Tuesday, May 7, 2013

the last book I ever read (Remembering Denny by Calvin Trillin, excerpt one)

from Remembering Denny by Calvin Trillin:

“A disquieting tension between past and future began to emerge,” Pudge went on. “Denny was not quite sure why so many wonderful things happened to him. Maybe too much happened to Denny too quickly, too many accolades at too young an age. We create enormous expectations for talented people. Do we ask too much of our most able young people? Denny talked often of becoming the governor of California, but that wasn’t enough. The memory of Denny is dominated for many of us by the assumption that he would one day be President. It sounds silly and presumptuous, I know, but such was the mark of this young man. What an enormous burden for a young person who may not have had the emotional or social strength to absorb such a claim and not entangle his soul. A fear of failure and disappointing others can be paralyzing, and we can suffocate our young by creating unrealistic expectations. His disappointment over the rejection of his application for the Foreign Service, because of his bad back, after the Woodrow Wilson School, at Princeton, was a failed dream. He seemed to have difficulty picking up his direction after that. The lesson of Denny’s young life wrestles in our gut. It came to Denny so naturally, so effortlessly, I wonder if he was prepared for the inevitable reverses. It is difficult enough to fulfill one’s own expectations, let alone those of an entire community.”

I wanted to say that the part about Denny’s becoming President was sort of a joke, but I had to admit that it was a joke we never forgot. At our twenty-fifth Yale reunion, in 1982, Denny didn’t appear. “Naturally Hansen can’t show his face,” I said to some of the people who had been close to him. “He’s not the President. Even worse, he’s not on track for being President. You don’t go from being a professor of international relations to being President.” A year or two after the reunion, Pudge Henkel, who had gone to Yale Law School with Gary Hart, became the manager of the Hart campaign. I called a classmate. “Can’t you see what’s happening?” I said. “Hart becomes the President. He needs a national-security adviser. Whose counsel does he seek in finding someone? Pudge’s, of course—his loyal campaign manager. Pudge says, ‘I know a smart guy at Johns Hopkins—Roger D. Hansen.’ Hansen does very well. Hart self-destructs. Next time around, the Democrats nominate somebody else for President, but they need someone from the ‘Hart wing of the party’ on the ticket. Who else? Roger D. Hansen. He’s elected Vice President. The President dies. Hansen succeeds him. He shows up at the thirty-fifth reunion up to his ass in Secret Service men. He’s got that knowing smile on his face all weekend: we were just impatient. Why couldn’t we see it at the twenty-fifth?”

No comments:

Post a Comment