The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

November 2, 2013

November 2, 1959

Mark Van Doren (June 13, 1894 to December 10, 1972) and Dorothy Graffe (May 2, 1896 to  February 21, 1993) were married In 1922   Dorothy was a novelist and Mark an instructor at Columbia. Mark's brother was Carl Van Doren,  (September 10, 1885 to July 18, 1950) an historian. Carl had been a teacher at Columbia University since 1911 and in 1920 Mark joined the English faculty there. Carl was the author of many books including Why I Am an Unbeliever (1926) and The Great Rehearsal (1948). Carl's wife, Irita Van Doren would become the book editor at the New York Herald Tribune.

Mark and Dorothy had two sons, Charles and John, who grew up in a family which entertained people like  John Berryman, James Thurber, Joseph Wood Krutch, Franklin P. Adams, Jacques Barzun, Thomas Merton, Lionel Trilling, Rex Stout. These names, some not so familiar now, were big names in American culture in the 1950s. We learn this information from David Halberstam's The Fifites (1993). Halberstam also mentions the Van Doren family cat was named "Walter"  Walter was named after Thurber's "Walter Mitty," a story about the space imagination can occupy in the mind. 

Mark won a Pulitzer in 1940, the poetry prize, for Collected Poems 1922–1938. He wrote many books, including A Liberal Education (1943). Carl Van Doren, had won a Pulitzer the year before, 1939, for his biography, Benjamin Franklin

There is a straight forward quality about the prose of the Van Dorens. They both shared the English obliviousness to the possibility of philosophical complexity. They lived at a time when celebrity culture was a new phenomenon, and they were part of the collision between this culture and a common respect for intellectual effort. It was on November 2, 1959 that Charles Van Doren, son and nephew, admitted to a congressional committee that his answers on the quiz show, Twenty-One, had been supplied to him before the show went on the air each week. Let him who is aghast study their own reaction.

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