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Still Reading…

2010/05/07

The Nazi Doctors by Robert Jay Lifton.  It is slow going.  There seems to be a lot of repetition.  He’s really getting into the psychology of the participants, but it seems repetitive.  I’m about half way through, and usually I read faster than that, if you read my blog.  I’ve been distracting myself..

Tim gave me a plastic box to put all of the books I have lying around that are library books, borrowed books, books I’ve bought & not read, books I’m reading.  Sometimes I read more than one at a time.  Oh, and books I’ve read and I’m going to give away.  So, the box is pretty full.  I”m very tempted to start a new book, but I’ve found other ways to distract myself.

First, let me tell you about a fabulous documentary I watched last night.  It is called Bright Leaves by a film maker I can’t believe I didn’t know–Ross McElwee.  The work is very personal and moving.  I usually watch docs for info., but the film itself was a work of art.  He narrated, and his voice is gentle and melodic, with a soft southern vibration.  I was attracted to the film because it is about the NC tobacco industry, which is rather close to home for me.  My people are coastal, but I’ve known quite a few tobacco growers on the inner banks of NC.

Spoiler alert!!!!  The film drew an amusing parallel between a legend in McElwee’s family, and a legend in my family.  His first: (this is the spoiler part).  There was a film starring Gary Cooper & Lauren Bacall, among others, called Bright Leaf.  It was based upon a novel by a man with the wonderful name of Foster Fitz-Simons.  Fitz-Simmons and his wife, Marian Tatum, were creatives.  He was a dancer, a dramatist and, of course, a novelist.  He taught at Chapel Hill for years.

Ross McElwee’s family always thought the film was about his great grandfather, who purportedly had his tobacco trade secret stolen by Buck Duke, thus robbing the McElwee family of  all of the accolades and riches bestowed upon Mr. Duke.   In the film, the entire family always thought the Gary Cooper character was, literally, their ancestor.  Toward the end of Bright Leaves, McElwee speaks with Fitz-Simons’s wife and creative partner, Marian, who debunks the McElwee family legend.  He also tours the Duke Museum and realizes Buck Duke was the first to manufacture cigarettes on a large scale, which his great granddaddy hadn’t done.  So, a big letdown.

I think I’ve mentioned this here before, but my Great Uncle Frank was the sheriff of Dare County, NC, for about 35 years.  My Great  Aunt Cada, his sister in law, ran the main general store in Manteo.  Her husband was older, and a politician.   She always called him Mr. Tarkington, but Dad called him Uncle Lindsay.  Everyone else in the family worked for either Frank or Cada. 4 of Cada’s siblings (included Frank’s wife, and my Granddaddy) were pretty bad drunks.  They binged a lot.   Uncle Frank (the sheriff-I had 2 great Uncle Franks) was acquainted with Andy Griffith, who still has a home at Manteo.  I think you probably know where this is leading….  I will say Andy Griffith acted in The Lost Colony before he was famous, and knew my family.  My Dad was young and used to sell cokes there.  My 1st cousin once removed, Virginia, to whom I was very close and is the subject of my prior post, was an extra the first 2 seasons.  In case you don’t know, The Lost Colony could be the longest-running outdoor theatre production in the US.  I know it used to tout itself thus, but there might have been a few years there was no production or something.  I’ve linked to their website.

Anyhow, the White family legend has it that Sheriff Andy was based on Uncle Frank, Mayberry on Manteo, and Otis, the town drunk, was a composite of Granddaddy, his brother, and their 2 sisters.  The truth is, while there are parallels, Andy hails from the lovely Mount Airy, NC, which, understandably, bills itself as the famous Mayberry.

Anyhow, I thought that little parallel between McElwee’s family and mine was kind of funny.  His treatment of this disappointment is excellent-great, subtle humor.  I really recommend this film, and I think I’m going to watch another of his films called Sherman’s March right now!  Both films are available for playing on Netflix.

Could I, perhaps, be avoiding my Nazi Doctor book?  Must I finish it?  I’ll be honest.  I want to know more about Mengele and he hasnt’ gotten to Mengele yet.  I know.  Macabre.  Should I just read about Mengele?  Ta!

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