Friday, June 13, 2003


My brother Jay's e-mail regarding Huntley-Brinkley:

"We watched Huntley-Brinkley rather than Cronkite because I liked their programme better. Why, exactly, after 35 years, I don't recall. While we were living in Denton [1965-68], I also frequently watched the morning news report (7 am) with Mike Wallace. (And sometimes Sunrise Semester, too, which came on at 6:30. I remember learning the term 'Oblomovism' from a Sunrise Semester presentation on Russian literature.)"

I have no memory of Sunrise Semester. My early morning TV in those early days was only on Saturdays, and consisted of the moving-mouth Clutch Cargo,Warner cartoons, and other entertainments.

I learned the term Oblomovism in college, which is the place to learn that sort of thing, I suppose. In the spring of '83, Sir Victor Pritchett (1900-97) was a visiting professor of creative writing at Vanderbilt, and I took his class. Truth be told, I've never been more than mildly impressed with his writings, then or later, though perhaps I ought to revisit them sometime. But it was interesting to hear the old man talk, and I was truly amazed to be in the presence of someone who knew George Orwell personally.

He told a few stories about Orwell, but not nearly enough. One was about Orwell's willingness to rent an upper-level flat in London at the height of the German bombing campaign of the fall of 1940. "The flat, as you might imagine, was very cheap," Sir Victor said, "and that appealed to Orwell."

At the end of the class, he gave away a pile of mostly Penguin paperbacks to the students in the class. I picked Oblomov, and he explained that it had spawned the term Oblomovism, to which I aspire on certain Saturday mornings, but modern American life invariably thwarts it. True to the spirit of Oblomovism, however, I've never actually gotten around to reading the book.

For those who have the benefit of not being overeducated:

"Oblomov is a nineteenth-century Russian landowner brought up to do nothing for himself. He, like his parents, only eats and sleeps. He barely graduates from college and cannot force himself to do any kind of work, feeling that work is too much trouble for a gentleman. His indolence results finally in his living in filth and being cheated consistently. Even love cannot stir him. Though he realizes his trouble and dubs it 'Oblomovism,' he can do nothing about it. Eventually his indolence kills him, as his doctors tell him it will."

-- Frank Magill, Cyclopedia of Literary Characters.


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