HLS - The Letters Of Harvey L. Slatin

Plaza Azul Productions
Office of The

June 12, 1989
Mr. John K. Herzog
Executive Director
Plaza Azul Productions
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505

Dear Sir:
TIME: 1:09 p.m.
BAROMETER: 29.6″ Hg.%


….in my letter of 9 June, herewith are introductions of, expatiations upon, and digressions from challenging subjects not developed in recent correspondence from this end.


You may have read about the public vote to close the nuclear power plant in The Big Tomato. It’s called Rancho Seco, after the tract of land it was built on. This is a first for The Big T: no other new-kyew-lar plant in the world has ever been closed by public vote.

How and why did it happen?

From the top down to the level above the obligatory technical staff, the managerial power was politically shrewd and technologically illiterate. One member of the board of directors began immediately after his election to campaign for an office in the state government. Another took endless trips to Washington to ”coordinate.” Another held two or three press conferences a week.

At one point the plant was shut down for two years because of neglected maintenance. All this while the taxpayers were paying on the bonds and paying higher electrical rates for “bought” power from Pacific Gas & Electric.

The “managers” appointed by the board–political cronies–were more concerned with “image” than qualifications. After several shutdowns caused by slack supervision, the managers decided that their morale had suffered, so they ordered $250,000 worth of matching jackets, ties, trousers and shirts for themselves, to professionalize their appearances and restore morale. Paid for out of the operating budget.

A feedwater pump failed. The backup pump was put on line, and the failed pump sent to the manufacturer for repair. When it was returned, a crew installed it, shut down the backup pump and started the repaired pump. The reactor cooling temperature went through the roof. The whole plant was shut down immediately. The repaired pump had been installed backwards.

Do you want to hear more?

MORE: any new-kyew-lar installation attracts the Luddites who scream “radiation!” When none can be measured, they scream that the crew taking the measurements is lying. If that ploy doesn’t pay off (it never does), they stage “rallies” at which they scream that women living within a certain distance from the facility will give birth to tadpoles. The Tadpole Faction is shrewdly manipulated by outside groups that simply want all new-kyew-lar operations replaced by charcoal stoves.

So “The Ranch” is cold. The bonds still have to be paid off by the taxpayers. The headlines are still full of fingerpointers. The politicians  who used their board memberships for access to higher office are already primping for such positions. The Sacramento Bee has been  opposed to Seco for years, and did all it could to blare headlines about “incompetence,” but never even a tiny article about political
priorities running roughshod over technical obligations.

The lesson in all this (which The Bee has not learned) is that publicly owned technical operations must be run by technically qualified managers, not politicians. But The Bee is so political in orientation toward any community activity that I’m sure the editors have no idea what I am talking about, and don’t want it explained to them.

CHINA: Power still comes from the barrel of a gun, as 01’ Mousy Tongue said a long time ago.

USSR: Curious little item buried among the Krembabble submitted by foreign correspondents. The head of the KGB, in an interview, is supposed to have said that he favors control of his organization by some higher authority of elected representatives. I take this to mean that he now reports straight to Gorchyboff or still only to himself. The USSR remains a police state, and his curious comments will remain curious. In the meantime, he has job security.

IRAN: A wonderful mess. A replay of the Middle Ages for amateur historians who thought they would never see How It Used To Be, four—hundred years ago. With a cast of millions, it will play to packed houses for years to come. Nevertheless, my money is on Salman Rushdie for the distance. (American money.)


“I was Right All The Time, But Nobody Believed Me”
(Name Withheld For Fear Of Retribution)

We may be seeing academic perestroika and glasnost initiated from within the Academic Kremlin, which I certainly never expected (any more than to see the Moscow Kremlin beat its breast for the television cameras). The enclosed “Necessary Ingredients” is not the first complaint I have read about current “serious” fiction, but it could be pivotal to Ripping Away The Mask 0f Hypocrisy And Laying Bare The Rotten Core, because the editor of Best American Short Stories 1988 (Mark Helprin) and the reviewer (Peter Shaw) are both certificated academics. In other words, this article is not just another complaint by an Unwashed Knuckle-Dragger about the unreadability of current “serious” fiction, which complaints are scornfully ignored or dismissed as cultural unconsciousness by the haughty Literary Establishment.

I have two additional points of criticism to supplement those of Helprin and Shaw:

  1. The United States is a commercial and industrial country (as well as agricultural, of course) but not a single writer of “minimalist” or the other vacuous ”serious” fictions so highly praised ever produces a story reflecting that reality. And I am sure they never will, because they don’t know anything about people and conditions in commerce or industry. They are ignoramuses about everyday life in business offices, factories, laboratories, retail stores… you name it. Their lives have been spent exclusively in academia.
    As students they went from elementary school to high school to a university, then stayed on as faculty members. The View of the “real world” from their tower in Academia is simply one of lofty dismissal: Out There it is all “money grubbing,” which has nothing to do with “values.” Not only are they ignorant of the lives of 95% of their fellow citizens, but they are subtly pressured or intimidated from learning about them by this elitist animus. They loathe the world of business, and employ every trick in the book to demean it. In addition, “cultural” Academia also knows nothing about the problems of government, science, economics, law or any other field. These disciplines are of course pursued in universities, but English majors have no interest in them. Thus they are not only out of touch with the world in which 95% of their fellow citizens live, but out of touch with almost every other sphere of societal and intellectual activity. At the same time, they appoint themselves the Givers Of The Word in fictional form.
  2. I have refrained from mentioning Deconstruction in recent letters because I took a blood oath several months ago to avoid that tiresome subject. But since then I have read in several literary outlets that the popularity of Deconstruction in academia in this country is the result of its subtle espousal of Marxist values within the “linguistic science” curriculum. What is “deconstructed” is the writer’s experience in a “bourgeois” environment (growing up in the U.S.). What is “exposed” by deconstruction is the invalidity of such a writer’s purpose in a short story or novel, because the Deconstructionists “prove” that such purpose is negated by his “bourgeois values.” Helprin does not identify Deconstruction specifically, but (I quote from Shaw’s review) he does say that “they would make literature the servant of [Marxist] politics.”

(You may wonder, with Marxism being abandoned by the USSR and its satellites, how English Department academics can continue to espouse it with straight faces. Their argument is that Marxism “was never given a chance.” It was corrupted by Lenin and Stalin, who imposed central control of everything, and thereby violated the heart and goals of true Marxism. By falling back on this dusty argument, the academics stand shoulder to shoulder with the members of The Flat-Earth Society, committed to a belief that has been demonstrated to be indefensible because it is unworkable: but it’s all they have. They will continue to defend it until their deans or  university Chancellors tell them to knock it off because they have made their departments and universities ludicrous. Considering the reluctance of deans and Chancellors to “interfere” With academic prerogatives, this may take several generations.)

I look forward to your comments on “Necessary Ingredients” as well as your comments on my comments on “Necessary Ingredients” and your comments on my comments on your comments on “Necessary Ingredients.” (We may have to soar into the fourth or fifth dimension of commentary, but PLEASE COMMENT.)

MUGGY—YON: I was taken completely off-guard by the term at the head of this entry. Do you have any idea (without cheating by reading below) what it could possibly mean?

Mary and I were picking up a prescription at our local pharmacy, and got into a conversation with the pharmacist, who happened to mention that he and his family had vacationed in New Mexico. One of their drives took them up into the mountains where abandoned mineshafts were being converted to upscale housing for Get-Away-From-It-Alls who could afford the remodeling. (Don’t ask me how such remodeling is done.)

Anyway, I said that it sounded like something along the road to Red River, where a mining company had been in place for years. But I couldn’t remember the name of the company, and neither could he. After we left, I remembered that it was Molybdenum Company of America.

A couple of weeks later I called in another prescription renewal, and mentioned that I had remembered the name.

”So did I!” he cried. “Muggy—Yon!”

“Oh… yes… the old Muggy—Yon workings.”

With my unsurpassed gift for decoding mispronunciations, I instantly (within two hours) realized that he meant Mogollon. How’s that for bridging the linguistic gap? Pharmacists do keep a chap on his toes. Ask yours about Muggy-Yon the next time you renew.


W. J. Coster
Associate Director,
West Coast Operations
Plaza Azul Productions

Copy: M. P. Coster
Associate Director,
Plaza Azul Productions

(Visited 36 times, 1 visits today)