Ancient lineaments

I should be writing to thank you for your kind mention of my book “John Cage Was” in the On the Bookshelf section of the Winter issue. But, pages later, I unexpectedly read sad news: Allen Grossman, PhD’60, P’99, the uniquely wonderful, impressively quirky teacher and fine poet, passed away last June.

How well I remember walking to Allen’s class “Yeats, Joyce and Synge” on November 22, 1963, when word that the president had been shot began percolating its cold course through campus. As we assembled in varying states of shock, Allen somberly suggested we simply proceed as planned. Unbelievably, the poem of the day happened to be Yeats’ “The Gyres.”

Allen began to read to us in his inimitable way:

THE GYRES! the gyres! Old Rocky Face, look forth;
Things thought too long can be no longer thought,
For beauty dies of beauty, worth of worth,
And ancient lineaments are blotted out.
Irrational streams of blood are staining earth ...

He stopped. We all held our breath. He looked at us. Then, as I remember, he said slowly, “I think perhaps it’s best we all go home.”

To this day, I have not been able to read that poem out loud.

Jim Klosty ’66
Millbrook, N.Y.

Gender imbalance

I just spent a snowy afternoon reading my alumni magazines from Brandeis and Smith. Once again, I find myself shocked by the limited coverage of Brandeis alumnae, which is even more obvious when Brandeis Magazine is read in the same sitting as a magazine that is, of course, all about women.

The Winter issue is only the latest instance of this. I was also blown away by the bias in the Spring 2013 issue, in which the only feature focusing on a woman was the Brandeis Questionnaire with Christie Hefner ’74, former chair and CEO of Playboy Enterprises.

I hope as I read future issues I will be impressed by the accomplishments of both genders of Brandeis alumni.

Heather McMann, Heller MBA’12
Haverhill, Mass.

Better late than never

I am one of those people who take in the mail, throw much of it out and reserve the items that aren’t time-sensitive to read at my leisure.

Reading time for the Summer 2014 issue came today, and I am hard put to recall any periodical that I’ve read so thoroughly. From romantic memories to neurological science, parietals to lesbian parenthood, there was much to command my attention. I enjoyed this issue very much.

Ken Kaplan ’69
Parsippany, N.J.

Onorato recalled

Like many boomer alumni, I was saddened to learn of the death of the popular and influential Richard Onorato, associate professor emeritus of English, in November, only a few months after the death of his former colleague Allen Grossman.

Bronx-born and educated at Columbia, Harvard and Cambridge, Richard worked at Brandeis from 1966 through 1997. He was a warm, insightful teacher, and a particular influence on late-1960s students who, as he liked to explain, “came to Brandeis straight and left bent.”

So practical and sensible was he that, in the troubled 1970s, he was asked to serve as dean of students. Among his achievements was the creation of a program that allowed students with an undergraduate degree from any school to enroll in a pre-med course of study.

As an informed student of psychoanalytic thinking from Freud to Trilling, Richard wrote an important psychological study of Wordsworth. But it was in his teaching of contemporary American literature that he was especially compelling. He exuded wit, balance and health, both mental and athletic. He invariably saw subtle connections in life, and drew them out when they were not seen by others. He concluded discussions of all sorts by saying, “At least you are seeing it clearly.”

In his later years, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease, which developed long after a serious skiing accident. His cheer, quickness and acuity remained intact, and he was splendid company for the students and colleagues who kept in touch.

David Moran ’69
Wayland, Mass.