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0:00 - Interview introduction

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Partial Transcript: This is Linda Danford, I'm speaking this afternoon

Segment Synopsis: Interviewer introduces the interviewee and begins the interview

0:14 - Personal background

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Partial Transcript: Would you tell me something about your background?

Segment Synopsis: Chappell talks about where he was born and where he is from

1:16 - Post graduation

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Partial Transcript: And then when you graduated, you-

Segment Synopsis: Chappell talks about what he did right after graduating college

1:37 - Teaching at UNCG

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Partial Transcript: And did you come into the writing program or just

Segment Synopsis: Chappell remembers coming to the college and teaching in the English department

3:53 - Personal work

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Partial Transcript: I was going to ask you- was that your first novel?

Segment Synopsis: Chappell talks about his own work as a writer and where that has led him in his life and career

7:06 - Writing program

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Partial Transcript: Pretty mediocre. So let's get back to the writing program

Segment Synopsis: Chappell describes the nature of the writing program and how it developed

14:55 - Response from the administration

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Partial Transcript: What about the administration? Has the administration

Segment Synopsis: Chappell reflects on the administrative response to the writing program and the support that the program has garnered over the years

16:27 - Changes in university quality

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Partial Transcript: What about your career? Your career has taken

Segment Synopsis: Chappell talks about the nature of the university and how it has changed over the decades

19:00 - Initial time at Woman's College

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Partial Transcript: Well, you came in '64. It was still Woman's

Segment Synopsis: Chappell remembers the faculty that were at Woman's College during his initial time there and what those people meant to him

22:16 - The Arts

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Partial Transcript: Who else did we bring in? Just before I came, we

Segment Synopsis: Chappell talks about the arts at UNCG and the ways that the arts were promoted on the campus

25:28 - Coeducation

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Partial Transcript: You weren't here, obviously, in the '40s and '50s.

Segment Synopsis: Chappell speaks a bit about coeducation, and how many all female campuses were becoming coeducational at that time

28:24 - Living in Greensboro as a writer

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Partial Transcript: That must have been fairly early. So how easy or

Segment Synopsis: Chappell speaks on his current life in Greensboro as a writer

30:14 - Reflecting on UNCG

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Partial Transcript: Is there anything you'd like to say about teaching

Segment Synopsis: Chappell reflects on what it was like being a faculty member at UNCG

31:59 - Change in the administration

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Partial Transcript: Do you feel like the administration has really

Segment Synopsis: Chappell discusses changes to the administration and what that meant for the institution

35:35 - Ending thoughts

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Partial Transcript: Is there anything else you'd like to reminisce about

Segment Synopsis: Chappell shares some final thoughts regarding his time at the college

38:35 - Interview conclusion

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Partial Transcript: It is. It's an embarassment. Well, I appreciate the

Segment Synopsis: Interviewer ends the interview

0:00

LD: This is Linda Danford, I'm speaking this afternoon to Fred Chappell at his home 305 Kensington in Greensboro. It's March 7th, 1991. Going to get started here. Would you tell me something about your background? Where you come from?

FC: I come from a little paper mill town in the western part of the state. It used to be twenty miles west of Asheville. Now I think it's about fifteen because they have a different highway. I was born in 1936 in the house of my grandmother on the farm outside this small mill town. I went to high school in Canton, which was then called Canton High School which has since been--what do they call that? Amalgamated with some other high schools? That's where I met my wife, Susan. We were high school sweethearts. And I didn't leave there 1:00significantly until I went to the university at Duke [University] over in Durham.

LD: And then when you graduated, you--

FC: Came directly here. I went on to graduate school at Duke and picked up a--well; I guess it's an ABD [all but dissertation, step towards earning a PhD]. I don't remember how far I got now, but I picked up an MA [master of arts] and then went on, and then I came here to teach.

LD: And did you come into the writing program or just into the English department?

FC: There wasn't any writing program when I was hired.

LD: What year was that?

FC: I came here in 1964. I was hired in 1962, and Professor Joe Bryant was the head of the English department at that time. And I read a paper at a conference--at a Renaissance conference--and he liked the paper, and he told me 2:00that as soon as I got a degree that he'd give me a job. So as soon as I--as soon as my fellowship ran out--I had a National Defense Education Act Fellowship from the DEA [doctoral evidence acquisition]. They had those in those days because if you learned a lot about English literature, you could combat Sputniks [spacecraft launched by the Russians in 1957] some way or another. It's difficult to understand, but I felt like I could do it if I was called on. And as soon as that gave out, I wrote to Mr. Bryant and said, "Could I have a job?" And he said, "Yes." So I came here for five thousand dollars a year teaching four classes.

LD Was that the typical teaching load in 1964?

FC: For beginning instructors it certainly was. Yeah, it's what you call two and two-- two freshman, two sophomore classes. Two sophomore English lit surveys and 3:00two freshman comp[osition] classes, which were and still are, killers. But I enjoyed almost all my time here.

LD: What was your field when came in? Was it Renaissance?

FC: Eighteenth-century literature. As a matter of fact, I was slated to be the eighteenth-century scholar, but then they--there was a demand. There was an absolute order that came in from Raleigh [North Carolina state legislature] that we had to start graduate English programs here, and the one we could start, feasibly, at that time because of the presence of writers--Peter Taylor [won Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1987], Robert Watson [novelist, poet], Randall Jarrell [poet, author, essayist, poet laureate consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress]--was a writing program. And as it happened, I had published a novel while I was in graduate school.

LD: I was going to ask you--was that your first novel?

FC: Yeah. That was my first book. I'd published some other stuff before that. And I had a second novel accepted. So when I approached Dr. Bryant and said, 4:00"Well, I think I can knock off this PhD in a couple of summers, and it really wouldn't be too hard. I've done most of the work." My MA thesis was really the bulk of research for my doctorate--my doctoral dissertation. He said he couldn't give me no [sic] raise. I wouldn't have no more money if I got a doctorate, so I said, "I ain't [sic] going to get one." [both laugh] It'd make my mother happy, but other than that there ain't no [sic] advantage. And so I didn't do it.

LD: I'm an ABD too.

FC: Are you?

LD: So I know. That was--that's not exactly my rationale, but close to it.

FC: What's your rationale?

LD: Well, it didn't--we're not supposed to be interviewing me, but it ended up at the time--it wasn't going to make a whole lot of difference as to what I did.

FC: Where was this?

LD: It was at Yale [University].

FC: Was it at Yale? What were you in?

5:00

LD Classics. FC: Classics. Boy. I took a double undergraduate major. Latin was my other major. I always wanted to--I didn't have any chance to take Greek, and I always thought that maybe I'd like to go to classics school, but there was no opportunity.

LD: Well, you're probably better off the way you are. I was writing on the Senecan [Roman philosopher and politician, L. Annaeus Seneca] tragedy, and I was reading a lot of very bad scholarship on it.

FC: Lot of German and stuff?

LD: Lot of German. I used to go over to the library, and I'd fall asleep. It'd take me about a half an hour, and I'd just fall asleep.

FC: There's something about German classical scholarship that has a somniferous quality.

LD: Well, somebody should have told me that it was a mistake--that I should have been writing on a first-rate poet--that when you write on a second-rate and then you're reading second- rate scholarship, that it can be demoralizing. But I also--I mean, I had other problems. But--

6:00

FC: Well, I'm sorry to hear you tell me that. I just--I promised somebody that I would translate the Hercules Furens [play by Seneca] sometime in the next couple of years.

LD: Well, they've gotten very popular lately.

FC: Oh, really?

LD A lot of people are working on them. I mean, a lot of people are doing dissertations on them again. They've risen, but--

FC: They're still awfully, dreadfully pompous, if you ask me.

LD: Yeah. They're not Sophocles and Euripides [two of three (with Aeschylus) ancient Greek tragedians]. That's for sure.

FC: No, they're not. But Johns Hopkins--a friend of mine translated a lot of Roman dramas there, and suddenly they realized one day that--you know, if we just got four or five more people to do one or two apiece, we'd have a complete [unclear] drama. And I don't think there's been one in English since the early 1940s.

LD: Probably not.

FC: So the other one I got to translate is by Plautus [Roman playwright]. Oh, it's awful.

LD: Which one?

FC: The Azinaria [comic play, The One with the Asses].

LD: Some of them are pretty funny, I think.

7:00

FC: The good ones are terrific, but you got three good ones and then you got seventeen terrible ones.

LD: Pretty mediocre. So let's get back to the writing program--so that the writing program was starting up, and who was here at the time? Peter Taylor, you said, and--?

FC: Robert Watson.

LD: And Robert Watson.

FC: Who was the real genius behind the writing program. And it took one, too, because we had to pull it out of nowhere. And Randall Jarrell. Randall, however, was not in the least interested in teaching writing to graduate students. In fact, he just flatly refused. He was very happy teaching undergraduates. He was a great undergraduate teacher. And I don't think he had any use for MFA [master of fine arts] programs, though I never talked to him specifically about that. So that left me. I'd published and all and there I was. I was on their doorstep. So 8:00I was in on the planning stages; that is, I sat in a corner and listened to Peter Taylor and Robert Watson put the program together. And wished I was that smart. And then, of course, Bob did all the hard work, all the administrative work, in pushing it through. In fact, it was rejected about three times. All our graduate programs we had to submit to Chapel Hill [General Administration of the University of North Carolina] in order for them to be accepted, and they kept rejecting. They rejected the PhD program. They rejected the academic MA program, and I think they rejected the MFA program, though I can't remember that they did. They had to keep going back to Chapel Hill and kept getting rejected and said, "We don't want to give graduate degrees with this kind of faculty over there and your kind of resources." So we were caught in the middle. Raleigh said, "You've got to do it." And Chapel Hill says, "We ain't [sic] going to let you."

9:00

LD: In Raleigh, we're talking about the central administration?

FC: No. We're talking about the state government.

LD: The state government. And then in Chapel Hill, we're talking about the central administration of the University.

FC: Yes. Yes. Which--and a committee was delegated to evaluate our proposed programs in the English department, and so was the English department over there. But this happened to other departments, too.

LD: So there was some considerable competition going on between them. Chapel Hill didn't want anybody else--

FC: Well, they didn't--somebody in Raleigh--the legislators got together, and they threw a switch and said, "Now we will have sixteen state universities instead of these various colleges." But because you throw the switch don't mean you got 'em. It just means you're going to start, and at Chapel Hill, they didn't want to put in any more of their programs. I don't blame them, but what can you do? It turned out I don't think our programs have been unworthy. I think our degrees are as sound as anybody else's. Not speaking now of the 10:00writing program but just the English graduate degrees generally, people have been very successful with them, I understand.

LD: But the writing program has quite a reputation?

FC: Yes. It has a very good reputation for a number of reasons. Mostly because Bob Watson and Peter Taylor put together a very sound program in the beginning. They put together one that was streamlined and easy to run, so that when they were gone even I could run it. I'm the most disorganized person in the world. And also, we had the good luck of--in our first year of having just about--I think we had ten students and eight of them were geniuses, so that was a great help. And then in a couple of years, two students, Curtis Fields [1982 BFA] and Lawrence Judson Reynolds [1967 MFA] and Bob Watson founded the Greensboro Review 11:00[The University of North Carolina at Greensboro literary magazine]. The students wanted a place to showcase their work to get it noticed. How do you do that? Well, you publish a magazine, but then you try to get rather hot writers from somewhere else to publish with them so their work will be companioned by known names. And that worked out very well too. It was a lot of work. It was a desktop publishing at first before there was any desktop publishing, so we all walked around the room time after time collating the pages for this thing. [laughs]

LD: The faculty puts this out, not the students?

FC: The MFA department publishes it, but the students edit it. The faculty advises. They are merely an advisory capacity, so that when they publish something really gross and sexy we go over and take the heat. They don't have to.

LD: Have there been any scandals since it was published?

12:00

FC: There has been only one minor scandal so far as I know. And that was in the second year, when--I think I'll leave the name out here--when one of the people in the English department objected to the word "bloody" in a story. [laughs]

LD: Just bloody, or the British curse or--?

FC: It was the--using the British--it was a British--and very, very curious, too, because I listened to the complaint, and the person here had a--well, the person here had a faulty etymology in the first place--thought it referred to menstrual blood. It comes from "by our lady" [inaudible] bloody.

LD: I knew it had an interesting etymology, but I'd forgotten what it was.

FC: So it was silly, and we published some gross stuff--some interesting stuff, but nobody--since nobody around here reads it, you can get away with it. [both 13:00laugh] But it's among writers and editors it's well respected and widely read. So they do very well. They get--you'll get a chance to interview some of the--you'll get a chance to interview Jim Clark [editor of the Greensboro Review], I expect, or somebody will. You'll hear interesting statistics about the magazine.

LD: Now is the writing program totally within the English department or is it--does it have any autonomy?

FC: No. It's totally within the English department. There were all kinds of things happening at different times. When there was some friction between us and the English department at times, we thought about splitting off. Then as soon as the rumor got out that we were thinking about splitting off, a lot of other departments in the school wanted to come and get us--communications and interdisciplinary studies and all kinds of people. And so that smoothed out 14:00pretty quickly. We've insisted that--except there was some crunch for money, and we got people upset. I can't remember what the flap was now. I never can remember faculty disputes. But for the most part, we want to draw the writing program and the academic program together. Whichever one is stronger will help the other one, is what we figure. And that's been true. Students that aren't doing too well in one program may switch to another. But also the writing program, which right now seems to be a little bit stronger and has a reputation, will draw people--good scholars--in hope of getting into the writing program or just being near it. Not much of that. I don't want to exaggerate that, but there's some of it.

LD: What about the administration? Has the administration always been supportive of the program?

FC: No, not always. Not at all.

LD: Has that come and gone?

15:00

FC: Only in the last I don't know how many years--seven or eight years. After the first three or four--three years I guess, of the [Chancellor William E.] Moran administration, the writing program was--well, for some reason we happened to have a whole lot of publicity about that time, and [Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Elizabeth] Zinser, who was the main support--who was the main push behind the writing program--and we got a lot of support from the administration. We'd been sort of benevolently neglected up to that point. When we'd get money, it was good. When we couldn't, it was all right. I have to say, I think we did better under benevolent neglect than this other. [laughs]

LD: Then you got too much attention?

FC: We got too much attention. I think we got too much attention and we had--we're having to do impossible administrative load now. It hasn't happened yet, but there's a possibility that students are going to get lost in the 16:00shuffle and already I feel some distance between myself and the students. Of course, I'm aging out is one thing. But also, this load of work separates me from them. I used to drink beer with them. We'd have endless conferences about their work, but now it's--I have to shoehorn a conference in. So--

LD: What about your career? Your career has taken some turns in different directions since the beginning of the writing program. Is that a factor in your relationship with your students? I mean, some faculty members you can say are primarily teachers and they also write some, but you're obviously primarily a writer and a poet now and you also teach.

FC: I never separated the two that--I am primarily a writer now, but this has only been true in the last five years, and it's only been true then because of a 17:00certain amount of publicity. Before that, I was writing the same amount. It's just that nobody was noticing me.

LD: That makes all the difference. I mean, doesn't it?

FC: That makes a lot of difference. That's one of things also that distances you from the students. That is, they see your name in print; that makes you a little more inaccessible to them. But also there's just a natural growing apart there of the generations. Sometimes I don't understand their references anymore, and they sure don't understand a lot of mine. [laughs]

LD: I think that's a problem with the students. If they have a limited vocabulary of allusion, you know, potential--

FC: Just because they're young, you forget just how much you add to your store over the years. And you and I and anyone that teaches keeps going back over the same material except broader and deeper, and we wonder why kids don't know 18:00anything. Well, they hadn't been reading this stuff for thirty years now. That's why. [laughs] The students, I must say--you going off, sweetie? [speaks to his wife]

LD: Thank you for the tea. [she leaves]

FC: It's always special when the faculty says the students get worse every year, but my impression is they stay the same and we just get kind of more expert because we have to read more and more about the same things.

LD: So we're getting better. They're not getting worse.

FC: I don't know if we're getting better. There's a point where it gets to be pointless as far as teaching goes because you can only give them so much in two classes on [William Butler] Yeats [Anglo-English poet and playwright] or something. [laughs] There's only so much you can say. I don't know. I know that we do. We have a discipline that is agglutinative or whatever you call it.

LD: Well, you came in '64. It was still Woman's College [of the University of 19:00North Carolina], was it not? Or had it changed?

FC: Accretive. Pardon me.

LD: When you came in '64, was it still Woman's College or had it changed?

FC: I came here the last year of Woman's College. I came in the fall of '64. Taught the regular four beginning courses and was ready for another year of the same, and then in October of '65 Randall Jarrell died. I was offered his classes, my choice of his classes to pick up and teach. Approached the narrative of modern poetry and Russian literature. I didn't feel secure about teaching Russian literature, so I didn't volunteer for that one. I took the other two, and after that I was no longer in the two-two, the four-track.

20:00

LD: Then it was reduced to three?

FC: It was reduced to three--those two classes plus a graduate writing course. I taught fiction almost--no, I taught poetry and fiction. We always alternated. We've always been lucky in that Bob Watson writes fiction and poetry and I write fiction and poetry so that we can switch off each semester, and the students would get a dose of one of us and they'd get the contrasting point of views. We had very different ideas. And they kind of liked that little variety.

LD: What about the people that you brought in? Weren't there frequently visiting writers?

FC: Seemed like there was one about every week or two. Early on we brought in a--we had a chance to get [John Orley] Allen Tate [American poet, essayist, social commentator] for a certain number of weeks per year or semester. I've 21:00forgotten the deal now. And he was terrific to have in mainly because he's a legendary figure, but also because he's a wonderful personality and a fine teacher.

LD: And his wife was also a writer, wasn't she?

FC: Caroline Gordon [American novelist and literary critic]? They had taught here together in the late '30s, but they were no longer married.

LD: When he came back?

FC: When he came here, he was married to Helen [Heinz] Tate. I don't know her maiden name. A former nun who jumped over the law to get married to Allen. She still lives in Tennessee.

LD: And [Anna Thilda] May Swanson came [American poet and playwright], didn't she?

FC: May came quite often. She died last year, bless her heart. She came two or three times, and was always a wonderful lecturer and speaker. Arturo Vivante [Italian-American writer] came a couple of times. A wonderful fuzzy speaker, 22:00[he] brought a deeply Italian sensibility to the program. Nobody could make out what the hell he was talking about, but they all learned a lot from him. Who else did we bring in? Just before I came, we had a--there was a X.J. Kennedy [American poet, anthologist, translator, and writer of children's literature and textbooks on English literature and poetry]. Joe Kennedy, the poet, was teaching here and he was then editor, poetry editor, of the Paris Review. He left just before I came, but his legacy was still here. There were instructors and students who liked Joe and knew Joe, so--with Randall and Bob and Peter and Joe just having left-- there was a lively literary atmosphere. After all, as far as I know, this is the first university to institute the literary arts festival, 23:00which is so common now--to have writers in every spring. Robert Frost [received four Pulitzer Prizes for poetry] came every year here and gave a reading or just talked to students because he wintered in Florida and Greensboro's kind of half-way between. He knew Randall, and they liked to talk so he'd stop in Greensboro--while he was here, give a reading or a lecture or something at the university. This was in the days when he was America's poet, so you had a number of people turn out. I remember my first year here, I believe, Robert Lowell [Pulitzer Prize-winning poet] read here, or it might have been my second. No, it was before I came here. I read here once myself before I came when my first book came out. That was in '63. And Robert Lowell read here, and I think the head count was 7,000 people for a poetry reading. That's unusual.

24:00

LD: It sure is. Was that held in Aycock [Auditorium]?

FC: Yeah.

LD: Aycock. And that was done under the auspices of the English department?

FC: Yes, it was.

LD: Any other arts besides literary?

FC: They used to have a--at the same time they had the spring arts festival, they had a dance festival with Miss [Virginia] Moomaw [coordinator of dance division]. I didn't get to see that, but I understand it was something to behold. And one time--

LD Who was Miss Moomaw?

FC: Oh, you would have to hear about Miss Moomaw, Virginia Moomaw--a fabulous dance instructor here. One time they had the Alabama String Quartet in it and they did all of Beethoven's string quartets in three days. [laughs] Or a week, perhaps.

LD: Yeah. They're doing that this year with Mozart.

FC: Are they?

LD: You know, there are going to be these marathon Mozart performances because it's the anniversary of his--I don't know if it's his birth or death. Death, I guess it must be.

25:00

FC: Oh, yeah, this if the anniversary of the death. [laughs] Poor girls, going to all those string quartets. That's kind of wearing.

LD: Was the college a cultural magnet for the city in those days? I've heard people say that there was a lot more community participation in cultural events at the college, let's say, in the '40s and '50s than there is nowadays.

FC I don't know.

LD: You weren't here, obviously, in the '40s and '50s. How do you--well, how did you feel about coeducation? Were you glad to see men come in?

FC: I didn't mind about the men. I don't think that makes any difference. It's just the two situations are so different you really can't even compare them. It went from being what? A kind of nice woman's liberal arts college sort of like Sarah Lawrence [Bronxville, New York] or Bard [Annandale-on-Hudson, New York] was in those days to a state university struggling to create some sort of 26:00reputation for itself, which it's still trying to do. It's been thirty years now. But you know, it takes centuries for that to take place. So you can't--you really can't compare them. It's for sure that in doing so, they destroyed one sort of thing, but I'm not sure the old thing is viable anymore. Even in places like Bennington [Vermont] and Smith [Northampton, Massachusetts] are coed now.

LD: Not Smith.

FC: Not Smith? Good. I know some of the seven sisters are, but I can't remember which ones.

LD: Well, Vassar and some of the ones that were on--like Pembroke [Cambridge, England] and Brown [Providence, Rhode Island] and Barnard [affiliated with Columbia University] and Columbia [New York City]. Although Barnard has maintained some independence.

FC: Barnard, not Bard. I don't know why I said Bard. Barnard. Anyhow--

LD: Smith is still--still there.

FC: Good. Of course, it's so close to Amherst [also Northampton, Massachusetts].

27:00

LD: Yeah. And they have a five-college thing in the valley. I don't know how well that works.

FC: I remember reading there one time, and it reminded me that we had dinner with the girls in the hall up there--whatever--in their dormitory hall. And it reminded me of Salem College [Winston-Salem, North Carolina]. It was the only place I've ever been that really reminded me of Salem College a whole lot. [laughs]

LD: In what way?

FC: Oh, just the youth of the girls. The girls we have now are more sophisticated. They ain't [sic] smarter, but they're a lot more sophisticated and a lot less naive and a lot less protected than the girls when I first came here or the girls I ever met at Smith.

LD: The girls at Smith were naive?

FC: They were protected.

LD: When did you read there?

FC: Sixty something. '67. '65. '66. Somewhere in there. [laughs]

28:00

LD That's my alma mater.

FC: It's a great school. I love it.

LD: I graduated in '71.

FC: Bob Watson was with me. We read together, and we got arrested on campus. They thought we were criminals because we didn't wear coats and ties. Campus cops come [sic] and picked us up.

LD: That must have been fairly early. So how easy or difficult is it to have this growing publicity and notoriety and so forth and still be living in Greensboro? Do you feel like you--?

FC: For the MFA program?

LD: No. For you personally.

FC: Oh, I don't have that. Any writer's reputation is known only to readers--they have to be very devoted readers to know my name because I write a lot of poetry--and to other writers. And there's no real problem with publicity 29:00and everything. You just get a recorder to put on your telephone. The problem is what to do with all the unsolicited manuscripts that people send you to read and comment on and get published for them and that sort of thing. LD: I hadn't thought about that, but I guess you do get--

FC: Well, somebody should write a book on how much of that stuff writers do or don't do. It's up to the individual writer. And it's a real burden. I never have a week without some book- length manuscript that comes in from somebody I've never heard of in my life.

LD: These are not students? These are people you don't know?

FC: No. I don't mind reading my former students' work. I'm supposed to. But it seems like they publish a book every two weeks. That's nothing. And I really 30:00don't mind this other too much. It's just that there's not much time when you do it.

LD: Yeah. I'm sure that's true.

FC: Not much time for anything.

LD: Is there anything you'd like to say about teaching at UNCG on the plus side or the negative side?

FC: Well, right now, on the negative side, my classrooms are too small and they're too hot and the building is falling down.

LD: I presume this is McIver [Building] you're talking about.

FC: This is McIver. Am I right?

LD: Nobody likes that building.

FC: Yeah. Other than that, it's been, as far as I'm concerned, the best job in the world. I'd be happy to teach anywhere, but here was a good place. I've had angry years and miserable years, but I made myself as angry and miserable as 31:00anything anybody else did, so--. And part of it was laziness because whenever there was something that really needed a remedy, if I would just go ahead and do it, everything worked out okay. But if I would just squawk about it, nothing would happen. One thing I did learn to do early on is to never to go to committee meetings if you don't have to. Those are a great waste of time. Everything you do, the administration undoes. I found that out the second year I was here, so I said, "The hell with it." And I still have as little to do with administrative red tape as possible because most of the stuff that students need you can do yourself in twenty minutes. And if you run it through administration, it takes two weeks.

LD: Do you feel like the administration has really exploded in size and--?

32:00

FC: I feel that this administration is going to be the tail wagging the dog, if they don't find some way to be more functional. And I can't imagine that I'm alone in this opinion.

LD: No. No, I don't think so.

FC: When you interview the people in administration, they'll of course wish that faculty were better prepared and more prestigious, then their work would be cut in half. I don't know how much justice there is on either side.

LD: Are there any--? You must have had some contact with Mereb Mossman [faculty in the department of sociology and anthropology, dean of instruction, dean of the college, dean of faculty and vice chancellor for academic affairs]?

FC Sure did.

LD: What was she like?

FC: I thought she was very sweet, nice, gentle lady--a real southern gentleman in a lot of respects. And I admired her courage and common sense and what little 33:00bit I knew of her career--seemed to me an outstanding one for a woman of that time or of any time. It wasn't easy for her, but she was a politician of the good sort. She made things easy. She had a real talent for compromise, and she didn't lie to you.

LD: A lot of people speak very nostalgically of that era.

FC: She and [Chancellor James S.] Jim Ferguson were wonderful people. They really were. They were both gentle people. Jim, I think, was absolutely the gentlest administrator of any sort I ever met. And I loved Frances, his wife. Taught, I think, two of his kids. Then he had humor. He was no fan of the writing program, I'd have to say. We lost Peter Taylor because he wouldn't find 34:00enough money to keep him after the University of Virginia made a bid for him. Peter was willing to stay for half of what they were--but it didn't work.

LD: What a pity.

FC: You said it.

LD: Well, I'm surprised. Why was he--? That doesn't sound like the usual description of Jim Ferguson. I mean, that was really shortsighted of him.

FC: He may not--he simply might not have even had the money at the time and had just--well, this is very common in any administration--had just gone through a terrible battle to get some for somebody else and just could not go back and ask for more money for another case. That happens all the time. The faculty complaints about the administration are usually pretty well-founded, but they don't know all of the situation either. Just by the rumors I hear from the 35:00people I happen to know in Raleigh in the legislature, they get stuck with a lot of problems we don't hear about.

LD: Well, it sounds like the system doesn't give the administrators or the chancellor, for instance, a lot of discretion--a lot of discretionary money, which is too bad.

FC: That's true. That is true.

LD: Because that's something that I think the chancellor should have.

FC: Well, there is a discretionary fund, but it ain't [sic] big enough to, you know, to buy Christmas presents with.

LD: Is there anything else you'd like to reminisce about?

FC: No. I've enjoyed it here. The students are just as loveable as they ever were, and I like my faculty. I like my colleagues; I've always liked my colleagues. The quality of administration--the lower administration has sagged, if you ask me. But perhaps I just don't know the people well enough. And the 36:00architecture has gotten uglier, but [laughs] what else is new?

LD: Do you have a least favorite building of the new buildings that have gone up?

FC: My least favorite building is McIver, but that's just because I have to live with it.

LD: Yeah. But that's not new.

FC: That's not new. No. I don't. I'll let the new buildings off the hook. I do like the new art gallery [Weatherspoon Art Gallery]. That's very nice. Everybody says it's better on the inside than it is on the outside, but I kind of like the outside too.

LD: Well, it's growing on me. I'm teaching a class in there, actually.

FC: Is that right?

LD: It's very luxurious to go in there at ten o'clock in the morning and teach a class. But you know, I've talked to a number of very old faculty who say that McIver, this building, replaced a quite lovely older building.

FC: Yes, it did.

LD: It's really ironic.

37:00

FC I can't remember who the English department chairman at that time was, but they were going to dedicate this building--this motel looking building here--and he decided that really to give it a--to really dedicate a wonderful send-off--that he would have William Faulkner [American writer, Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize winner] come and give a brief address. And he wrote Mr. Faulkner about twelve letters, and Mr. Faulkner never answered any of them. And, finally, he sent him a collect telegram or whatever you do, and Faulkner got it and scribbled, "I never do things like this," and sent it back to him. And apparently he was so proud of that that he put it in the cornerstone of the building. [both laugh] I don't know whether that's true or not.

LD: Maybe someday they'll find it when they pull out the cornerstone. Well, it absolutely is unique on campus, that building, for the size of the faculty 38:00offices, the lack of comfort of the classrooms, the noise, the--

FC: Well, I've seen the shock on people's faces in various situations, but the most shock I can recall lately is when Bill Moran came to my office personally to see me and saw my office. He simply could not believe it that people live in these little cubbyholes.

LD: It is. It's an embarrassment. Well, I appreciate the interview.

FC: Sure thing now.

LD: It's been interesting. I hope it's not been painful.

FC: Have you done whole lots of these now?

LD: I've done about thirty of them.

FC: Gosh, that's a lot.

[End of Interview]