CLIP | Buckley v. Vidal, 1968

BOOKS | ‘Two Dumb Ducks,’ Maxwell Eaton’s latest charmer

TwoDumbDucks“Two Dumb Ducks,” the latest from Maxwell Eaton III.

Noted children’s author, contributor and very good friend Maxwell Eaton III publishes his fourth book today.

“Two Dumb Ducks,” a Knopf title, introduces us to Steve and Carl, two entertaining foul who battle against the scourge of the seagull. Max and I have been corresponding about his new protagonists. Here’s a part of that conversation:

Q: A new book. Fantastic. Why ducks?

A: It was Two Dumb Crows for a good number of drafts until the alliteration gods cast their rays of inspiration upon this desert domicile, whereupon I changed the characters to long-billed dowitchers. Then Editorial had a suggestion.

Q: Steve and Carl. Any inspirations there?

A: There needs to be balance when writing and illustrating what might otherwise turn out to be cutesy. And nothing balances cutesy like “Steve” and “Carl.”

Q: A: And what about cans and socks? Cornelius? Zanzibar?

A: Cans and socks seemed like things ducks might come across when crossing the road from one side of a swamp to the other. And when it came to Carl’s sock friends, I suppose, in retrospect, Cornelius was a bit of a subconscious nod to a Wes Anderson flick. And Zanzibar, a nod to my East Africa aficionadic acquaintances.

Q: What about the gulls? Do you hate seagulls?

A: The trick is to pick unsympathetic antagonists. And hairless cats didn’t work in an aquatic setting.

Q: The book sends a strong anti-bullying message that very much connects to the conversation of the day. Obviously, you’re making a deliberate comment. Why?

A: The comment is more about how you chose to deal with problems and view solutions. When I was in elementary school the anti-bullying curriculum was fairly impractical. In fact, I’ve used it here as the backbone of Steve and Carl’s initial failed attempts. Ask the bully why they’re calling you dumb. Tell the bully to stop. If these work for you then great, but I want to show kids that it’s alright to deviate from the standard (and often useless) solutions and to adapt to the situation. If each bullying scenario (or any problem for that matter) if different, then each solution may have to be different. When (spoiler alert!) Steve and Carl wake up resembling muck monsters and the seagulls flee in terror, they realize that they’ve temporarily solved their problem. The seagulls aren’t really being hurt. And Steve and Carl aren’t directly threatening them. They just happened to be covered in pond scum. It’s completely passive. And, even better, it’s completely consistent with their own sense of fun and weirdness. Even if it didn’t discourage the seagulls, they’d probably still be playing in the mud. You’re talking about the same birds that are obsessed with aluminum cans and dirty socks. So I hope that readers experience “Two Dumb Ducks” not as a book about stopping bullies in their tracks, but as an example of how to go about dealing with unique challenges in creative ways that don’t hurt anyone and allow the individual to be true to him or herself.

Q: Who are you trying to reach? Are you hoping to maintain a relationship with your “Max and Pinky” readers? Are you hoping to attract new readers?

A: I think “Max and Pinky” Heads will appreciate Steve and Carl. And, of course, I would hope that some will discover the duck book only to be led back to the pig and the bald kid. But for a sappy instant I really do just want them to enjoy the story in front of them and not think about the collected works of the socially inept, marginally employable, consistantly disheveled author sitting at his desk drawing neckties on beavers.

Q: Tell me a bit about the book’s promotion. How can fans connect with you?

A: The best way to connect with an author is to write them a letter. Authors truly are attention starved creatures desperate to spend half a day or more responding to-, buying a stamp for-, and then mailing a letter in return. And if you think they’re the kind of author whose mail might be filtered by assistants or interns, simply mark the envelope “PERSONAL.” That works for congressmen, too. But, as far as promotion goes, keep your eyes peeled for further interviews and media of that nature.

Q: You’ve moved on from “Max and Pinky.” Will they ever ride again?

A: Max and Pinky have bogged themselves down with infighting and passive-aggressive displays of inter-agrarian one-upmanship. The sink is full of dishes. The barn is listing dangerously. And nobody has seen the horse, Chuck, since “The Incident.” For now, Max and Pinky are going to sit tight while a few other pairings hog some of the attention.

Q: What other projects are on the burner?

A: “The Flying Beaver Brothers” first and foremost. In a transparent attempt to stalk my first readers throughout their subliminally scarred lives (read The Mystery backwards in a mirror), I’ve upped my audience’s age bracket with a graphic novel series about two beavers (brothers, I believe) that surf, skateboard, and indulge in detrimental levels of napping. I’m hard at work on the first two stories as we speak and will have concrete release dates soon. But more on that later!

Eaton offers readers a chance to preview “Two Dumb Ducks” at

Eaton lives in Arizona with his wife, Kristin. He graduated from St. Lawrence University in 2004. We talked last year about his extensive creative process.

Contact your local bookseller to purchase a copy of “Two Dumb Ducks” today.

“Two Dumb Ducks”
Maxwell Eaton III
Alfred A. Knopf, Oct. 12, 2010
Hardcover, 32 pages

CLIP | Conversation with A.R. Gurney, 2009

GREAT HOUSES | A pair of homes for Cheever or Draper in Ossining

Ossining. The home of the ficitional Don Draper and of fiction creator extraordinaire John Cheever, it’s been in the news a good deal this week as the nation awaits the premier of the fourth season of “Mad Men.”

The Journal News, the paper for the northern suburbs, talked with Ossining residents about the drama’s references to their environs. Peter Applebome, in his Our Towns column today in the Times, wondered why the Drapers weren’t living in one of Westchester’s more southern, tonier suburbs like Rye or Larchmont. The most obvious reason Don and Betty live in the northern river town, Applebome concludes, is a bow to John Cheever, who called an old farmhouse off Cedar Lane home for three decades.

Draper residence, real and imagined
The question as to why the Drapers live in Ossining has puzzled me and other fans of the show ( contributing writer Will Briganti thinks “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner’s choice of Ossining is a bad inaccuracy) for some time. Earlier this week, I went in search of Draperesque real estate in Ossining in an effort to prove Weiner wrong.

Of course there are beautiful properties in and around Ossining, just as there are up and down the Hudson Valley. I didn’t expect, though, to find a doppelganger for the Draper’s house at the fictional address of 42 Bullet Park Road. Take a look:


And here’s the Pasadena home used on the show:


Sure, there are slight exterior differences — the Pasadena house is all clapboard and has an Arts-and-Crafts influenced roof pitch — but they’re still both center-hall colonials. The former, located in Scarborough, just south of the village of Ossining, is on offer from Houlihan-Lawrence for $839,000. Built in 1936, the house’s exteriors appear as updated versions of Betty Draper’s. There’s even a knotty-pine paneled den:


More pictures in the gallery below.

Living a Cheeverian lifestyle
Two-and-a-half miles northeast of John Cheever’s Ossining home is another old farmhouse that was updated in the 20th century. It’s also on offer from Houlihan-Lawrence and can be had for the asking price of $699,000. The property, once the home of a “world-renowned artist and sculptor,” features a pool, an exterior garage and a barn. It’s glorious, frankly, and were it not just a little north and just a bit out of our price range, Mrs. F. and I have agreed we’d be very interested.

Cheever’s house, which we’ve driven by in the past, is also an old farmhouse, but the property doesn’t appear to be as large as the one on Croton Dam Road. When I first saw the listing for the latter, I was sure it was Cheever’s place, but it’s not. Here’s a look:


And here’s a gallery of photos from both houses:

Images courtesy of Houlihan-Lawrence.

CORRESPONDENCE | Greetings from St. Lawrence, 1906

StLawrencePostCardThis St. Lawrence Post Card, sent June 4, 1906, is a favorite of mine.

I’ve been meaning to share this post card, which I acquired sometime early in this spring or late this winter, for quite a while. It’s a jewel, I think, particularly because the embossed seal has survived so well.

Here’s a transcript:

Greetings from St. Lawrence

Dear Josephine —

Wish you were coming up with Katie. Be sure and give her a good send off. – Ben

Be good to Ruth and don’t forget Uncle Dudley. “Are you on”! — John.

Here’s a look at the obverse, which shows the card was dispatched from Canton at noon on June 4, 1906, addressed to Miss Josephine Cooper of 24 Lansing Street in Little Falls, N.Y.:


A nice little piece of Laurentiana.

CLIP | Hunter S. Thompson, 1978

GEAR | Olivetti Lettera 32 typewriter endures

Olivetti Lettera 32The Olivetti Lettera 32, a classic typewriter favored by the likes of Cormac McCarthy, Leonard Cohen and others.

Maxwell E. Eaton III Contributing Writer

My gradual descent into Luddite lunacy led me — ironically — to craigslist last week where I sought and secured this incredible piece of mid-century engineering. The portable Lettera 32 typewriter was designed by Italian draughtsman and architect, Marcello Nizzoli, for Olivetti in 1963 with a focus on ergonomics and ease of use. Popular with students, journalists and travelers for its relatively compact nature, this bundle of levers continues to be the tool of choice for notables like Cormac McCarthy and Leonard Cohen (who, as legend has it, cast this typewriter into the Aegean Sea after finishing his novel, “Beautiful Losers”). The Lettera 32 also boasts some of the lightest and tightest typing action available on a manual typewriter.

I picked this particular machine up for a modest $30 (not exactly a steal, but also a far cry from the $300+ that this workhorse often goes for). After looking up the serial number I determined that it was manufactured in Barcelona around 1969. Decades of methodical neglect, however, found the keys stuck and the ribbon dry, but these problems were quickly remedied with a little WD-40, a few drops of oil, and a purchase from It’s now in perfect running order and the new ribbon should be here within the week. In the meantime, I’ll be looking forward to some back-porch, cold-drink typing as my closet of seemingly ancient laptops weep in fear and loathing at their own obsolescence.

Take a closer look:

TRAILER | ‘The Swimmer,’ 1968

CORRESPONDENCE| Letter, bill from 1926 Lake Placid News publisher

LetterThis letter, written in 1926, is a lovely little piece of Adirondack journalism history.

In 1925, when George Lattimer of Newark, N.J. bought the Lake Placid News, the “Mirror of the Heart of the Adirondacks” was 20 years old and boasted as many as 12 broadsheet pages each Friday. Lattimer, who had worked as a reporter on the paper after graduating from Colgate in 1912, took the helm from Daniel Winters, founding editor and publisher, on July 1. Lattimer’s wife, the former Grace Chatfield, was a Lake Placid native.

I recently came into this letter, addressed to Town of St. Armand Supervisor Sidney W. Barnard, who operated a general store in Bloomingdale for years, and accompanying bill for the printing of Barnard’s annual report. Dated April 13, 1926, it is evidently an early communication between Lattimer and Barnard. Lattimer refers to Winters and wonders if he’s charging Barnard too much. There a couple of other interesting items on the letter:

• The paper’s flag, seen at the top of the sheet, was in use until at least 1973 and was revived in the 1996 redesign and has survived several design updates since.

• I love the slogan on the left hand side of the letterhead: “A High Grade Medium at the Highest Altitude in New York State.

• In his closing paragraph , Lattimer expresses his hope that Barnard has recovered from a recent illness. He writes, “Hope that you have entirely recovered from your recent illness. If the powers that govern such things get rid of the snow and ice I’ll come over to see you one of these so-called spring days.”

Here’s the bill, which employs a variant of the paper’s slogan under Lattimer and charges Barnard $.07 a line for 352 lines of agate type, totalling $24.64. Barnard is also charged $.50 for 10 copies of the $.05 cent News. The bill is notarized by a Mary C. Moynihan.

Take a look:


GIFT| 1940s St. Lawrence stationery is a real treasure

LetterheadSt. Lawrence stationery from about 1940. I recently received an unused box of notepaper and envelopes as a gift.

When we got a bit of the gang together a few weeks ago, we asked everyone to bring materials for their favorite cocktails. Cortney Terrillion came bearing more than a bottle of terrific straight-from-St.-Petersburg-vodka. She also brought a couple of gifts of Laurentiana for which I’ll be forever grateful.

A Lowville gal, Cortney has deep roots in the North Country. During a recent trip home, Cortney and her mother were rooting around their attic. Among their finds was a box of unused writing paper and envelopes bearing the St. Lawrence seal and a few copies of the Laurentian. Cort guesses these were relics of a relative who attended the university in the 1940s.

The Laurentian, now the annual literary magazine, was a monthly in the 1940s and served as both an alumni bulletin and as a digest of student life. More on that to come.

The stationery is the real story here. Manufactured by Marston-Warner, information about which appears scarce after a rudimentary search of the Web, it’s in near-perfect shape. There are 25 sheets and envelopes. Two details are of note: First, the horizontal bar in the middle of the shield is missing. Second, the Saint is spelled out. St. Lawrence has abbreviated the Saint since the dawn of time. The county and the river, from which the University takes its name, are also abbreviated.

No matter. These are beautiful pieces of paper. They’ve held up remarkably well. I don’t dare write on them, but I’m sure that at some point in the future, I’ll write something of real importance on one of them.

Cort, thank you, again, for this wonderful gift.

Here’s a closer view of the letterhead:


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