WHY DID I SAY THERE WAS no malice in Cora? Of course there must have been malice-aforethought, fresh off the griddle and warmed on a double boiler. Every woman hates her husband after the first ten years. That I should exempt Cora is more evidence of the thrall I was in to New England Wasps. Not all Wasps, only the genuine Massachusetts Bay Colony Wasps; they’re the ones, especially the Bostonians who with no effort can trace themselves to the Danas and Parkmans, all those characters, real in life or books—they’re the ones who got to me, whose influence I must watch for and stamp out.
I first discovered them in the Tampa public library when I was a kid, and they have ruined my life. The Emersons and Alcotts and Prescotts. I used to roller-skate to the library from Ybor City— carrying the books in a bundle held together by an old belt of Grandpa’s—through the outer boundaries of where they (the dumb white Southerners) lived, putting on a sober and polite face when it was no longer Latins watching me go by, and I would come home, each Saturday noon, with another batch to make the coming week livable. A regular Saturday Evening Post cover, the sight of me. I knew it, too: oh, what a good boy am I, I thought. No wonder I grew up into an intellectual.
There is a whole dark side to poor kids reading books with veneration. Mr. Carnegie should have been told about that while he was alive. Not just that he stole from the workers the money for those red-brick buildings. To start with, I believed throughout my youth that anything that was printed was, of course, beyond criticism. It was printed, wasn’t it? That kind of attitude leads