Ephemera

RESOURCES
The Jessica Mitford and Robert Treuhaft Memorial Site:
www.mitford.org

The Mitford Society:
www.facebook.com/home.php#!/themitfordsociety

Map of Decca's Washington D.C. circa 1941 (via Regina White):
www.maps.google.com

HOW I FOUND DECCA
When I first read Mitford’s memoir Hons and Rebels, I was charmed by her rebellious and funny voice, and delighted beyond measure to discover (having traveled the road she did) that she’d been a Lefty in her youth and was still one. I’d also left home at seventeen and set off to change the world on a utopian model. My escape was considerably less dramatic and I was fortunate to find a home in a counterculture that supported my initial wanderings and exercises in journalism. I also became passionately involved in a movement--for me the hippie arm of the new left and the movement against the war in Vietnam. I was at the time a serious young girl in an often-claustrophobic world of radicals and revolution. At times, the burden of the struggle seemed contingent on me selling enough underground newspapers for our commune to buy rice and celery for dinner.

By the early eighties, I had long since left commune life. I found work as a part-time Librarian at the same San Francisco College of Mortuary Science that Mitford had eviscerated in The American Way of Death. (Grateful for a job that demanded no credentials) Four mornings a week I would sit at a gigantic oak desk, inhaling formaldehyde and the must of unopened books, revised the plays I’d begun to write. I would filch announcements off the bulletin boards for week-end workshops in “head reconstruction,” and “grief counseling Bar-B-Ques,” and stash these away.  Nobody would visit my library for weeks on end, except one young mortician-in-training who desultorily flipped through some books, then finally asked me out. He thought I might enjoy a tour of the building and I did. I saw the classrooms, laboratories, embalming rooms, and in the back yard what looked like twenty plastic gasoline cans full of blood. Once as I was snooping on my own, amid the back issues of “Mortuary Management” and “Casket and Sunnyside,” I found a file folder marked Jessica Mitford. I wish I could tell you there were explosive secret documents inside but it was empty. I always thought she’d get a kick out that, but I never did write to her until now.
- Leslie Brody


MORE EPHEMERA
Before this biography of Jessica Mitford was called Irrepressible, its name was A Running Away Account, an excellent and witty title that I owe to Regina White. During the editing process, I had to cut over 200 pages of finished work, and as I rethought this slimmer, fleeter version, I decided against Chapter titles and epigraphs. The epigraph issue was always problematic for me, since I collect them and always have. This website offers a new opportunity to include those quotes…some from Decca’s work and some from elsewhere. Here are the chapter names and the epigraphs that I’d planned to use before cutting.

CHAPTER ONE
The Escape Artist
You poor take courage/You rich take care

CHAPTER TWO
Honeymooners
Living w. E was like going for a walk in a fairy story, I decided. You never knew whether some sinister troll disguised as a British consul or a croupier might be lying in wait round the next corner, or when the thorny briar forest would magically part to admit you into the enchanted forest.” Hons and Rebels

CHAPTER THREE
Interventions
Who but we can recall the horror of that period? Of course it was not continuous; we had our gaieties, our moments of hope, of exhilaration, of triumph even. Nevertheless, they were years of mounting despair; unable to compound our internecine quarrels, unable to shake the complacency of a torpid nation, we saw the champions of tyranny, war and racial persecution winning a succession of ever easier victories. In those twilight days it was bloody to be alive and to be young was very hell.—Quentin Bell

CHAPTER FOUR
Fun &Fraud
“The young men had exchanged few observations; but in crossing Washington Square, in front of the monument to Washington –in the very shadow, projected, by the image of the pater patrio—one of them remarked to the other, “It seems a very rum-looking place.”
“Ah very odd, very odd,” said the other who was the clever man of the two.
“Pity it’s so beastly hot,” resumed the first speaker, after a pause.
“You know we are in a low latitude,” said his friend.
“I wonder,” said the second speaker, presently, “if they can give one a bath.”
“I daresay not,” rejoined the other.
“Oh, I say,” cried his comrade.
- Henry James, An International Episode

CHAPTER FIVE
Decca’s New Deal
April 15, 1940. Many thanks for your letter. I envy you your tour. I am still in Folkstone [after?] many weeks. It’s a pleasant town but just boring after a bit…I wish I could have seen you and Esmond in your bar. I hear Uncle Jack did visit you. What was he doing in Miami? I have so little news really. I have seen Boud several times, she really is much better. The first time I saw her was one of the most ghastly moments of my life. I could hardly bear to hear her talk so [../] and look so wild. But since then she has made a very rapid recovery and can walk with you for short distances and is [?] coherent in her talk. ..Please write again and tell me of your tour. Is America like the films? Give Esmond my love. Your Loving, Tom

CHAPTER SIX
Eros

CHAPTER SEVEN
Thanatos 

CHAPTER EIGHT
Enter Stage Left

CHAPTER NINE
The Far Horizons
The casseroles dripping in butter and cheese sauce (tuna noodle casseroles, macaroni and cheese, tamale pie); creamed tuna on toast, made with Campbells cream of mushroom soup,… the mayonnaise that was everywhere in deviled eggs, potato salad, shrimp Louis dressings and tuna fish sandwiches, the waffles, pancakes, custard cornbread, the Crisco crusted pies, chocolate cakes, snouts, snails and butter horns, the Jell-O salads, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fried chicken, meat loaf and mashed potatoes and gravy, the vegetables drenched in creamy sauces.-Kevin Starr

CHAPTER  TEN 
Earl Browder We Hardly Knew Ye
As I was becoming an American I felt myself to be in line with an honorable tradition of American radicalism. In fact, the discovery of that radicalism, the peculiar American features of it, was an exciting and stimulating aspect of my experience of the war years. - Gerda Lerner

CHAPTER ELEVEN
Women’s Work
I cry out to the Spring Wind/And the light and the passing hours
We enjoy life such a little/While, why should men cross each other?
By the Winding River I - Tu Fu translated by Kenneth Rexroth

CHAPTER TWELVE 
Film Noir
It was a time when the sullen star of McCarthy, rising above the jungle horizon and growing ever more brightly as it approached its zenith, stirred old and ugly passions to the celebration of rituals now apprehended in disgust. - Dalton Trumbo

CHAPTER THIRTEEN
The Red Blues
Fairy Tales can come true
It can happen to you
If you’re young at heart - Music: Johnny Richards, Lyrics: Carolyn Leigh

CHAPTER  FOURTEEN           
Happy Birthday: Here’s Your Subpoena
You never discussed anything on the telephone - Bob Treuhaft 

CHAPTER FIFTEEN
Hold Your Nose, It’s 1953               
An obituary on Wednesday about Ruth Greenglass, who gave damning testimony in the 1950s atomic espionage trial of her sister-in-law Ethel Rosenberg, misstated her age at the time of her death, in April. She was 83, not 84. - New York Times July 14, 2008 

CHAPTER SIXTEEN
Twilight Zone

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN
  She’s Non-U

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN
 Leaving

CHAPTER NINETEEN
Her Life and Red Times 

CHAPTER TWENTY 
Daughters, Rebels, Sisters 

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE
The Shape of the Future
“Communists, Beatniks, Eggheads America’s three menaces” - J Edgar Hoover at 1960 Republican Convention

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO 
Crypto-Communist
“The pre-needery was rather bliss”

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE
This Gloomy Subject                 
“Why can’t we have funerals without fins?”- Mrs. Jessica Mitford Treuhaft, an Oakland housewife

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR 
The American Way of Death

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE 
Take the Next New Left 

CHAPTER  TWENTY-SIX 
Twenty-Four Hour Party People
“1967…A previous phase of the world. At that time, the Peace movement had not yet peaked. The previous spring there had been a great march of the doves down to the UN. Martin Luther King was alive. Bobby Kennedy was alive. The student Left had not yet come to the attention of Time Magazine. Newark and Detroit and Cleveland would not burn till the summer. The great Pentagon rush would not occur until the following October. Everyone was defining Black Power. You remember? It was an innocent world then with old timey simple sadnesses. The Beatles were not yet political. And Walt Disney had just died.” - Book of Daniel

CHAPTER  TWENTY-SEVEN 
Sisterhood is Powerful

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT   
Someday My Prints will come
“By now adrenalin was flowing, easily the most effective stimulant for the muckraker.”

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE
The Long View 

CHAPTER THIRTY
How ODD
“I’ll send you a tape of the absurd “Dectones” effort when its ready...Of course the whole thing is just a silly joke, but fun while it lasts.”