Topical Guide 113
Sitting next to Matthew was Mary Elizabeth Patterson. Mary Elizabeth could make a cloudy day sunny.
Little Follies, “The Fox and the Clam”
I hope you will agree, reader, that I do not, as a rule, impose my “interpretations” of the text on you. That would be presumptuous. It would be an insult to your intelligence. However, I’m about to make an exception to that policy. Here I go: I think that Mary Elizabeth Patterson is the personification of Imagination. If the Personal History were an allegory—
I pause for this: Before you decide that considering the Personal History an allegory is a bit far-fetched, bear in mind, please [a] the fact that Kraft wrote his undergraduate thesis on Edmund Spenser’s allegorical epic The Faerie Queene, [b] the fact that Kraft used a bit of Spenser’s dedication of The Faerie Queene to Queen Elizabeth in his dedication of the Personal History to Madeline Kraft (“Shed thy faire beames into my feeble eyne, And raise my thoughtes, too humble and too vile”), and [c] the fact that the title of Kraft’s thesis was “The Religious Preparation of the Redcrosse Knight in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene,” but his private title for it was “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Balm,” the balm being the balm of the Tree of Life. Need I say more? (Undergraduate wit, ye gods.)
So, if the Personal History were an allegory—Mary Elizabeth Patterson would be Imagination, Matthew would be Melancholy or Misery or Pessimism, and Peter would be Optimism or Naïveté or Innocence. “Just saying,” as they say. My take on it. Take it or leave it.
Imagination is funny, it makes a cloudy day sunny
Makes a bee think of honey just as I think of you …
Imagination is silly, you go around willy-nilly
For example I go around wanting you
Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen, “Imagination”
Before the day began, Mary Elizabeth and I would spend a few minutes chatting happily about the amusing things our parents had done the night before. I was quite contentedly in love with her, and I basked in the certainty that my love was reciprocated. …
“I just wanted to say that I agree with Matthew. … I think this story shows that you just can’t win,” she said. She was looking at Matthew while she spoke, and the look in her eyes was admiration. …
Darkness seemed to descend in the cloakroom. Mary Elizabeth and Matthew were staring into each other’s eyes. They looked perfectly miserable and perfectly compatible.
Little Follies, “The Fox and the Clam”
To have a girl like her is truly a dream come true
Out of all the fellows in the world she belongs to me
But it was just my imagination
Runnin’ away with me
Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield, “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)”
[more to come on Wednesday, October 20, 2021]
Have you missed an episode or two or several?
You can catch up by visiting the archive or consulting the index to the Topical Guide.
You can listen to the episodes on the Personal History podcast. Begin at the beginning or scroll through the episodes to find what you’ve missed.
At Apple Books you can download free eBooks of “My Mother Takes a Tumble,” “Do Clams Bite?,” “Life on the Bolotomy,” and “The Static of the Spheres,” the first four novellas in Little Follies.
You’ll find an overview of the entire work in An Introduction to The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy. It’s a pdf document.
In Topical Guide 113 there is a video of Chet Baker singing “Imagination.” In the video, a car is shown driving along Pacific Coast Highway at the base of Palisades Park in Santa Monica. The car then drives a little further up the coast by the Villa De Leon, a now abandoned mansion overlooking the Pacific Ocean near the Getty Villa Museum (a spectacular collection of ancient art and architecture).
https://www.google.com/maps/place/Villa+De+Leonfirstname.lastname@example.org,-118.5663132,20.75z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x80c2a3ef39353b7b:0xa2cb23305a291cf3!8m2!3d34.0423219!4d-118.5663484 –this picture is exactly the view from the video
This mansion sits directly above the location of Thelma Todd’s Sidewalk Café, which is now an office building with a beautiful ocean view. She was found mysteriously dead in a nearby house.
Just a bit of sordid L.A. history, a la Raymond Chandler or James Ellroy’s “L.A. Confidential.”