2004-6/June 1, 2004
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WEBSITE - WEBMASTER REPLACEMENT
Steph Gallagher, our Website Manager writes:
At this point, the Foundation would like to express its total gratitude to Jack for everything he has accomplished on the site. Over the last three years, he has been mainly responsible for creating what has proven to be a very valuable asset for the foundation.
We wish Jack well in all future endeavours.
ALBATROSSES ON THE BEACH
Bill Hill of Tucson, Arizona, The USA writes:
I still feel that the main reason that NSN is not currently as popular as he should be is that many of us were made to read On the Beach as highschoolers. I enjoy and am uplifted reading almost all of NSN's mature novels except that one. To me it is unique, offering neither hope nor insight and is the nearest to a polemic NSN ever produced.
I do not like it, I shall never like it, and if this is heresy, so be it! In second-hand bookstores it is the most commonly encountered of all of NSN's otherwise fine works. I really believe it is an albatross hanging round his (and our) neck(s).
There! I feel better already!
Editor's Comment: We Australians were never forced to read On The Beach at gunpoint in school and so were saved the emotional scarring. On the other hand, in spite of our good looks, Australia has still failed to achieve world superpower status and maybe this is the reason.
NOT AS BAD AS YOU THINK
The minutes for an Eisenhower Cabinet meeting held on December 11, 1959 list the following entry:
On the Beach - Mr. [Karl] Harr stated that this matter was being raised in Cabinet because of the unprecedented publicity given to this movie....He went over the paper summarizing the nature of the film and some of its shortcomings.
Gov. [Leo] Hoegh said that the film was regarded in OCDM [Office of Civil Defense Mobilization] as something very harmful because it produced a feeling of utter hopelessness, thus undermining OCDM's efforts to encourage preparedness on the part of all citizens.
There was also a 3-page 'infoguide' to the movie, complete with talking points about scientific inaccuracies in the film regarding the dangers of fallout (not as bad as you think!). There's also a 4-page Q&A from the Atomic Energy Commission and a 3-page discussion of the effect of nuclear war that ends with the cryptic phrase, 'Simply to understand that 'unprecedented destruction' is not the same as 'unlimited destruction'...is crucial to intelligent discussion of the issues.'
LONG DISTANCE BOOKS
Jane Lowe of Australia writes: I have had great success finding early 20th century books through google.com and abebooks.com. I am surprised at the quickness of delivery from the UK and the cost is not prohibitive.
Editor's Comment: Any members still hesitant about buying books over the internet from overseas locations should feel encouraged to have a go. After all, it is hard to imagine avaricious criminals being instinctively drawn to the prospect of making millions from 2nd hand paperbacks. Especially Shute paperbacks as Shute readers, and I assume Shute sellers, are required by law to have a higher moral code.
If you are ripped off, at least it will be by a criminal with a higher moral code.
ALICE ESSAY APPRECIATED
Anita Rager wrote to say she enjoyed reading the 22 page essay on A Town Like Alice very much.
It is available at:
CONNIE WOULD NOT BE PLEASED
Editor's Comment: In Australian we have been heard to say 'She'll Be Right' and 'Near Enough is Good Enough'. It sounds like we are not alone.
UK WREN COPIES
Jenny Knowles, who is planning the Requiem play, and many others should be pleased that Requiem for a Wren is readily available from The House of Stratus in their list of Shute re-prints. The price is 6.99 GB Pounds + postage.
Art Cornell of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA writes:
Editor's Comment: Although the next sentence explains that Shak Lin is called Harpic because he is Clean Round The Bend it doesn't explain this reference any further. Harpic is the name of a famous English toilet cleaner whose motto was Cleans Round The Bend. In Shute's flight log of his trip to Australia he reveals that when he was passing through Malaya on his return flight to England he met a member of the RAF whose officer was called Harpic for the same reason. This reference would have been an obvious and much appreciated joke for his English and Australian readers but was understandably lost on many of his international fans that have never heard of Harpic or its motto.
PILOTS, DRUNKEN BUMS, BOILING POTS AND BUDDHISTS
I recently had an extensive correspondence with Mike Naugle of The USA who had some confusion about the time sequences and character relationships in In The Wet.
Mike's correspondence reminded me that David was non-drinker and I was struck how often that occurs in the later Shute novels. From memory, Stanton Laird in Beyond The Black Stump does not drink and neither does Dwight Towers in On The Beach (or at least hardly ever) and neither does David Anderson. That makes at least 3 non-drinking major characters.
I am not sure that Shute saw being a non-drinker as necessarily always a good thing (consider Beyond The Black Stump) but I don't doubt he felt that those who can't handle alcohol shouldn't drink it. Also, all these novels were written when Shute was in the Australia of the 1950s where high alcohol consumption was more of an accepted way of life among men and Shute would have come across or heard of many cases of tragic and uncontrollable drunkenness. Not to mention his description of Sydney as An Ugly Town, Full Of Drunks.
Mike Naugle went on to write:
In Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge, for example, the narrator describes a conversation with the protagonist Larry in which reincarnation is revealed as an integral part of Larry's quest for enlightenment. We believe in the sincerity of Larry's position because the narrator is respectful of it.
In In the Wet, Brother Hargraves views the Chinese gardener's small Buddhist altar with little if any understanding or respect; my recollection is that he takes that form of worship as suspect. Nor do I recall that he gives the idea of reincarnation credence toward the novel's end.
Our word in the States for airport novels is 'potboilers,' but I can't for the life of me understand why our academics, too, consistently put Shute into the potboiler category. Potboiler novels lack character development, go for instant gratification instead of a slow and subtle development of plot, and are cranked out according to formulas. None of that applies to Shute.
That brings a question to mind, if you don't mind my asking it: Do you know of any university in Australia that gives Shute his proper credence? Maybe I'll need to go in that direction if I want to do a PhD on Shute's work.
Editor's Comment: I am sure Mike would welcome the chance to discuss Shute's novels by email. You can email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
There was no other relation between Stevie and David as such. The moment Stevie died his spirit took over the just being born David's body and had another go at living a better life. This was Shute's Buddhist influence at work.
This was such a big idea at its time because, although white, Stevie was a wasted and useless drunken bum whereas David, who was black and therefore in a lower caste in 1950s Australia, worked his way to the top of his profession.
Published in 1953, In The Wet was mostly set 30 years in the future in 1983. It feels strange that this future is now over 20 years in the past.
I believe Shute first became interested in Buddhism in 1945 when he visited Burma to write Ministry of Information articles on the war. These experiences were reflected in The Chequer Board, Round The Bend and In The Wet.
On a personal note, the fictional David Anderson is only 1 year older than I am and I grew up in Canberra where some of the book is set. As a boy I had visited my father's hairdresser shop at the RAAF base that is mentioned in the book. Since reading the book I have visited the real village of Tharwa where the fictional Royal residence was sited and also the real suburb where David and Rosemary bought a new house. The is accurately named, real suburb, Letchworth, was named after England's idyllic first modern planned suburb and, as Shute said, wasn't built until 20 years after the book was written.
GREMLINS AND DEMONS
Arden Jensen has written a very interesting 5-page paper called Gremlins and Demons: The Decline of Britain as seen in Nevil Shute's Novels.
As a teaser, here is a small extract:
Some unknown gremlin in it [the aircraft] had leaped out upon Bill Ward suddenly, so suddenly that he had been unable to send word upon the radio, and it [the gremlin] had killed him, and thirty other people with him. [Samuelson's] instinct, bred of nearly twenty thousand hours in the air, told him that one day that thing would happen again. (75)
Thus, a gremlin has caused a disaster, the crash of an airliner. However, in Shute's economy, there is a demon that gave birth to the gremlin. In this particular case, the demon was an engineering error that the bureaucratic mindset of the British government agency in charge of civil aviation was unwilling or unable to address. Shute believed that if a demon is not dealt with, it will spawn more and more gremlins.
Editor's Comment: Because of the website manager changeover period I can't promise this will be on the website as soon as I would like. As a favour to humanity, I will email the paper(s) to anyone asking for a copy until they are on the website.
Webmeister's Comment: Click here to download a pdf copy of Arden's tome
A MECHANICAL BENT
John Forester has written an equally fascinating 2-page paper on some of the real life characters behind Trustee From The Toolroom.
This is a tale about one man, a bit about a few others, and a fictional character. The man was known as LBSC and the fictional character is Keith Stewart, the trustee from the toolroom. I once knew LBSC's real name, but for decades he was known as LBSC, for the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway. He was born, maybe in the 1880s, into a family that had some railway connection, but was impoverished, probably by the death of his father. He had a mechanical bent, loved making things. He waited longingly until his mother had money to replace the broken fireplace grate, so that he could use the pieces as anvils for his work. His first steam engine had a cylinder that had started life as a brass cartridge case.
Editor's Comment: Again, because of the website manager changeover period I can't promise this will be on the website as soon as I would like. As a favour to humanity, I will email the paper(s) to anyone asking for a copy until they are on the website.
Webmeister's Comment: Click here to get a pdf copy of the John Forester Opus Magnus
SHUTE COPYRIGHT EXPLAINED
I regularly get requests for information about Shute copyright and copyright in general so I asked Linda Shaughnessy of Shute's literary agents, A P Watt Ltd, a few questions. To my questions about Shute-based plays, screenplays and copyright in general, Linda replies:
Film rights in many of Shute's works have already been sold and for those where the rights are still free, our media department is active in trying to sell or re-sell the rights. It is always up to the purchaser of the rights to commission screenplays and the purchaser will certainly want to choose an established screenwriter.
I don't think any rights would be breached if someone wrote a screenplay purely for their own pleasure and didn't show it to anyone, but if they tried to exploit that screenplay in any way at all (or even to circulate it) then they would breaching someone's rights - either those of the film company owning the rights or those of the copyright holders in the works of Nevil Shute.
Copyright in all literary works by Nevil Shute (including letters, journals, notebooks) belongs to the Trust Company of Australia Limited, for whom A P Watt Ltd acts as literary agents.
There are different periods of copyright protection, all of which last until the end of the year in question.
Copyright in works published after Shute's death is too complicated to go into here.
There is a concept known as 'fair dealing' in which limited extracts from published works may be used free of charge providing correct attribution and acknowledgement is given, but the work in which the extract is to appear must be 'for the purpose of criticism or review'. The extract must either be a single extract of up to 400 words or a series of extracts, none exceeding 300 words, totalling 800 words. Biographies do not generally fall into this category, and fair dealing does not apply to anthologies, musical settings or unpublished works.
Physical ownership of a work is not the same as copyright ownership and just because someone may own a letter, for example, does not mean that it can be reproduced without permission.
As for the period of any agreements, Shute book agreements are for a limited period; feature film agreements (when options have been exercised and the film made) tend to be for the lifetime of copyright and television agreements tend to be for a limited period. I'm afraid I can't go into details about who owns which particular rights and for how long.
A REAL TOWN LIKE ALICE
Ken England of Australia writes:
However something of the same kind has been happening in the equally remote village of Tambo in Queensland. Several years ago a group of women started making dressed teddy bears under the name 'Tambo Teddies' (see website).
While Tambo still lacks 5 star holes and international airports I gather that things are looking better there. It is London to a brick that the women had read ATLA, virtually everyone in western and northern Queensland (saving halfwits and snobs) has.
Suzanne Schwichtenberg of Helena, Montana, USA writes:
Editor's Comment: We love praise generally (at least I do) and are always interested to hear about book groups and the opinions expressed in them.
SHUTE ON DVD
Gail Field writes:
Editor's Comment: Although the Virginia McKenna Alice is a worthy, if truncated, film it is the more complete 1980 Brian Brown and Helen Morse version that is, as yet, frustratingly unavailable on DVD.
Jim Wells writes:
I came across a recent biography of Hugo Eckener that described an incident on one of the Graf Zeppelin's transatlantic voyages when the engines had to be cut for repairs, not to them, but to the ship.
Editor's Comment: I found a very interesting website on Zeppelins at: www.angelfire.com
John Anderson writes:
The sun shone for this reunion weekend when 18 Shutists, including 3 from the USA, gathered at York.
Editor's Comment: John Anderson received a bottle of champagne for organizing the event. I understand that the other attendees originally bought him a case but got carried away making sure it was OK. In keeping with the time honoured and much loved Nevil Shute Foundation tradition started at Oz 2001, there were scones for tea. I am not sure Shute ever mentioned a single scone in any of his books. He was cherry cake man through and through.
A MARVELOUS TIME IN YORKSHIRE
Roger and Ginny Stark of The USA who attended the UK Reunion write:
MORE COMPULSORY READING
Peter Pascall (ex-Hunslet Engine Company, ....many years ago) of New Zealand writes:
PUTTING YOUR LIFE IN DANGER
After consulting with The Nevil Shute Foundation, National Geographic has included a quote from Shute in the Stunts - Sports and Risky Business section of Volume 8 of its Collector's Editions, 100 Best Vintage Photographs.
The quote is from Slide Rule.
'If I have learned one thing in my fifty-four years, it is that it is very good for the character to engage in sports which put your life in danger from time to time. It breeds a saneness in dealing with day-to-day trivialities which probably cannot be got in any other way, and a habit of quick decisions.'
The Collector's Edition, Volume 8, 100 Best Vintage Photographs, will be available in bookstores through August 3, 2004.
Hope you are all well and happy. (within reason)
That completes this month's newsletter.
Nevil Shute Norway Foundation
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