Tirzah Garwood, “The Crocodile” (1929) – otherwise known as a “walking bus,” but I love the word “crocodile” in this context.
Looking at maps of Mars like this one, I just want to go back and read Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy again. Since writing this books, relatively early in his career, KSR has no doubt improved his craft in any number of ways, and has written some extraordinary novels – but nothing else he has done captures my imagination as completely as Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars do.
Here’s a passage from Ishi in Two Worlds, by Theodora Kroeber. Her husband Alfred – mentioned in the passage below – was the first anthropologist hired at UC-Berkeley. (The Kroebers’ daughter, by the way, was named Ursula, and would later be known as Ursula K. Le Guin.) Alfred managed to wrangle a janitorial job for Ishi, who appears to have been the last survivor of the Yahi people.
A minor difficulty came up about how the payment was to be made. The University pays only by check, and the museum was fifteen miles from the comptroller’s office. Kroeber was not Ishi’s legal guardian nor did he wish to be. Instead of coping with the legal tangle of having checks for Ishi made out to someone else, he decided to teach Ishi to write his name so he could endorse his own checks. To this end, he wrote out in black ink on white paper the name Ishi, making the four letters as simple as possible, well rounded and continuous, then gave Ishi this pattern, along with some tracing paper, suggesting he practice tracing it, and explaining why this was desirable. Ishi could scarcely have been expected to grasp the mechanism of banking, but he did understand that if he learned to make this peculiar winding mark on paper, it would in time be converted into money; this cause and effect chain intrigued him very much.
For the next week he spent ten or fifteen minutes each day tracing the signature, and after many repetitions, he was able to make a fair facsimile of it from memory. He practiced some more, perfecting his writing, until the first check arrived. Proudly he endorsed it on the back, “Ishi.” A storekeeper at the foot of the Heights who knew him cashed his check, and Ishi received twenty-five dollars in silver money. This might be said to have marked his entrance into full citizenship at least as regards economic status. The question of political citizenship and voting rights did not come up, and it seemed as well not to raise it.
From a spectacular 1940 Limited Editions Club edition of Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe. Linocuts by Allen Lewis (1873-1957), whom I had never heard of, but whose papers, it turns out, are held by Wheaton College, where I taught for three decades. Small world. Here’s another lovely piece by Lewis, this one showing us St. Francis preaching to the birds: