Monday, June 22, 2009

Return to Paterson

I spent a little time in Paterson last week, while participating in the William Carlos Williams Society's Annual Conference. The talks happened some remove from the chaos of the city in the more bucolic satellite campus of William Paterson College, mostly dead for the summer, although the focus was particularly on the relation of the poem to the city. As hoped, I unearthed some bits of knowledge not easily dislodged from academic books or internet searches. For example, my hunch that the Kevin McCarthy involved with a dramatic reading of Paterson at the Lexington Ave. Y was the Kevin McCarthy of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (thus, through pure hunch setting off the continuing series of Body Snatcher hacks) was given credence since someone pointed out that he was Mary McCarthy's brother, and thus would share her literary circles. I met the almost-allegorically named Dr. Peterson, distinguished for having written the first book-length study of Paterson, and whose collection of Williamsiana includes a manuscript with a mole Williams removed from Floss taped to it. He also had some David Lyle manuscripts and gave me some insight into Lyle's personality. While I couldn't get her to say anything on tape, one scholar mysteriously said something during a question and answer session something to the effect of "Marcia Nardi ruined my career!" So, some juicy bits from long-time travelers in the Patersphere. I took a few of the "greener" critics--including someone writing on ecocrit and Paterson--out to the more off-limits places, where the dead factories seem to have sagged and mulched a little bit more since my last visit. I wonder what will happen to these mysterious and historical abandoned spaces now that the falls area will become a National Park. I almost fear the worst, but hopefully they can get people who are smart about maintaining "preserved ruins" in the spirit of a place like the Eastern State Pen, rather than turn it into a tacky tourist phantasmagoria. Already they have painted the Looms-Warpers-Winders-Quillers-Coppers- Jacquards-&Supplies on the side of the old Paterson Silk Machinery Exchange. Ugh!

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Blogger Steven said...

I am the person that pointed out that Kevin McCarthy was Mary McCarthy's brother. I enjoyed your presentation at the conference. It was a blast to be on Williams' home ground--the city that is so oddly vital not just in Williams's poem but in real life too.


Steve Axelrod

11:18 AM, July 24, 2009  

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