Vol. 12, No. 3,009 - The American Reporter - October 19, 2006

by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
Seattle, Wash.

Printable version of this story

SEATTLE, Wash. -- Back in the days when I made my living intra muros - within the walls, of the academy, that is - I was troubled from time to time by a recurrent nightmare.

I am sitting in my office in East Pyne Building happily picking at an article or writing a letter when the phone rings.

It is my Department Chair. He says: "CB! What are you doing in your office?!"

"Where should I be?" I ask, not daring to imagine the reply.

"Well, the program says that you were to address the Victorian Society on the topic of John Henry, Cardinal Newman, at three...which is ten minutes ago!"

"Newman!" I gasp. "I know less about Newman than he does about me! There must be some mistake."

"Your serial number, it says here, is RA 530 36 080. Is that right?" This is not the first time that, in a nightmare, my Department Chair has metamorphosed into Lieutenant Stillwagen of Co. C, Fort Jackson, S.C.

"It is ... sir!" I gulp.

"Then get your butt over here on the double and give us 45 minutes on Newman and the Problem of Anglican Catholicism or you're gonna get it where the sun don't shine! Am I making myself clear?"

The above is by way of excusing this INK SOUP, which will have all the authority and eloquence of my lecture about Newman. The fact is that I was happily boiling an egg for my lunch some ten minutes ago, when the telephone rang and the tender blond voice of my editor informed me that "a production schedule change" had made it necessary for this piece to be in her hands instanter, not at some hour tomorrow afternoon.

I don't know why, but this nightmare segued into a memory of George McManus, the cartoonist who used to draw the famous strip featuring Maggie and Jiggs ("Bringing Up Father"). When he was behind, he would seize on the news of a plane crash to wire his syndicate, King Features:


This gave him a week to play golf and party before resuming the grind at the drawing board.

The frantic notion crossed my mind of asking my editor to run some reheated Ink Soup. But no. Letters from readers who remember this column much better than I do has convinced me that I could never get away with it.

So, ladies and gentlemen, before I say a few words about the radical theology of Newman, could I just mention the topic of the weather here in Seattle?

Everyone is familiar with the libelous assertion that it rains all the time. I confess to having believed this myself before moving here four years ago. It does in fact rain now and again at certain times of the year, but no one pays the slightest attention. The umbrella sits in the corner and rots with mildew from disuse. Raingear is almost unobtainable in normal stores.

There are times when people pay attention. Everyone can tell the story of the day it was raining in the backyard but not in the front. Or the day when rain fell on them while sunbathing under a clear sky. This has happened to me.

But, about John Henry Newman. He was said never to have left his house without his mac and a brolly. This doubtless reflects his dubiety about the divine promise associated with the rainbow... .

Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton University.

Copyright 2006 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.

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