12/CHRONICLESnnow. You know, we were just protesting. The only thing thatnbrought us into the public view was the Great Depression.nAnd it came out about that time, so we seemed prophets. Atnleast, not prophets then, but they think we were prophetsnnow.nBell: When did you get involved with the I’ll Take MynStand project?nLytic: Well, that was the year I graduated. Red [RobertnPenn Warren] was at Oxford, I was around Nashvillenthen. . . . That’s the first writing, really serious writing, thatnI ever did, and I did it right on that table yonder.nI was interested in it, and there was a good deal of talkndone, among Don [Donald Davidson] and John [CrowenRansom], and they corresponded with Allen [Tate] innEurope. Allen got back and said, “I can get a contract withnHarper’s while I’m here.”nI just took it for granted I was taken into it — they didn’tnknow that until they had seen what I could do. We talked,nand Don didn’t want to sign the contract. I don’t knownwhy—Allen felt that Don would never bring anything to anconclusion, though they were great friends. So John and Inwent and sent a telegram to sign the contract. And I camenand wrote my part here.nThat’s how I got into it. I was very bumptious — I sort ofnconfronted Don on that. It was the time when if you didn’tndo it, it would never have been done. That is what, certainly,nJohn and I felt.nBell: Was Davidson a professor at Vanderbilt then?nLytle: Yes. He was also John’s student, did you knownthat? They were at war and came out. … I don’t knownwhen he was a student. He was a good teacher. He didn’tnthink I was much of a scholar. I took that sophomore class innEnglish, and Davidson always shook his head at me. I was andancing man in those days, fooled around. He only gave mena C. And I never took a class with him again.nBell: When did you first fall in with Allen Tate?nLytle: I can tell you exactly that. He was a senior when Inwas a freshman at Vanderbilt. And he and Red roomedntogether, they met in Curry’s office, there. I didn’t knownhim. I was a dancing man in those days, didn’t think aboutnwriting. John Ransom wrote me at Yale and wrote Allen atn27 Bank Street, and that is where it came about; I camendown. Allen lived in the basement floor of Bank Street, andngot that half rent-free for keeping the furnace. So we got tontalking about the monkey trial, and we agreed about it, as didnour philosophy professor. Dr. Sanborn. We saw each othernfor the first time there.nBell: So you didn’t know him from The Fugitive?nLytle: No, he wasn’t there, then, you see, he was gone. Inwent to The Fugitive my senior year, but I didn’t write verse,nalthough I did try, and John Ransom was good enough tonpublish some, rather poor verse, which Allen accused himnof Allen of course had left, and he went up to his brother’s.nBen Tate had a coal business. See, Allen’s father bought allnthat coal land up in Kentucky and West Virginia, and Benndeveloped it. And Allen shipped a car of coal in the wrongndirection and Ben fired him. And, of course, it was annunconscious kind of movement. Allen had no businessnfooling around with coal and all. Any kind of business. Hencouldn’t even see those 12 tomato plants drooping atnBenfolly—he would go right by them and never see them.nnnBell: You’ve done a good deal of teaching here and there.nDo you think it’s a good thing for writers to be absorbed intonthe colleges the way that they have been?nLytle: I think you’ve got to be with people who are doingnthe same thing. I don’t think you ever talk about what you’rendoing while you’re doing it. If you did, you would never donit. But you have to talk around it, don’t you see, and like that.nBell: Was it in Florida that you taught Flannery O’Connor?nLytle: No, that was in Iowa, she was out there. PaulnEngle brought me out there for two spring terms. I ran thatnplace the second term.nBell: What was she like as a student?nLytle: Oh, Flannery, she was a fine student. She wasnalready working on a novel; I worked with her on that, andnshe would listen. I think I learned more than she did. I wasngiven her stuff to read when I came there because they knewnI could pronounce “chitlins.” There I discovered that younnever let the student read his own work. The friends will saynit is good; the enemies say it’s bad. So when I taught I alwaysnread their work myselfnI enjoyed it out there. I remember Flannery was such anpuritan, she was one of those Catholic puritans. She had innthat story (“A Stroke of Good Fortune”), remember, thisnwoman who was pregnant, walks up the stairs — just anwonderful scene. In that, she put the boy in bed with thenwoman at first. And I tried to say, “It’s not done that way.nYou can’t get away with it.” So what she did: she put a hatnon his head and made a comic scene of it. I remember that.nWe talked. I didn’t know anything much about how tonteach then, and she talked about it, that helped.nBell: There isn’t any love in O’Connor’s work; do younthink that’s a limitation?nLytle: Yes, it’s a limitation — it’s her limitation. But withnher use of the grotesque, the enveloping action is clear; thisnis what happens when you have only materialism as thencommon belief of society.nBell: I read where you said that a writer has only one truensubject—what’s yours?nLytle: I don’t know. But I think your writing of it is anneffort to discover it. Some who have written about me thinknit is the fall from innocence, the Garden of Eden myth.nWe have lost the sense of when every man and womannwas a craftsman. That was the Christian inheritance. Mynsense of that now theologically is that that’s why man hasnsomething divine in him. It’s not that he is made in thenimage of God — a mosquito is made in the image of God.nSuch diverse images. That’s a poor theology.nSo my feeling is that an artist puts the best part ofnhimself—I don’t mean his personality, but his very being —nin his work. In his artifact. And I think that God, if He madenman (He certainly didn’t beget him), then He put the bestnof himself in. And so that’s the only divine thing in humanncreatures.nSo the writer of the Garden of Eden failed in ansense — he brought Adam and Eve alive. Now, two nakednpeople can’t live together and not know what they’re doing,nyou see; there is no possible way to do that. So I think theynwere like angels, they were emanations, else there’s no pointnto eating the apple. Because when they ate the apple, theynbecame knowledgeable of themselves, they came alive.n