Archives for the month of: January, 2013

Sometimes a character actor gets to play the lead – as when Guy Kibbe played Babbitt in the 1934 film version (alongside another great supporting player, Aline MacMahon). The good people at TCM have a couple of short clips up, and in the “Entering Zenith” clip, there’s a wonderful shot of the billboard that advertises Floral Heights, the development where the Babbitt family has a house, but not a home:

Babbitt Floral Heights billboard

Most of my forthcoming article in Journal of Language, Literature and Culture wants to reclaim Babbittry as a relationship to urban and suburban space (Babbitt pays attention to his surroundings in transit, and paying attention during transit means that you end up seeing things like poor people. This attention disappears in post-war suburban narratives, more or less.) but when I see the casual racism I cringe. As carefully as I stake out my reclamation project, it’s shit like the Floral Heights billboard – a fairly paint-by-numbers bit of set dressing – that makes me say “oh lord I hope I was clear about only wanting to reclaim this narrow strip of Babbittry.”

Two people have been brilliant lately.

First off, Peter Goodall, the editor at Journal of Language, Literature and Culture (formerly AUMLA) has been exceptionally understanding. I was under the impression that my article was slated for June, so I had put off securing image rights. When the publication schedule changed, Peter gave me a deadline extension that bought me the time to secure image rights, and for that he deserves recognition as the sort of editor we ought to have in more places.

Second,Nicole Dittrich at the Syracuse University Library Special Collections Research Center, has been exceptionally helpful and forbearing. Every frazzled and panicked email I sent her received a cool and reassuring response in a matter of hours (no small trick with an eighteen hour time difference). I am extremely grateful that she located the materials in Box 49 of the Dorothy Thompson collection for me.