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Saturday, April 24, 2010


Here is the missing installment. Tomorrow I begin Volume Two, Chapter Two of the Memoirs.

The event that separated my first year at Chicago decisively from my second was my marriage to Cindy in June of 1962. We had been seeing each other steadily for almost five years, but the year apart brought things to a head. We both felt that we ought either to get married or end our relationship. We decided on marriage. Cindy's parents were not thrilled, to put it as gently as I can. Her father, James Griffin, was by this time the Vice-President for Public Relations of Sears Roebuck, and the Griffins were living in an elegant apartment in downtown Chicago. They were serious Catholics - her father had been made a Knight of Malta for his fund-raising services to the Church. Our marriage would apparently be a "scandal to the faithful," which pretty much precluded our being married in Shaker Heights, where Cindy had grown up while Griffin was in charge of the Cleveland Group of Sears stores. Nor could we be married in a Catholic Church. At this point, Cindy had decisively left the Church, but she very much wanted her family to be involved in the affair, so we hit upon a geographical and ecclesiastical compromise. We would be married in Appleton Chapel in Harvard Yard by an Episcopalian Minister.

I had taught with Hanna Holborn Gray in Soc Sci 5 at Harvard, as I have already mentioned [see Volume One, Chapter Six]. Hanna, the daughter of the distinguished Yale historian Hajo Holborn, was the fair-haired girl of the Harvard History Department, Myron Gilmore's almost certain successor as the Ren and Ref expert [Renaissance and Reformation, for those not in the know.] But her husband, Charles Gray, a former Junior Fellow teaching at MIT, got a good job at the University of Chicago, and she followed him out. At first, she could only get a position in the College, but eventually, she became Acting President of Yale University, President of the University of Chicago, and is now a member of the Harvard Corporation. When Cindy and I got engaged, Hanna and Charles organized a cocktail party in our honor to celebrate. We were madly rushing around making arrangements and simply forgot about the party. When I came to my senses and realized what we had done, I was so totally mortified that I could not even call to apologize. I simply slunk away and never talked to her again. Even now, forty-eight years later, I cringe when I think about it. Hanna, if by some chance you have found your way to this blog, will you at long last accept my most humble apologies?

When Cindy and I settled upon our engagement, I called my parents to tell them the good news. Appleton Chapel is not a large church, so we agreed that it would have to be a small wedding. Cindy had a brother and an uncle and aunt in addition to her parents, and of course none of her father's Catholic business associates could consider attending, so the bride's party would be pretty small. On my side were my mother and father and sister, but I wanted as well to invite my favorite aunt and uncle, as well as my grandmother, if she could make it at her then advanced age. I told my mother that I wanted to invite only the absolutely inner circle of family. She thought for a long minute and said, "Well, there are thirty-five." "No, no, Ma, " I said, "You don't understand. There isn't room for everybody. I just want the irreducible minimum." "You don't understand," she replied. 'You don't have to live with them after the wedding."

In the end, only my parents and my sister came to the wedding. The remainder of the guests were all our friends from our Harvard days. The Winthrop House Senior Common Room attended, led by David Owen. The Moores were there, along with David Riesman and a host of other Harvard Square types. At the appropriate moment in the ceremony, i intoned the ritual words, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Since I was a confirmed atheist, I adopted a cultural anthropological rather than a doctrinal attitude toward this element of the ceremony, but I was the first person in my extended family ever to utter those words, and when they crossed my lips, there was a collective inrushing of breath from the groom's side of the aisle.

Cindy and I set up light housekeeping in an apartment at 5550 South Dorchester, two blocks from my old apartment. The wedding presents flowed in from both sides of the marriage. From Cindy's side came a good deal of silver plate and Steuban crystal, courtesy of her father's business associates, along with a little gaudily painted china figurine of The Infant of Prague. From my side came a scroll stating that ten trees had been planted in Israel in our name. We had more than enough good china and crystal, but we were short on money, so we decided to return a collection of expensive but unwanted wedding gifts to the stores in Cleveland from which they had come. We loaded up the VW bug and drove to Ohio. A number of the items had come from the same place, Halle's Department Store in downtown Cleveland. When we got there, Cindy said she would stay in the car while I went up to do the returns. Things went pretty well until I got to the Steuben Room. When I handed in the pair of Steuben sugar and cream servers, explaining lamely that they were a duplicate, the saleslady looked at me askance and asked whether I really wanted to return them. "Oh, yes," I assured her brightly. She opened the little file card holder in which each patron's purchases were carefully recorded on a separate card. She paged through the file until she came to a thick group of cards clipped together. It seemed the gift was from Mr. Halle himself, the owner of the store. I beat a hasty retreat and had a few words with Cindy in the car.

Cindy had completed her coursework for the doctorate in English Literature, and was studying for her oral examinations. Let me take just a moment to explain what this involved. Cindy was going to spend two hours being quizzed by three members of the Harvard English Department on English Literature -- all of it. Everything was fair game, from Beowulf to Finnegan's Wake. Poetry, drama, fiction, non-fiction prose, all of it. Night after night, Cindy plowed her way through everything she had not already mastered, preparing herself for the examination. That ordeal gave her a grounding for her career that no selection of "special fields' could have matched.

Meanwhile, since we needed the money, Cindy got herself a job at Illinois Institute of Technology teaching a required Humanities course to budding engineers. Three times a week she would get in the VW and drive north to 33rd street, where she would face a class of students who really did not want to be there. By the time the second semester had rolled around, she had worked her way to the poetry section. One day, she went into class to discuss a sonnet by Robert Frost. She labored hard to show the students how much thought Frost had put into his poem, even holding up a xeroxed copy of the original hand-written text, with Frost's emendations. The students weren't having any of it. They refused to believe there could be that much in a poem. Finally, in exasperation, she asked them, "How long do you imagine it took Frost to write this poem?" Well, this was a time and motion problem that a group of engineers could get their teeth into, and a lively argument broke out in the class, with the students even ignoring Cindy in their excitement. At one point, a student looked up and asked, "Is this an early poem or a late poem?" Cindy told him it was a late poem. More deliberation. Finally, as engineers will, they came to a group consensus. Since it was a late poem, they said, and he must have been quite practiced at poetry by the time he came to write it, they agreed that it would have taken him a minute a line. Fourteen lines, fourteen minutes. That night, Cindy was in such despair that she seriously considered quitting her job. I protested that we needed the money, and pushed her out the door the next morning to go to class.

Once my manuscript had been accepted by Harvard, there was a great deal of work to be done before it actually became a book. First came a host of small revisions in response to Beck's four pages of comments. This was followed by the copy-edited manuscript, the galleys, and the page proofs. I always find this process rather fun. It requires no intelligence whatsoever, and still gives you the sense that you are doing something productive. And it is always enjoyable to spend time with your own words, a holdover, I suppose, from our infantile fascination with our own feces. But then came the business of preparing an index. This being my first book, I had never done an index before. Those of you reading these words who are entirely creatures of the digital age probably do not appreciate what an excruciating task it was to produce an index for a book. For you, it is just a matter of going to the right drop-down menu and clicking on the appropriate item. In the old days [back when we all walked seven miles to school in our bare feet through the snow -- those old days], things were different. You bought an enormous stack of file cards, sat down with a set of page proofs [you had to know the page on which a word appeared in order to index it, of course], and went through the text, flagging each item you thought ought to be in the index. After a while, a blizzard of cards would pile up on the floor, and you would spend most of your time clawing through it frantically trying to find the card on which you knew you had already written "a prior synthesis.” When I was done, I swore Never again. Whatever it cost, I would pay to have it done. And so I have. That was my first and last engagement with indexing.

Cindy aced her orals. They scarcely touched on most of what she had crammed into her head, of course -- they were only two hours long, after all -- but the preparation for them left her with a command of the entire sweep of English Literature that has stood her in good stead to the present day. Having become what we all in the Academy now refer to as ABD, she decided to write her doctoral dissertation on the relationship between the epistolary novels of the eighteenth century English writer Samuel Richardson and the literature of Puritan self-examination out of which they had emerged.


Roberto Loja said...

On the subject of creating indexes, I'm reminded of two anecdotes, neither of which have sources. Heidegger is said to have been staunchly against the appending of an index to Being and Time, supposedly intent on encouraging people to re-read huge chunks the book in order to find what they were looking for. I've always somewhat suspected this must have been at least a little related to how difficult the process was in pre-digital times. The contrast is Rawls (I think it was him), who absolutely (and unimaginably) adored the process of making an index.

Being entirely a product of the digital age, I've actually abandoned even just using indexes, since Google Books actually let's you search the entire contents of a book. Even when the relevant pages are not available for online reading, it'll still tell you what pages to look at in a paper copy. Ah, technology...

Robert Paul Wolff said...

That is fascinating about Jack Rawls. I did not know that. Along related lines, when I was young, somebody in philosophy made a name for himself by producing a concordance to the works of Spinoza -- a listing of where each word appeared in the total corpus of Spinoza's works. It was extremely useful, of course, but today would be a total waste of time. Same for the many concordances to the Bible. I just use the King Jame version online which immediately tells me "plowshares" appears!

M said...

I read your new memoirs daily, and I wanted to add a quick point on Rawls' love of indexing books, which Roberto just mentioned:

"They [Jack and Mardy] were married in June 1949 and spent the summer in Princeton, producing the index to Walter Kaufmann's book Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, and Anti-Christ in exchange for the then princely sum of $500" (Thomas Pogge, John Rawls: His Life and Theory of Justice, p. 15).

It was interesting to read about your book manuscript on nuclear deterrence. Have you thought of making it more widely available (perhaps online)? Formal models and game theory are still quite influential in political science, and a thoughtful critique of them would make an important contribution.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I am not sure that old manuscvript would stand the light of day, but I have elaborate lecture notes for my course, "The Use and Abuse of Formal Models in Political Theory," which folks might find very useful. Some of that made its way into my book on Rawls, some into my critique of Bob Nozick's ANARCHY, STATE, AND UTOPIA [Arizona Law Review], and some in the Canadian Journal of Philosophy essay criticizing Jon Elster's book on Marx. Maybe when I complete the writing of this memoir, I can work all of that up into something worth posting on line. I have quite a good deal to say. But I warn you, it is really technical. You cannot really use that stuff unless you master the mathematics.

dbrown07 said...

Around 8 years ago I helped Nick White produce the index for his book Individual and Conflict in Greek Ethics. Although I don't remember it being an explicit goal of ours in producing the index, we ended up trying to provide entries that no search engine I know of could produce. Nick was concerned that topics discussed but not mentioned be located and identified in the index. And, we also located discussions that covered several pages as "passim" entries. Nick also used the index to organize and present topics he thought ought to be grouped into clusters of entries according to his sense of what he was presenting in the text.

Two other indexes stand out to me as comprising valuable additions to their main texts beyond mere pointers to usages of terms: L. A. Selby-Bigge's indexes to Hume's Treatise and Enquiries, and Locke's index to his Essay. On the latter what I like about its organization is that Locke organized the entries according to the points he wanted to emphasize. Instance: the first entry in the heading for "Morality" is "capable of demonstration" with pointers to passages in books III and IV. Subsequent entries under that heading are neither alphabetically nor sequentially organized.

--Ken Brown (Cal Poly)

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I totally agree, Ken, about the Selby-Bigge index. His edition of the TREATISE is, I think, my favorite book. MY copy is in tatters. That index is an education all by itself, and could never have been produced by a computer. The same is true with regard to the Nick White story. I feel that way about library research. Actually walking into the stacks and wandering up one aisle and down another puts you in touch with things you might never have thought to look at.

It is fascinating to me which topics in my memoirs seem to trigger an outpouring of comments. I thought of that indexing story as just an amjusing anecdote.

dbrown07 said...

...and even in 2002 White's contributions to the index of his book consisted of a large stack of index cards with terms and page references to the page proofs.

Roberto Loja said...

"Nick was concerned that topics discussed but not mentioned be located and identified in the index."

Now that I could definitely get behind. Saying I've given up using indexes was a bit of an equivocation coming from my having been, at the time of that comment, trying desperately to find the sections in After Virtue where relativism is discussed. The index for that book is horrid; a paltry three pages, mostly authors' names. In my (very limited) experience, this seems to be the rule rather than the exception.

Ann said...

Excuse me, gentlemen, but I rather enjoy the story of the relationship of two brilliant academics and the wedding! :-)

Andrew said...

I myself would very much like to see your work on game theory and, I take it, your critique. Unfortunately in my "discipline" (political science) almost rational choice theory, formal models and game theory have become a type of religion amongst some (not all): that is, formal models are what make the "science" in political science a "real science." Of course this is absurd on many levels, but many adhere to this view of what science is, look at the journals (or most of them) especially, when the APSR, for example, was published out of Michigan State --- it was essentially, worthless then. I teach methods and international security so I would love to see your remarks on game theory.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Andrew, this is a very large subject, which requires a good deal of technical development. Only once one really understands the technical stuff is it possible to see how it is MISUSED. I do not think I can simply weave it into my memoir, but maybe, if there is enough interest, I could start a totally separate blog on which I develop this material systematically and at serious length, and then use the technical materials to reveal the limitations, not the power, of those technical tricks. Maybe I should ask, on my blog, whether anyone is interested. What I am essentially talking about is teaching an entire course in blog-sized pieces.

Matt said...

I had the pleasure of making the index to the Cambridge Companion to Rawls for Samuel Freeman my first summer in grad school at Penn. The pay for doing it allowed me to pay my rent that summer and it was mostly enjoyable work, though I did it the old-fashioned way for the most part- writing out in the margins of the proof-pages everything that should go in the index and then putting it together manually. The first review of the book (in the Notre Dame Philosophical Review) mentioned the index and I felt very proud.