Bright Pages: Yale Writers, 1701-2001

Bright Pages: Yale Writers, 1701-2001

by J. D. McClatchy (Editor)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300089455
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 04/10/2001
Series: A Yale Tercentennial Book Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 592
Product dimensions: 7.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 1.20(d)

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Bright Pages

Yale Writers, 1701-2001
By J. D. McClatchy

Yale University Press

Copyright © 2001 J. D. McClatchy
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0300089457

Chapter One

born in Tientsin, China, where his mother was a missionary and his father the secretary of the YMCA, John Hersey (1914-1993) graduated from Yale in 1936. The next summer he worked as Sinclair Lewis's private secretary but was soon after a correspondent for Time, covering first China and Japan and later the war in the South Pacific, the Sicilian campaign, and Moscow. From 1945 until his death, he was a writer for the New Yorker. He returned to Yale in 1965 as master of Pierson College, and after his term he stayed on to teach writing, from 1971 until 1984. To many, he was the embodiment of the moral clarity and integrity that has guided Yale's educational mission down the years. Hersey understood that a proper understanding of history demands both lucidity and compassion. His first book, Men on Bataan, appeared in 1942. He published thirteen more books of nonfiction, two collections of stories, and fourteen novels, among them his Pulitzer Prize-winning A Bell for Adano (1944), The Wall (1950), The War Lover (1959), The Child Buyer (1960), and The Call (1985). Perhaps his best-known work is Hiroshima (1946), originally published in an entire single issue of the New Yorker and recently voted by reporters and scholars at the New York University School of Journalism as the single best work of twentieth-century American journalism. In 1949, he wrote: "Fiction is a clarifying agent. It makes truth plausible." That was the goal of all his work.


At exactly fifteen minutes past eight in the morning, on August 6, 1945, Japanese time, at the moment when the atomic bomb flashed above Hiroshima, Miss Toshiko Sasaki, a clerk in the personnel department of the East Asia Tin Works, had just sat down at her place in the plant office and was turning her head to speak to the girl at the next desk. At that same moment, Dr. Masakazu Fujii was settling down crosslegged to read the Osaka Asahi on the porch of his private hospital, overhanging one of the seven deltaic rivers which divide Hiroshima; Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura, a tailor's widow, stood by the window of her kitchen, watching a neighbor tearing down his house because it lay in the path of an air-raid-defense fire lane; Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, a German priest of the Society of Jesus, reclined in his underwear on a cot on the top floor of his order's three-story mission house, reading a Jesuit magazine, Stimmen der Zeit; Dr. Terufumi Sasaki, a young member of the surgical staff of the city's large, modern Red Cross Hospital, walked along one of the hospital corridors with a blood specimen for a Wassermann test in his hand; and the Reverend Mr. Kiyoshi Tanimoto, pastor of the Hiroshima Methodist Church, paused at the door of a rich man's house in Koi, the city's western suburb, and prepared to unload a handcart full of things he had evacuated from town in fear of the massive B-29 raid which everyone expected Hiroshima to suffer. A hundred thousand people were killed by the atomic bomb, and these six were among the survivors. They still wonder why they lived when so many others died. Each of them counts many small items of chance or volition-a step taken in time, a decision to go indoors, catching one streetcar instead of the next-that spared him. And now each knows that in the act of survival he lived a dozen lives and saw more death than he ever thought he would see. At the time, none of them knew anything.

The Reverend Mr. Tanimoto got up at five o'clock that morning. He was alone in the parsonage, because for some time his wife had been commuting with their year-old baby to spend nights with a friend in Ushida, a suburb to the north. Of all the important cities of Japan, only two, Kyoto and Hiroshima, had not been visited in strength by B-san, or Mr. B, as the Japanese, with a mixture of respect and unhappy familiarity, called the B-29; and Mr. Tanimoto, like all his neighbors and friends, was almost sick with anxiety. He had heard uncomfortably detailed accounts of mass raids on Kure, Iwakuni, Tokuyama, and other nearby towns; he was sure Hiroshima's turn would come soon. He had slept badly the night before, because there had been several air-raid warnings. Hiroshima had been getting such warnings almost every night for weeks, for at that time the B-29s were using Lake Biwa, northeast of Hiroshima, as a rendezvous point, and no matter what city the Americans planned to hit, the Superfortresses streamed in over the coast near Hiroshima. The frequency of the warnings and the continued abstinence of Mr. B with respect to Hiroshima had made its citizens jittery; a rumor was going around that the Americans were saving something special for the city.

Mr. Tanimoto was a small man, quick to talk, laugh, and cry. He wore his black hair parted in the middle and rather long; the prominence of the frontal bones just above his eyebrows and the smallness of his mustache, mouth, and chin gave him a strange, old-young look, boyish and yet wise, weak and yet fiery. He moved nervously and fast, but with a restraint which suggested that he was a cautious, thoughtful man. He showed, indeed, just those qualities in the uneasy days before the bomb fell. Besides having his wife spend the nights in Ushida, Mr. Tanimoto had been carrying all the portable things from the church, in the close-packed residential district called Nagaragawa, to a house that belonged to a rayon manufacturer in Koi, two miles from the center of town. The rayon man, a Mr. Matsui, had opened his then unoccupied estate to a large number of his friends and acquaintances, so that they might evacuate whatever they wished to a safe distance from the probable target area. Mr. Tanimoto had had no difficulty in moving chairs, hymnals, Bibles, altar gear, and church records by pushcart himself, but the organ console and an upright piano required some aid. A friend of his named Matsuo had, the day before, helped him get the piano out to Koi; in return, he had promised this day to assist Mr. Matsuo in hauling out a daughter's belongings. That is why he had risen so early.

Mr. Tanimoto cooked his own breakfast. He felt awfully tired. The effort of moving the piano the day before, a sleepless night, weeks of worry and unbalanced diet, the cares of his parish-all combined to make him feel hardly adequate to the new day's work. There was another thing, too: Mr. Tanimoto had studied theology at Emory College, in Atlanta, Georgia; he had graduated in 1940; he spoke excellent English; he dressed in American clothes; he had corresponded with many American friends right up to the time the war began; and among a people obsessed with a fear of being spied upon-perhaps almost obsessed himself-he found himself growing increasingly uneasy. The police had questioned him several times, and just a few days before, he had heard that an influential acquaintance, a Mr. Tanaka, a retired officer of the Toyo Kisen Kaisha steamship line, an anti-Christian, a man famous in Hiroshima for his showy philanthropies and notorious for his personal tyrannies, had been telling people that Tanimoto should not be trusted. In compensation, to show himself publicly a good Japanese, Mr. Tanimoto had taken on the chairmanship of his local tonarigumi, or Neighborhood Association, and to his other duties and concerns this position had added the business of organizing air-raid defense for about twenty families.

Before six o'clock that morning, Mr. Tanimoto started for Mr. Matsuo's house. There he found that their burden was to be a tansu, a large Japanese cabinet, full of clothing and household goods. The two men set out. The morning was perfectly clear and so warm that the day promised to be uncomfortable. A few minutes after they started, the air-raid siren went off-a minute-long blast that warned of approaching planes but indicated to the people of Hiroshima only a slight degree of danger, since it sounded every morning at this time, when an American weather plane came over. The two men pulled and pushed the handcart through the city streets. Hiroshima was a fan-shaped city, lying mostly on the six islands formed by the seven estuarial rivers that branch out from the Ota River; its main commercial and residential districts, covering about four square miles in the center of the city, contained three-quarters of its population, which had been reduced by several evacuation programs from a wartime peak of 380,000 to about 245,000. Factories and other residential districts, or suburbs, lay compactly around the edges of the city. To the south were the docks, an airport, and the island-studded Inland Sea. A rim of mountains runs around the other three sides of the delta. Mr. Tanimoto and Mr. Matsuo took their way through the shopping center, already full of people, and across two of the rivers to the sloping streets of Koi, and up them to the outskirts and foothills. As they started up a valley away from the tight-ranked houses, the all-clear sounded. (The Japanese radar operators, detecting only three planes, supposed that they comprised a reconnaissance.) Pushing the handcart up to the rayon man's house was tiring, and the men, after they had maneuvered their load into the driveway and to the front steps, paused to rest awhile. They stood with a wing of the house between them and the city. Like most homes in this part of Japan, the house consisted of a wooden frame and wooden walls supporting a heavy tile roof. Its front hall, packed with rolls of bedding and clothing, looked like a cool cave full of fat cushions. Opposite the house, to the right of the front door, there was a large, finicky rock garden. There was no sound of planes. The morning was still; the place was cool and pleasant.

Then a tremendous flash of light cut across the sky. Mr. Tanimoto has a distinct recollection that it travelled from east to west, from the city toward the hills. It seemed a sheet of sun. Both he and Mr. Matsuo reacted in terror-and both had time to react (for they were 3,500 yards, or two miles, from the center of the explosion). Mr. Matsuo dashed up the front steps into the house and dived among the bedrolls and buried himself there. Mr. Tanimoto took four or five steps and threw himself between two big rocks in the garden. He bellied up very hard against one of them. As his face was against the stone, he did not see what happened. He felt a sudden pressure, and then splinters and pieces of board and fragments of tile fell on him. He heard no roar. (Almost no one in Hiroshima recalls hearing any noise of the bomb. But a fisherman in his sampan on the Inland Sea near Tsuzu, the man with whom Mr. Tanimoto's mother-in-law and sister-in-law were living, saw the flash and heard a tremendous explosion; he was nearly twenty miles from Hiroshima, but the thunder was greater than when the B-29s hit Iwakuni, only five miles away.)

When he dared, Mr. Tanimoto raised his head and saw that the rayon man's house had collapsed. He thought a bomb had fallen directly on it. Such clouds of dust had risen that there was a sort of twilight around. In panic, not thinking for the moment of Mr. Matsuo under the ruins, he dashed out into the street. He noticed as he ran that the concrete wall of the estate had fallen over-toward the house rather than away from it. In the street, the first thing he saw was a squad of soldiers who had been burrowing into the hillside opposite, making one of the thousands of dugouts in which the Japanese apparently intended to resist invasion, hill by hill, life for life; the soldiers were coming out of the hole, where they should have been safe, and blood was running from their heads, chests, and backs. They were silent and dazed.

Under what seemed to be a local dust cloud, the day grew darker and darker.

At nearly midnight, the night before the bomb was dropped, an announcer on the city's radio station said that about two hundred B-29s were approaching southern Honshu and advised the population of Hiroshima to evacuate to their designated "safe areas." Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura, the tailor's widow, who lived in the section called Nobori-cho and who had long had a habit of doing as she was told, got her three children-a ten-year-old boy, Toshio, an eight-year-old girl, Yaeko, and a five-year-old girl, Myeko-out of bed and dressed them and walked with them to the military area known as the East Parade Ground, on the northeast edge of the city. There she unrolled some mats and the children lay down on them. They slept until about two, when they were awakened by the roar of the planes going over Hiroshima.

As soon as the planes had passed, Mrs. Nakamura started back with her children. They reached home a little after two-thirty and she immediately turned on the radio, which, to her distress, was just then broadcasting a fresh warning. When she looked at the children and saw how tired they were, and when she thought of the number of trips they had made in past weeks, all to no purpose, to the East Parade Ground, she decided that in spite of the instructions on the radio, she simply could not face starting out all over again. She put the children in their bedrolls on the floor, lay down herself at three o'clock, and fell asleep at once, so soundly that when planes passed over later, she did not waken to their sound.

The siren jarred her awake at about seven. She arose, dressed quickly, and hurried to the house of Mr. Nakamoto, the head of her Neighborhood Association, and asked him what she should do. He said that she should remain at home unless an urgent warning-a series of intermittent blasts of the siren-was sounded. She returned home, lit the stove in the kitchen, set some rice to cook, and sat down to read that morning's Hiroshima Chugoku. To her relief, the all-clear sounded at eight o'clock. She heard the children stirring, so she went and gave each of them a handful of peanuts and told them to stay on their bedrolls, because they were tired from the night's walk. She had hoped that they would go back to sleep, but the man in the house directly to the south began to make a terrible hullabaloo of hammering, wedging, ripping, and splitting. The prefectural government, convinced, as everyone in Hiroshima was, that the city would be attacked soon, had begun to press with threats and warnings for the completion of wide fire lanes, which, it was hoped, might act in conjunction with the rivers to localize any fires started by an incendiary raid; and the neighbor was reluctantly sacrificing his home to the city's safety. Just the day before, the prefecture had ordered all able-bodied girls from the secondary schools to spend a few days helping to clear these lanes, and they started work soon after the all-clear sounded.




Excerpted from Bright Pages by J. D. McClatchy Copyright © 2001 by J. D. McClatchy. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Four Teachers
from Hiroshima4
Masts at Dawn15
Birth of Love16
Rattlesnake Country17
Evening Hawk22
Adam's Task26
The Mad Potter26
An Old-Fashioned Song29
X's Syndrome30
After the War
from Here at "The New Yorker"50
from A Night to Remember55
from Battle Report63
National Cold Storage Company64
Riding Westward65
from A Separate Peace67
from Peter the Great74
Lumumba Lives88
The Harpsichord114
from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914124
from The Mysteries Within146
A Bamboo Brushpot158
Wild Ducks159
The Tack159
At Snowbird165
Cape Cod Beach165
The Battle Against Humbaba166
from The Destiny of Me168
from Messages from My Father174
from The Bonfire of the Vanities181
from The Dining Room196
The Cure200
The Next Time204
Some Last Words205
The View206
from King of the Jews208
from Six Degrees of Separation212
The Lion and Me220
Nabokov's Blues229
107th & Amsterdam232
from The Bushwhacked Piano234
Things Left Undone259
from The Bundled Doonesbury: A Pre-Millennial Anthology278
Music Lessons281
Small Town282
The Past283
from Terra Nova285
The U.S.A. Today296
My Poem Meets Tamerlane298
What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?300
5 P.M.310
Portrait: Marriage311
from The Heidi Chronicles314
Deer Isle324
Five Islands325
During the Balkans War326
from La Bete328
Mystery Date350
The Memory-Glass351
Crossing St. Gotthard354
from The Women of Brewster Place368
The Venus Hottentot381
Stravinsky in L.A.384
The Volunteers386
A Simple Tale404
Oh Muse414
To Be In My Own Body As416
Commands for the End of Summer419
Blue Octavo Haiku420
And This Time I Mean It421
From the Start
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God426
from The Columbiad440
from M'Fingal445
from Dissertations on the English Language452
The Fugitive Slave's Apostrophe to the North Star459
from The Pioneers463
The Confessional471
Unseen Spirits474
City Lyrics475
To Charles Roux, of Switzerland476
The Blue and the Gray478
from Life with Father481
from Stover at Yale489
from Babbitt500
Ars Poetica509
You, Andrew Marvell510
Landscape as a Nude511
from The Philadelphia Story513
American Names537
The Devil and Daniel Webster538
Bull Dog551
Antoinette Birby551
We Are Prom Girls553
A Member of the Yale Elizabethan Club553
I Want to Row on the Crew554
I've a Shooting Box in Scotland555
Just One of Those Things557
Anything Goes558
I Get a Kick Out of You560
Pullman Car Hiawatha562

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