From January 2013 until August 2021, Larry and I sent emails to one another. At opposite ends of the day, I would write on my Saturday evening, and it would arrive on Larry’s Sunday morning. He called it his Sunday morning epistle and we discussed everything from baseball to world peace. We also kept one another company across the miles. Re-reading our emails for this publication, I’m moved by the wonderful dialogue that cautiously unfolds between two people with intersecting interests.

Perhaps even more importantly, our correspondence sparked ideas, projects, and activism, especially when Trump became president, such as this email from Larry: “I have also been up to politics in this horrible turn to the Right globally. I ran the campaign in Somerville of a very smart and empathetic woman about your age against the establishment — and she (Stephanie) won big.” He continued by saying: “Other than that, it is the usual ACLU, Amnesty, etc stuff with very mixed results. Our bastard President may start a nuclear war and is domestically pushing the U.S. into a McCarthy period” (Lawrence Friedman, personal communication, December 8, 2017).

I first met Larry at the Public Intellectuals Conference in Cambridge in 2013. I submitted an abstract based on my interview with Noam Chomsky entitled “Power in the Tower: Public Intellectuals in the Ivory Tower.” I was entirely unaware that Larry and Noam were close friends (and that Larry has cooked him his famous kosher salmon many times). When I was selected to present at the conference, Larry and I bonded over our mutual loathing of jargon and sections from my paper that discussed Chomsky’s (2013) argument that “It is mostly unintelligible gibberish.… What it turns out to be is a way for intellectuals to be more radical than thou, but do nothing except talk to each other in academic seminars and not get involved with the general public in real activism” (p. 135).

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I have been to hundreds of conferences in my career, but I had never been to a conference like the one that Larry chaired. Everyone sat at a large, polished table in the Longfellow building at Harvard. We discussed each paper in an overwhelmingly generous, inspiring, and literary environment. Larry ensured there was no competitiveness or one-upmanship (or one-upwomanship—I love that Larry is a strong feminist). I attended three more Public Intellectuals conferences, and in our emails over this time, he discussed his ideas for the brilliant book he is currently writing. When I asked him what he’d been up to, Larry replied with a “pretty much a final outline of the One World book. I am writing the whole book now and your always cogent suggestions would be quite welcome as soon as you can send them. It is the toughest book I ever wrote” (Lawrence Friedman, personal communication, December 8, 2017). Indeed, Larry sent me his One World outline many times (as I know he did countless others), and I watched it grow and evolve with his ongoing research, nuanced thinking, and in discussion with others.

Larry was also interested in my research on atomic bomb literature and incredibly generous with his discussion and responses when I asked him about the Hiroshima Maidens—the focus of my current book. Over time, we bonded over a mutual love of Japan and baseball—and Japanese baseball! We are both Hiroshima Carps fans. Larry’s love of baseball is legendary, but I wasn’t aware until he told me, “I played minor league baseball one season and should have skipped college and gone on” (Lawrence Friedman, personal communication, March 11, 2014). As the pandemic closed international borders, we imagined doing research in Hiroshima on our individual projects as soon as they opened. In his email, Larry suggested: “If the travel ban lifts, do you want to meet up with me in Hiroshima in August? Given its centrality to the book, this will be my second time there. And then… we can see the Hiroshima Carp play baseball” (Lawrence Friedman, personal communication, March 24, 2020). We talked about going to Mazda Zoom-Zoom Stadium and singing the Carp theme song as we watched a game. Unfortunately, neither of us realized the Japanese border would be closed for so long and is only opening next month (October 2022 as of the writing of this article).

Finally, it’s important to highlight Larry’s wicked sense of humor. Not all of the jokes we shared can be reproduced here, but I

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wanted to conclude with something light-hearted to capture his mischievous side. So, I’ll end by stating that my life has been enriched by our shared epistolary, and then give Larry the final word:

I will close therefore with the story of two very old men who lived near UCLA – Harry & Joe who eat every day at Canter’s Deli and talk baseball nonstop over a 3 hour lunch. Harry dies one day and goes to heaven where he is bored as hell and one day Harry returns to Canter’s Deli to have lunch with Joe. Predictably Joe’s first question is – “Do they play baseball in heaven?” he asks. “Yes they do,” Harry replies, “and you are scheduled to pitch tomorrow.” Much Love, Larry (Lawrence Friedman, personal communication, March 24, 2020).

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References:

  • Chomsky, Noam (2013). In Cassandra Atherton (Ed.), In so many words: Interviews with writers, scholars and intellectuals. Arcadia.

Authors:

Cassandra Atherton

Cassandra Atherton is an award-winning writer and international expert on prose poetry. Her most recent books of prose poetry are Leftovers (2020) and the co-written Fugitive Letters (2020). Cassandra co-wrote Prose Poetry: An Introduction (Princeton University Press, 2020) and co-edited the Anthology of Australian Prose Poetry (Melbourne University Press, 2020). She is co-host of the international poetry livestream reading series LitBalm and associate editor at MadHat Press (USA). She can be contacted at .

How to Cite This:

Atherton, C. (2023). Sunday morning epistles. In M. I. West, P. H. Elovitz, & N. D’Andria (Eds.), Lawrence Jacob Friedman Festschrift. Clio’s Psyche, 29(3), 327-329.

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