LINDA HUF MEMORIAL SERVICE

Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary

Tuesday, July 14, 2020; 2:00 pm

Linda Huf’s Unfinished Song

By Rabbi Jeff Marx and Ross Altman

Linda HufRABBI: I’m going to start our memorial service with a reading from the Book of Ecclesiastes, which may take us by its memorable verse.

ROSS: Pete Seeger wrote it.

RABBI: Hm? Pete Seeger.

ROSS: Pete Seeger wrote it. [“Turn, Turn, Turn”—based on Ecclesiastes]

RABBI: Yes, of course. I can’t help feeling with you. Yes, and when did he write it?

ROSS: Somewhere around 1961.

RABBI: Somewhere around 1961. I knew you would know that. A season is set for everything: A time for every purpose under heaven. There is a time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to build up and a time to tear down. A time to laugh and a time to weep. A time to dance and a time to wail. A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing. A season is set for everything. A time for every purpose under heaven.

If I was one of those cut off too soon, after my death, say this about me. There are people who die before their time leaving their poetry, their song of life unfinished. What a shame. For there was another song yet to sing and now it’s gone. Gone forever. So the pain is very great. There are people who die before their time, leaving a song unfinished. There is yet another song to sing and now it’s gone. Gone forever. So Ross, I’m going to ask you to share with us a few words about Linda.

ROSS: That was just beautiful.

RABBI: I thought it was appropriate. Do you want to stand here and say...?

ROSS: I met Linda Huf on April 4, 1981. April 4, that’s the day Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968, thirteen years earlier. So it was appropriate that we would meet on that anniversary. We met at the Socialist Community School where I was doing a show, celebrating various contemporary events. And Linda was there. And a woman who knew both of us thought we should meet. So she – her name was Rosie Fine and she thought we should meet, so she introduced us. And we discovered that we had a lot in common because we both had Ph.D.’s in English and we both read somebody every day. One thing led to another and we fell in love.

The following year, we did another show at the Socialist Community School. That’s in the basement of the First Unitarian Church. And that church was the church where I first heard Paul Robeson sing and my father was blacklisted for representing. So that was back in the early fifties. So that sacred place was the place where I found out who I was and what I was meant to be.

Linda had just gotten here from Maryland, actually from Arlington, Virginia. She got her PhD at the University of Maryland and my Ph.D. is a little paper– just a little diploma hardly worth mentioning.  But we apparently think about my Ph.D. and they did a beautiful job with the scroll including this beautiful way that her name is spelled. A couple years after we married, she published her first book which was based on her dissertation: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman. The Writer as Heroine in American Literature.

Portrait of an Artist a Young Woman Linda HufLinda reached her. It deals with women writers--what had been done many times before for the male Kunstlerromain type novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce is the best known. And Linda was the first scholar and woman to take those ideas and that sense of tradition and purpose, for expressly women writers and not just male writers. And since she wrote six chapters, and four were based on the significant work that had been put together by a woman before Joyce was published, she came from that tradition. It’s called A Glimpse of the Women. I went and looked on the internet to see what had been written about it. There are pages and pages and pages. It goes on for 12 pages with a little description taking down all 12 pages. Hundreds and hundreds of citations. It’s standard reading. It survived and is still in print. And she thought of it first. In 1980. Thank you. That’s the only book that was published in her lifetime.

And she left two unpublished manuscripts among the books in her library. Lily Whimple is a novel about a woman, a young woman, who is abused by her parents and tells the story of how she survived and made a new life for herself. This is based on a true story she found in an old newspaper clipping. I have the clipping.

Her next book was a Holocaust memoir co-written with an Auschwitz survivor. She was working on this for over twenty years and it’s now completed. It’s called Andy’s Shoes, and that was the survivor’s story. This was written by a wonderful girl whose father was an anti-Semite, an anti-Semite. And Linda became a Civil Rights Activist too—at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia. The title was Andy’s Shoes: An Auschwitz Survivor’s Story. A line from Primo Levy is the title, Survival in Auschwitz. Primo Levy wrote, “Death begins with the shoes.” You’ve all seen the pictures of thousands and thousands and thousands of piles of shoes that were left by the survivors and the I’m sorry, by those who didn’t survive. And Andy’s name was Abraham Nord. He was a survivor of Auschwitz. His whole family was killed. But he met a woman afterwards and they got married and this is their son. Andy came from Birkenau, a camp in Poland.

RABBI: I don’t think, Ross, we’re going to have time to go through the whole book.

ROSS: No. I’m not going to.

RABBI: But just making sure.

ROSS: Okay.

RABBI: My God is keeping you on track, lovingly.

ROSS: The book is dedicated to Andy’s brother, who didn’t survive, Maurits Nord. He died in 1943. So she fell in love with both Andy and his brother. Her library has got thousands of books. Almost about half of which are from American literature, and the other half from the Holocaust. This is just one of them, by Martin Gilbert, The Holocaust,” the Righteous. The unsung heroes of the holocaust. This is the hat she had from one of the good hoots we went to. Most of the friends I have are pacifists and this Israeli Army hat obviously. . . invites a lot of criticism.

So Linda was proud of that cap. [laughing] Linda was proud of this too—a plaque from the wall. She got this from the Vietnam Memorial Wall when she was in high school. One of her friends was a Vietnam soldier, a Vietnam veteran. She did everything she could to talk him out of it. He said, “Don’t worry.” He wasn’t going because he wanted to kill anybody. He was just going to do it for his family’s sake. Two weeks after he got to Vietnam, his body was sent home because they weren’t as conscientious on the other side. So his name was Nicholas Krimont and Linda got this from the Vietnam Memorial Wall. They do a wonderful job there. They let you etch them as a stencil for any person that you want. And so this is her sweet Nick who died two weeks after he got to Vietnam.

And this photo was from an Amnesty International demonstration for the women of Afghanistan that we had in Santa Monica. LA Times photographer Andy Kjellgren took this picture with Linda in it and it’s called “Lighting the Way.” That’s what I brought to show what she looked like. She was so proud of this photograph she framed it and hung it on her wall. She was a member of Amnesty.

This is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is what Eleanor Roosevelt was responsible for seeing passed in 1948 in Paris. This small pamphlet is one of the many books that Linda thought was essential. She wrote, in addition to the novel and the memoir, she wrote poetry.

And she wrote as a figure that she compared herself to, and she named it Anonymouse. So this is from the Gospel According to Anonymouse. She called herself a mouse poet. She knew she wasn’t going to be remembered as one of the larger poets in America, but she thought maybe she could be remembered as one of the smaller poets, like AnonyMouse. It’s called “Stowaway:”

Stowaway
It rained for forty days and nights
Mouse headed for higher ground
The water was rising when a great wood boat
Taking everyone in pairs came around.

Mouse looked for her lover, but he was nowhere in sight
And so the captain turned her down
She asked herself, “Could this be right?
I’ve done nothing to deserve to drown.”

So making herself even smaller she snuck
Into a porthole and found
A warm place under the floor near the stove
Where she slept without making a sound.

This one she dedicated to Ted Hughes, who was married to Sylvia Plath.

It’s called, Pray Tell.

Pray Tell
It was an axiom, Mouse knew
That God was good
So why in Heaven
Was there no food
Fashioned solely for owls
Cats and coyotes
Weasels and eagles
By a thoughtful Lord
To appease the craving
For skin and blood
Some unmeatlike manna
To replace mouse and rabbit
And bear the brunt
Of the carnivorous habit?
Such manna from Heaven
Would prove His benevolence,
His much-vaunted goodness
With hard, cold evidence.

That wasn’t for Teddy. This one was for Teddy; she used this one. Okay.

Crowsong*

Caw, said the Crow
Grandson to Iscariot
For a single piece of silver
I’ll drink your health in my cup.
Caw, said the Crow,
Grandson to Iscariot
For a second piece of silver
I’ll sip your blood in my cup.

Caw, said the Crow,
For just thirty coins of silver
I’ll hang you to a Cross
And you shall live forever.
*For Ted Hughes—who wrote Crow

That was her purpose in life—to be a writer.

And she had a lot of rejections. We sent over 25 copies of her manuscript of Andy’s Shoes to publishers and they all loved it. They all thought it was wonderful, it was a great book, but not one of them would publish it because they didn’t see how they would do it to make it worth the investment. So she wrote this in at the top of her notebook: E.E. Cummings. More than a dozen publishers rejected a book by E.E. Cummings. So when it was finally published, it had this title and dedication in the shape of a funeral urn:

NO THANKS TO

Farrar & Rinehart

Simon & Schuster

Coward - McCann

Limited Editions

Harcourt, Brace

Random House

Equinox Press

Smith & Hass

Viking Press

Knopf

Dutton

Harper's

Scribner's

Covici-Friede – (from the title page)

It was finally published by E.E. Cummings’ wife Marion Morehouse and his mother. So, my purpose for the rest of my life is to see that Linda’s books get published.

RABBI: A noble purpose.

ROSS: Yes. That’s what I’m going to be doing …Okay. I think I’ve said enough.

MAN: I remembered her walk.

ROSS: Linda was the finest woman . . I’ve ever known. “She was so extraordinary too, loving, beautiful,” said one of the people who wrote back to me. I sent over 25 emails to each one to different people telling them that they needed to know this. All right. And one individual wrote back and he described her elfin beauty. Her elfin . . and I was privileged to look in the casket and they had done such a magnificent job preparing her for this day. An elfin beauty pretty well describes her. Okay, thank you. Thank you.

RABBI: Shall we go – let’s walk over to the casket. I think we’re ready.

ROSS: Oh, hold on a second. As I mentioned, Linda had a lot of problems. She was diagnosed as bipolar depressive and so she was attracted to writers who had troubles with that, too. And one of them is called The Maladies of Marcel Priest: Doctors and Disease and His Life. That’s the kind of books she liked. She also had a gay psychiatrist for some years. So during that time, I got her this book. It’s called The Gay Book of Days. So she could find things that might interest him when she came to see him. And he’s one of the people I wrote to, Dr. Wolf. She has his picture next to mine and Franz Kafka.

MAN: Now that’s like a trinity.

ROSS: That was Linda. That was Linda. Dr. Wolf, Franz Kafka and me . . We had this – we were just so blessed to know her.

RABBI: What a blessing.

ROSS: Thank you. Thank you, Rabbi.

RABBI: People will go together and we’ll walk over to the casket.

END OF SERVICE

POSTSCRIPT:

In Memoriam Linda Huf, PhD (June 17, 1943—July 7, 2020)  (includes links to both LA Times obituaries)

Linda Huf, PhD wrote A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman: The Writer as Heroine in American Literature, published by Frederick Ungar Publishing, New York in 1983—and still in print. Her manuscript Andy’s Shoes: An Auschwitz Survivor’s Story, co-written with Andy (Abraham) Nord, awaits publication; as does her novel Lily Whimple; cf. Legacy.com for her complete obituary. Rabbi Marx’s service was entitled Linda Huf’s Unfinished Song.

Ross' Column on Linda Huf

The service was transcribed by Cheri Singer of the Brief Case in Sacramento—phone (916) 338-5756

Rabbi Jeff Marx serves the Santa Monica Synagogue, 1448 18th Street, Santa Monica, CA. 90404; (310) 453-4276—where the Folk Club meets (when we’re not on Zoom)

Ross Altman writes for FolkWorks—and may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.