Voices From the Past

January 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

The New York Times reports on the re-release of the catalog of Calliope Records, a 1963 project launched by Harry and Lynne Sharon Schwartz featuring up-and-coming writers of the day reading 15-minute excerpts of their work.

The roster of writers included in the re-release are William Styron, John Updike, James Baldwin, Bernard Malamud, James Jones, Philip Roth, and Nelson Algren.

Back in 1963, public readings weren’t as common (or as YouTube-able) as they are today, and the preservation of these writers’ voices takes on additional import now that all of them (with the exception of Roth) are deceased.

The Schwartzes are still alive, and in the article they recall the challenges of getting the writers to present their work out loud, a responsibility that would seem to be automatic with the territory nowadays:

The writers who agreed tackled an unfamiliar medium in a variety of styles. “Baldwin was a natural,” Ms. Schwartz said in an interview in the couple’s apartment near Columbia University. “Malamud did not seem to have such a good time, but he did fine. Updike was self-effacing and unpretentious.”

Jones found it difficult to get through the lyrical, elegiac passage in “From Here to Eternity” in which Robert E. Lee Prewitt plays “Taps” for his dead friend, Angelo Maggio. “He was almost on the verge of tears,” Mr. Schwartz said. “It was very emotional, that reading.”

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