January 24, 1998


It was January 1942. The U. S. had entered World War II barely a month before. Italian Duce Benito Mussolini, apparently caring enough to send the very best, presented his new German partner with a rare copy of Leonardo da Vinci's book on the flight of birds. It's hard to say whether former art student Adolph Hitler appreciated the art more, or the words. He would use the spoken word to terrible effect over the next few years.

We don't know if Hitler ever found time to read the Da Vinci, but elsewhere this year, changes were being made in the way the rest of the world, writers and readers, interacted with the written word. The New York Post converted to a tabloid format. Made sense for New Yorkers. Much easier to manage - with one hand - while dangling from a strap in a careening subway car. Ease of use, as well as conservation of resources, brought around another change in word delivery systems, as Dell publishers began a line of books, in a reduced size, with paper covers. All for 25¢ each.

Several wordsmiths turned up in newspapers, as story subjects. On January 2nd novelist Sinclair Lewis and journalist Dorothy Thompson were divorced after 13 years of marriage. Radio priest and reformer Father Charles Coughlin found himself at a partial loss for words, when the U. S., branding writings in his publication Social Justice as seditious, withheld mailing privileges for the journal.

Father Coughlin, a vocal proponent of Italian Fascism, was obviously a victim of the changing wartime world. Another was the U. S. Works Progress Administration, which provided an outlet for many writers with its travel guides and interviews with a variety of ordinary Americans. A luxury the country could not afford in wartime, the WPA was disbanded. Worse was in store for some authors. In February respected Jewish author biographer Stefan Zweig committed suicide in Brazil. In April, U. S. journalist Melville Jacoby was killed in an airplane crash in Australia while on assignment as a war correspondent. Polish author Janusz Korczak - who wrote under the name Henryk Goldszmit - and who was director of an orphanage for Jewish children in Warsaw, was given the opportunity to escape to the west. He passed it up, accompanying his young wards to the Treblinka concentration camp. None would make the return journey.

And on July 5th, "Special 25," a Canadian training school for espionage, graduated its first class. When the war was over, its first graduate would make his name a household word. His creation would be even more widely known - a creation known to the world as "Bond. James Bond."

For Classical ninety-one five, this is Minor. David Minor.

© 2000 David Minor / Eagles Byte