News & Politics » Letters

Notes From the Big Table



To the managing editor:

A few addenda to Gerald E. Brennan's excellent article "Naked Censorship" [September 29 and October 6]: (In fact, the Brennan article is so well-written and true it wouldn't surprise me if it were awarded a Pulitzer Prize in Journalism.)

1) When the Beat poets came to Chicago in late January 1959 to give a benefit reading for Big Table "a reception was given in their honor at the Lake Shore home of socialite Muriel Newman." True. But Muriel was never a socialite--she always had more important things to do, mostly build a collection of modern art that is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she is a trustee. And the party wasn't exactly a reception; rather a fund-raiser for Big Table. Finally, she gave the first substantial donation to the magazine, getting it on its sea legs. Muriel was elegant, very, sophisticated; she was social; but no fufu socialite was she. She was a student in an adult study group I was teaching; at the time we were reading Ulysses.

2) Jack Mabley was one of the whipping boys in the article. And rightly so. His column "Filthy Writing on the Midway" started the trouble. A few years later, however, at a newspaper cocktail party I was surprised to see Jack Mabley walk over and extend a warm handshake. "I was wrong, Paul," he said.

3) Jim Hoge Squashes Chancellor Lawrence A. Kimpton Over Big Table. In 1959 Jim Hoge--soon to be the youngest editor in the history of the Sun-Times--was a graduate student of history at the University of Chicago. Jim was on the staff of Big Table for one issue before he was transferred to the Washington bureau. He did a good, conscientious job; his suggestions for future issues were particularly helpful.

It's 20 years later now. Jim's a guest at a black-tie "sit-down" dinner. Chancellor Kimpton is another. At one point, Kimpton began talking how rebellion at some of the universities "was nothing new, why, when I was chancellor on the Midway, we had to deal with this filthy little student magazine and its successor that caused a lot of adverse publicity. Well, we squashed those magazines--the way you could a bug," he said with a self-satisfied expression, Jim said. Then Jim said, "Chancellor Kimpton I was on the staff of Big Table, the little magazine that succeeded the Chicago Review. Big Table was one of the cultural assets of Chicago. It won two Longview awards for distinguished contributions to American Literature. Its editor Paul Carroll was and is a cultural asset too.

"You'd think Kimpton was deaf and dumb, how could he imagine that the editor of a huge metropolitan daily was ever associated with a 'filthy little student magazine'? For all I know," Jim said, laughing, "the chancellor's still sitting there mute at the table."

Paul Carroll

Vilas, North Carolina

Add a comment