Gooney Bird

The Wartime Journals of Charles A. Lindbergh

with an Introduction by William Jovanovich
Harcourt, Brace, 1,038 pp., $12.95

Charles Lindbergh
Charles Lindbergh; drawing by David Levine

“Wednesday and Thursday, April 1 and 2 (1942). Up at 4:30. Left in Mercury at 5:00. Crossed on 5:45 ferry. Took U.S. Route 6 through Providence and Hartford, and crossed the Hudson, via Bear Mountain Bridge. Stopped only for gasoline and sandwiches, which I ate, driving, during the day. Took half an hour for hot supper at a small-town restaurant in the evening. It was crowded, and I think I was recognized by a girl at the counter, even though I was wearing glasses and a pulled-down hat. Left before finishing to avoid the inevitable questions and stares and newspaper story.”

Let us assume that the “girl” at the counter was somewhere between sixteen and twenty-six, so that her upbringing had taken place in the Twenties or Thirties when, by and large, upbringings were along conventional lines; on the basis of this banal hypothesis, it seems safe to conclude that the girl’s eye was attracted to a man eating his blue-plate special in a pulled-down hat rather than to Charles A. Lindbergh in camouflage. If she were sixteen, she had been a year old when Lindbergh made his Atlantic flight and it does not seem likely that now, in 1942, she had much pull with the press unless her brother, a stringer for the Toledo Blade, was in the back room of a generic small-town restaurant. After this narrow escape, the Colonel continued his trip and arrived at 9:30 the following morning at the Dearborn Inn and, after breakfast, drove out to Henry Ford’s Willow Run factory where he was employed as a civilian consultant on bombers.

This is a fairly representative passage from The Wartime Journals, kept from the spring of 1938 until early summer of 1945, and because the text runs to a thousand pages, the timetable brings on spots before the reader’s eyes. While chronomania is understandable—and commendable—in an aviator, and the make of his craft (Franklin, De Soto, Ford, Mercury) a natural concern; and while the tribulations, real or conjectured, of the famous must be sympathized with, one cannot help wishing that the famous bird would light for a while and hang up his hat (or at least turn back the brim) so that we could have a good look at him.

William Jovanovich, the Colonel’s impresario, writes in his Introduction,

The redaction of the text was carried out on the principle that a great many details of day-to-day living are insignificant because they are routine—getting to and from local places, meeting people who are not seen again, confirming appointments, carrying out household or clerical chores—and are therefore of no interest to anyone but the author and, perhaps, the scholar.

Several readings of the following entry which I quote in its entirety fail to illumine its impact or its utility or the “principle” of redaction: “January 1, 1940. Off train at 8:45. Took taxi to…

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