Category Archives: “Dog Days” Diversions

“Tell It Slant”: The New Quaker Biography’s First Review Is Out!

The Western Friend is continuing evidence (tho it’s still news to some) that there is lively Quaker periodical publishing outside Philadelphia. When the editor learned about Tell It Slant, she didn’t hesitate: Friend Mitchell Santine Gould’s review, the first, was included in its current online newsletter edition.

Mitch is a distinguished independent historian with a theological bent. His special interest in the quasi-Quaker poet Walt Whitman has produced many impressive essays, including Walt Whitman: 10 Misconceptions, Least to Greatest, which is here,  and very much worth a look (but read this review first . . .)

Published: June 22, 2024, in The Western Friend:

Emma Lapsansky-Werner “Tells It Slant

in a Mammoth Biography of Publick Friend Chuck Fager

Tell it Slant: A prophetic life of adventure and writing on religion, war, and justice, love and laughter (Kimo Press, 2024)

More book details here.

Reviewed by Mitchell Santine Gould, Multnomah Monthly Meeting (6/19/2024):

Emma and Chuck at a 2017 history roundtable at Earlham School of Religion.

Emma Lapsansky-Werner offers us a sprawling biography of Quaker journalist, activist, and gadfly Chuck Fager, in Tell It Slant. I read the first half with growing appreciation for two essential aspects of Chuck’s life. The first is his truly impressive involvement with so many historic moments in politics, society, and religion. The second, which nicely humanizes this history, is a very frank, very modest account of his own life – warts as well as triumphs. It must be rare that a biography succeeds so admirably on both aspects.

Chuck’s long experience as a professional journalist and author gives perfect clarity to his parts of the overall narrative. However, he had so much to say, that in order to marshal some flow and organization to so many anecdotes, memories, and histories, he was lucky that Emma Lapsansky-Werner extended her invaluable editorial contributions into the role of co-author.

As she put it, “In crafting this narrative, I have echoed Chuck’s scaffolding, weaving my spin together with many of Chuck’s own words; biography is interwoven with autobiography.” Although Dr. Lapsansky-Werner is an academic — a professor of Quaker history — she delivered the kind of powerfully clear and simple journalistic prose that seamlessly matched Chuck’s own. I think given all the constraints, Lapsansky-Werner acquitted herself well.

We’re no longer in an age of book-reading — info-snacking is more like it — and one might set the book aside rather read the whole thing at once. But should you resume in the middle of the book, its humor, charm, interest, and insight will even more deeply impress you. Tell It Slant is inspiring and above all, highly relevant. In addition to his decades of involvement with Quaker faith, practice, and internal politics, Chuck really kept his finger on the pulse of American society and politics — precisely because of his investment in his faith, of course.

When the stories are this compelling, you want the book to be perfect. Viewing Friend Chuck as the modern-day equivalent of history’s Publick Friend, I wanted him to be the exponent for liberal Quaker faith as I understand it. I hoped to see a conscious allegiance to the key innovation of Quakerism: its Inner Light theology. Informal polling that I did years ago revealed that Friends today have reduced the doctrine of Inner Light to little more than a sentimental “that of God in everyone.”

But historically, the Inner Light was recognized as a secret, silent hotline to the Divine, quite specifically as a source of guidance in times of an ethical crisis. Crucially, it was seen as capable of over-riding the two ubiquitous avenues for all moral supervision: the Bible and the clergy. Chuck mentions the Inner Light only twice, exclusively in anecdotes about an old Quaker lady he once admired. In reality, the Light is the power behind the often-praised Quaker virtue known as “discernment.”

Mitchell Santine Gould

Having said all this, let me turn to the controversial proposition that Quakerism can be succinctly described as SPICE: simplicity, peaceableness, integrity, community, and equality. I could write a whole sequel review showing how Chuck hits quite robustly on all these cylinders. And that ultimately trivializes all my criticisms of his book. I believe every Quaker should read it, and non-Quakers will also be deeply inspired, as I have been, by it.

– Mitchell Santine Gould, Multnomah Monthly Meeting (6/19/2024)

Donald Sutherland! Donald Sutherland!

Two Hundred plus movies! How can I pick a favorite?

Breaking from the New York Times:

By Clyde Haberman

June 20, 2024Updated 3:23 p.m. ET

Donald Sutherland, whose ability to both charm and unsettle, both reassure and repulse, was amply displayed in scores of film roles as diverse as a laid-back battlefield surgeon in “M*A*S*H,” a ruthless Nazi spy in “Eye of the Needle,” a soulful father in “Ordinary People” and a strutting fascist in “1900,” died on Thursday in Miami. He was 88.

His son Kiefer Sutherland, the actor, announced the death on social media. CAA, the talent agency that represented Mr. Sutherland, said he had died in a hospital after an unspecified “long illness.” He had a home in Miami.

With his long face, droopy eyes, protruding ears and wolfish smile, the 6-foot-4 Mr. Sutherland was never anyone’s idea of a movie heartthrob. He often recalled that while growing up in eastern Canada, he once asked his mother if he was good-looking, only to be told, “No, but your face has a lot of character.” He recounted how he was once rejected for a film role by a producer who said: “This part calls for a guy-next-door type. You don’t look like you’ve lived next door to anyone.”

Yet across six decades, starting in the early 1960s, he appeared in nearly 200 films and television shows — some years he was in as many as half a dozen movies. “Klute,” “Six Degrees of Separation” and a 1978 remake of “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers” were just a few of his other showcases.

And he continued to work well into his last years, becoming familiar to younger audiences through roles in multiple installments of “The Hunger Games” franchise, alongside Brad Pitt in the space drama “Ad Astra” (2019) and as the title character in the Stephen King-inspired horror film “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” (2022).

Mr. Sutherland’s chameleonlike ability to be endearing in one role, menacing in another and just plain odd in yet a third appealed to directors, among them Federico Fellini, Robert Altman, Bernardo Bertolucci and Oliver Stone. . . .

 

In “Klute” (1971), another early triumph, Mr. Sutherland was a small-town policeman crossing paths with a big-city call girl played by Jane Fonda. He and Ms. Fonda then began an affair that lasted three years; their relationship dovetailed with his most conspicuous burst of political activism, which matched hers.

Image

A woman rests her head on the chest of a man as they lie in bed.
Mr. Sutherland as a police officer and Jane Fonda as a call girl in “Klute” (1971). Offscreen, they had an affair that lasted three years.Credit…Warner Bros., via Everett Collection

In 1971, he joined Ms. Fonda and other actors in a comedy troupe called F.T.A. that toured military towns, performing satirical sketches infused unmistakably with an anti-Vietnam War spirit. The group’s initials stood for Free the Army, though soldiers recognized a far less dainty meaning.

The One That Didn’t Get Away– FTA, Sutherland’s Vietnam era antiwar documentary with Jane Fonda and a vigorous, sharp-witted troupe, made a splash, but was gone in a flash.

Although Mr. Sutherland’s politics leaned leftward, he told Playboy: “I didn’t like doing anything political within the United States because I am, after all, Canadian.” But, he added, “there was a huge Canadian participation in the war, and so I felt, on this, I had a right.”

So  maybe I can pick a favorite film which was the one that very few people ever got to see:  FTA which is short for several other “memes,” from “Fun, Travel & Adventure,” an actual  recruiter’s slogan, to a protester’s “Free The Army,” to a disgruntled grunt soldier’s curse “F*ck The Army.”  The film of the title, according to Wikipedia,

“was released in July 1972, “within days of Fonda’s infamous visit to Hanoi” and seems to have suffered from the political fallout of Fonda’s travels. The film “was in theatres barely a week before it was pulled from circulation by its distributor, American International Pictures.” Even more, “[m]ost copies were destroyed”, which seems to indicate an attempt to prevent any future for the film. Many have suspected the film’s disappearance “was the result of government intervention.” According to Parker, the film’s director, “the film disappeared after Sam Arkoff, head of AIP, received a call from the White House.” David Zeiger, who has been involved in resurrecting the original film, has been quoted as saying he believes Parker. “There’s no proof, but I can’t think of another reasonable explanation for Sam Arkoff, a man who knew how to wring every penny out of a film, yanking one starring Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland from theaters at a big loss (and, apparently, destroying all of the prints, since none were ever found).”

The bravado of the top line of the mobie poster “The Show the Pentagon Couldn’t Stop “ is exaggerated: the troupe did did perform at several big bases to big applause from disgruntled, war-weary troops; but their tour was stopped before it was completed, and the movie vanished.

I’m on the government suppression side of this argument: I watched FTA during the Iraq war, on a rare, almost samizdat VHS tape, and the roaringly supportive reception Sutherland and Jane Fonda got from the soldiers they performed for was still  amazing; it must have driven the Pentagon brass and the Nixon White House bonkers. (Even the summary of the film in the Wikipedia entry makes exciting and subversive reading  more than 50 years later.)

Anyway, Sutherland and Fonda’s careers survived this flap, and he was a pleasure to watch almost every time. Two hundred movies, with top directors like Robert Altman to hacks to keep busy, that was quite a life, and quite a record.

 

Excerpt #4 – “Tell It Slant”: Author Emma Lapsansky-Werner Speaks

This excerpt is adapted from the new book, Tell It Slant, which charts Chuck Fager’s prophetic life of adventure & writing on religion, war, and justice, love and laughter.

Tell It Slant is available now, in paperback & Kindle versions. Details here.

By Emma Lapsansky-Werner

A short bio:  Emma Jones Lapsansky-Werner is emeritus Professor of History and emeritus Curator of the Quaker collection of Haverford College.

Chuck, Emma, and Douglas Gwyn – November 2019, at the launch of “Passing the Torch,” to which each contributed.

Emma lives near Philadelphia, PA, where she continues to teach, to do research and to publish, to consult with scholars, to work as a professional editor, and to host periodic writers’ workshops at Minerva’s by the Sea, her bed and breakfast near a lighthouse in coastal New Jersey. [Check out her website for another Writers Workshop upcoming November 2024:  MinervasBandB.com]
Continue reading Excerpt #4 – “Tell It Slant”: Author Emma Lapsansky-Werner Speaks

“Tell It Slant”: Excerpt #3: “… A Whippersnapper and His Elders …”

“… A Whippersnapper and His Elders …”

Adapted from Tell It Slant.

This new book recounts Chuck Fager’s prophetic life of adventure & writing on religion, war, justice, love and laughter. By Emma Lapsansky-Werner, with Chuck Fager.

Tell It Slant is available now, in paperback and Kindle, here.

After two years of attending Friends meetings, beginning while he was in alternative service at Friends World College in New York, and continuing after enrolling at Harvard Divinity School in 1968, Chuck knew that the basic moves of becoming at home in a Quaker meeting are relatively simple, and easily learned. One can sit in meeting-for-worship, where in silence the newcomer may appear equal in weight and wisdom to the most venerable elder. Perhaps one speaks now and then.

For many this is enough, for years, or decades. But to others who want more understanding, and Chuck was one of them, it soon becomes evident that much more is involved. Despite its small size, and vocal dedication to plainness and simplicity, the Religious Society of Friends is a remarkably complicated body. This is true historically, organizationally, culturally, theologically, and not least, politically. Continue reading “Tell It Slant”: Excerpt #3: “… A Whippersnapper and His Elders …”

From “Tell It Slant”: Fighting for A Future

Adapted from Tell It Slant, a biography of Chuck Fager, by Emma Lapsansky-Werner.


St. Paul, Kansas, 1939

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
                           — Yogi Berra

Plowing to a fork in the road.

This story begins with a young man coming to a fork, pushing a mule-drawn plow down a long furrow on a small farm in southeastern Kansas, in summer heat, circa 1939.

The young man was Callistus Fager, known as “Click” to his friends. On that day, like so many, Kansas farming would have been sweaty, dusty work. But that work was about all that was available. Kansas, like much of the United States, was mired in what is now called the “Great” Depression.

Even many years later, Click Fager remembered the unfamiliar noise he’d heard behind the plow, that summer day: a buzzing that wasn’t a farm sound. Continue reading From “Tell It Slant”: Fighting for A Future