good business from the out-'of-'town 'ght trade, such as they always get on the eve of a memorable Encounter. ('Not a bed could be had at any of the villages at an early hour on the preceding evening; and Uxbridge was crowded beyond all former precedent,' Egan wrote of the night before Neat beat Oliver.) There was no doubt that the 'ght had caught the public imagination, ever sensitive to a meeting between Hubris and Nemesis, as the boys on the quarterlies
PART ONE: AMERICAN SCENES? '? 31 would say, and the bookies were laying 18''5 on Nemesis, according to the boys on the dailies, who always seem to hear. (A friend of mine up from Maryland with a whim and a 've-'dollar bill couldn't get ten against it in ordinary barroom money anywhere, although he wanted Ahab.) The enormous''by recent precedent''advance sale of tickets had so elated the I.B.C. that it had decided to replace the usual card of bad preliminary 'ghts with some not worth watching at all, so there was less distraction than usual as we awaited the appearance of the Heroes on the fateful evening. The press seats had been so closely juxtaposed that I could 't in only sidewise between two colleagues''the extra compression having been caused by the injection of a prewar number of movie stars and politicos. The tight quarters were an advantage, in a way, since they facilitated my conversation with Peter Wilson, an English prize-? ring correspondent, who happened to be in the row behind me. I had last seen Mr. Wilson at White City the week before, at a time when the water level had already reached his shredded-'Latakia mustache. I had feared that he had drowned at ringside, but when I saw him at the Stadium, he assured me that by buttoning the collar of his mackintosh tightly over his nostrils he had been able to make the garment serve as a diving lung, and so survive. Like all British 'ght writers when they are relieved of the duty of watching British 'ghters, he was in a holiday mood, and we chatted happily. There is something about the approach of a good 'ght that renders the spirit insensitive to annoyance; it is only when the amateur of the Sweet Science has some doubts as to how good the main bout will turn out to be that he is avid for the satisfaction to be had from the preliminaries. This is because after the evening is over, he may have only a good supporting 'ght to remember. There were no such doubts''even in the minds of the mugs who had paid for their seats''on the evening of September 21st. At about ten-'thirty, the champion and his faction entered the ring. It is not customary for the champion to come in 'rst, but Marciano has never been a stickler for protocol. He is a humble, kindly fellow, who even now will approach an acquaintance on the street and say bashfully, 'Remember me? I'm Rocky Marciano.' The champion doesn't mind waiting 've or ten minutes to give anybody a punch in the nose. In any case, once launched from his dressing room under the grandstand, he could not have arrested his progress to the ring, because he had about forty policemen pushing behind him, and three more clearing a path in front of him. Marciano, tucked in behind the third cop like a football
32? '? THE 50S: THE STORY OF A DECADE ballcarrier behind his interference, had to run or be trampled to death. Wrapped in a heavy blue bathrobe and with a blue monk's cowl pulled over his head, he climbed the steps to the ring with the cumbrous agility of a medieval executioner ascending the scaffold. Under the hood, he seemed to be trying to look serious. He has an intellectual appreciation of the anxieties of a champion, but he has a hard time forgetting how strong he is; while he remembers that, he can't worry as much as he knows a champion should. His attendants''quick, battered little Goldman; Al Weill, the stout, excitable manager, always stricken just before the bell with the suspicion that he may have made a bad match; Al Columbo, the boyhood friend from Brockton, Massachusetts, which is Rocky's home town''are all as familiar to the crowd as he is. Ahab's party arrived in the ring a minute or so later, and Charlie Johnston, his manager''a calm sparrow-'hawk of a man, as old and wise in the game as Weill''went over to watch Goldman put on the champion's gloves. Freddie Brown, the surgical specialist, went to Moore's corner to watch his gloves being put on. Moore wore a splendid black silk robe with a gold lam? collar and belt. He sports a full mustache above an imperial, and his hair, sleeked down under pomade when he opens operations, invariably rises during the contest, as it gets water sloshed on it between rounds and the lacquer washes off, until it is standing up like the top of a shaving brush. Seated in his corner in the shadow of his personal trainer, a brown man called Cheerful Norman, who weighs two hundred and thirty-''ve pounds, Moore looked like an old Japanese print I have of a Shogun Engaged in Strategic Contemplation in the Midst of War. The third member of his group was Bertie Briscoe, a rough, chipper little trainer, whose more usual charge is Sandy Saddler, the featherweight champion''also a Johnston 'ghter. Mr. Moore's features in repose rather resemble those of Orson Welles, and he was reposing with intensity. The procession of other 'ghters and former 'ghters to be introduced was longer than usual. The full galaxy was on hand, including Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, and Joe Louis, the t'tes de cuv'e of former-? champion society; ordinary former heavyweight champions, like Max Baer and Jim Braddock, slipped through the ropes practically unnoticed. After all the celebrities had been in and out of the ring, an odd dwarf, advertising something or other''possibly himself''was lifted into the ring by an accomplice and ran across it before he could be shooed out.
PART ONE: AMERICAN SCENES? '? 33 The referee, a large, craggy, oldish man named Harry Kessler, who, unlike some of his better-'known colleagues, is not an ex-''ghter, called the men to the center of the ring. This was his moment; he had the microphone. 'Now Archie and Rocky, I want a nice, clean 'ght,' he said, and I heard a peal of silvery laughter behind me from Mr. Wilson, who had seen both of them 'ght before. 'Protect yourself at all times,' Mr. Kessler cautioned them unnecessarily. When the principals shook hands, I could see Mr. Moore's eyebrows rising like storm clouds over the Sea of Azov. His whiskers bristled and his eyes glowed like dark coals as he scrunched his eyebrows down again and enveloped the Whale with the Look, which was intended to dominate his will power. Mr. Wilson and I were sitting behind Marciano's corner, and as the champion came back to it I observed his expression, to determine what effect the Look had had upon him. More than ever, he resembled a Great Dane who has heard the word 'bone.' A moment later the bell rang and the Heroes came out for the 'rst round. Marciano, training in the sun for weeks, had tanned to a slightly deeper tint than Moore's old ivory, and Moore, at 188, looked, if anything, bigger and more muscular than Marciano; much of champion's weight is in his legs, and his shoulders slope. Marciano advanced, but Moore didn't go far away. As usual, he stood up nicely, his arms close to his body and his feet not too far apart, ready to go anywhere but not without a reason''the picture of a powerful, decisive intellect unfettered by preconceptions. Marciano, pulling his left arm back from the shoulder, flung a left hook. He missed, but not by enough to discourage him, and then walked in and hooked again. All through the round, he threw those hooks, and some of them grazed Moore's whiskers; one even hit him on the side of the head. Moore didn't try much offensively; he held a couple of times when Marciano worked in close. Marciano came back to his corner as he always does, unimpassioned. He hadn't expected to catch Moore with those left hooks anyway, I imagine; all he had wanted was to move him around. Moore went to his corner inscrutable. They came out for the second, and Marciano went after him in brisker fashion. In the 'rst round, he had been throwing the left hook, missing with it, and then throwing a right and missing with that, too. In the second, he tried a variation''throwing a right and then pulling a shoulder back to throw the left. It appeared for a moment to have Moore confused, as a matador might be confused by a bull who
34? '? THE 50S: THE STORY OF A DECADE walked in on his hind legs. Marciano landed a couple of those awkward hooks, but not squarely. He backed Moore over toward the side of the ring farthest from me, and then Moore knocked him down. Some of the reporters, describing the blow in the morning papers, called it a 'sneak punch,' which is journalese for one the reporter didn't see but technically means a lead thrown before the other man has warmed up or while he is musing about the gate receipts. This had been no lead, and although I certainly hadn't seen Moore throw the punch, I knew that it had landed inside the arc of Marciano's left hook. ('Marciano missed with the right, trun the left, and Moore stepped inside it,' my private eye, a trainer named Whitey Bimstein, said next day, con'rming my diagnosis, and the 'lm of the 'ght bore both of us out.) So Ahab had his harpoon in the Whale. He had hit him right if ever I saw a boxer hit right, with a classic brevity and conciseness. Marciano stayed down for two seconds. I do not know what took place in Mr. Moore's breast when he saw him get up. He may have felt, for the moment, like Don Giovanni when the Commendatore's statue grabbed at him''startled because he thought he had killed the guy already''or like Ahab when he saw the Whale take down Fedallah, harpoons and all. Anyway, he hesitated a couple of seconds, and that was reasonable. A man who took nine to come up after a punch like that would be doing well, and the correct tactic would be to go straight in and 'nish him. But a fellow who came up on two was so strong he would bear investigation. After that, Moore did go in, but not in a crazy way. He hit Marciano some good, hard, classic shots, and inevitably Marciano, a trader, hit him a few devastating swipes, which slowed him. When the round ended, the edge of Moore's speed was gone, and he knew that he would have to set a new and completely different trap, with diminished resources. After being knocked down, Marciano had stopped throwing that patterned right-'and-'left combination; he has a good nob. 'He never trun it again in the 'ght,' Whitey said next day, but I differ. He threw it in the 'fth, and again Moore hit him a peach of a right inside it, but the steam was gone; this time Ahab couldn't even stagger him. Anyway, there was Moore at the end of the second, dragging his shattered faith in the unities and humanities back to his corner. He had hit a guy right, and the guy hadn't gone. But there is no geezer in Moore, any more than there was in the master of the Pequod. Both came out for the third very gay, as Egan would have said. Marciano had been hit and cut, so he felt acclimated, and Moore was so mad at
PART ONE: AMERICAN SCENES? '? 35 himself for not having knocked Marciano out that he almost displayed animosity toward him. He may have thought that perhaps he had not hit Marciano just right; the true artist is always prone to self-'reproach. He would try again. A minute's attention from his squires had raised his spirits and slaked down his hair. At this point, Marciano set about him. He waddled in, hurling his 'sts with a sublime disregard of probabilities, content to hit an elbow, a biceps, a shoulder, the top of a head''the last supposed to be the least pro'table target in the business, since, as every beginner learns, 'the head is the hardest part of the human body,' and a boxer will only break his hands on it. Many boxers make the systematic presentation of the cranium part of their defensive scheme. The crowd, basically anti-'intellectual, screamed encouragement. There was Moore, riding punches, picking them off, slipping them, rolling with them, ducking them, coming gracefully out of his defensive efforts with sharp, patterned blows''and just about holding this parody even on points. His face, emerging at instants from under the storm of arms''his own and Rocky's''looked like that of a swimming walrus. When the round ended, I could see that he was thinking deeply. Marciano came back to his corner at a kind of suppressed dogtrot. He didn't have a worry in the world. It was in the fourth, though, that I think Sisyphus began to get the idea he couldn't roll back the Rock. Marciano pushed him against the ropes and swung at him for what seemed a full minute without ever landing a punch that a boxer with Moore's background would consider a credit to his workmanship. He kept them coming so fast, though, that Moore tired just getting out of their way. One newspaper account I saw said that at this point Moore 'swayed uncertainly,' but his motions were about as uncertain as Margot Fonteyn's, or Arthur Rubinstein's. He is the most premeditated and best-'synchronized swayer in his profession. After the bell rang for the end of the round, the champion hit him a right for good measure''he usually manages to have something on the way all the time''and then pulled back to disclaim any uncouth intention. Moore, no man to be conned, hit him a corker of a punch in return, when he wasn't expecting it. It was a gesture of moral reprobation and also a punch that would give any normal man something to think about between rounds. It was a good thing Moore couldn't see Marciano's face as he came back to his corner, though, because the champion was laughing. The 'fth was a successful round for Moore, and I had him ahead on points that far in the 'ght. But it took no expert to know where the