K.R. in the Blogosphere: Did Kenneth Roberts help inspire the creation of Pepe Le Pew? Not likely.

Below is a post I wrote back in March of 2011.  I had come across a supposed letter from famous animator Chuck Jones in which it stated that one of Kenneth Roberts’ works was the source of inspiration for Pepe le Pew (The post was originally written 3/10/11).

I stumbled upon a blog post at Letters of Note in which the author provides a facsimile of a letter written by Chuck Jones (a “legendary animator”) to a class of students about the benefits of reading.  In this letter he tells where he received inspiration for several Looney Toones characters, such as Wile E. Coyote, Bugs Bunny, etc.  What’s of interest to this blog is his statement: “I found the entire romantic personality of Pepe Le Pew in a book written by Kenneth Roberts, Captain Hook.”

To my knowledge, Kenneth Roberts has never written a book titled Captain Hook.  If the Kenneth Roberts Jones references is indeed the Kenneth Roberts of this site, then he probably meant to reference Captain Caution.  It’s been a while since I’ve read this book to know which character served as inspiration for Pepe Le Pew, so if you have an idea, let me know.

The real mystery, though, would be if the Kenneth Roberts that Jones refers to is another Kenneth Roberts that wrote a book titled Captain Hook.  However, I have yet to come across a book with such title AND author.

Nevertheless, a fun piece of Kenneth Roberts trivia!

***Update 3/16: The letter had apparently been up for auction on ebay (check here) but, according to the seller, was sold as of yesterday.  Here is an image the seller posted of the letter:

Interestingly, the image at Letters of Note still had the address of those to whom the letter is addressed, but the address was pixelated in order to “erase” the address.

So, in the midst of my studies, I periodically try to hunt down this “Captain Hook” that Roberts did or did not write.  This letter has grabbed my attention!

During my search for the supposed “Captain Hook” written by Roberts, I was able to find out the following (written 3/19/11 but not published):

I recently wrote a post that highlighted a supposed letter written by famed animator Chuck Jones in which he lists several books that inspired some of his characters (the original post I referenced was from Letters of Note).  Of interest to this blog was the mention of Kenneth Roberts and his book Captain Hook.

I had stated in my post that Roberts has never written a book titled Captain Hook, and that perhaps Jones had either written the incorrect title (meaning to say Captain Caution) or had the wrong author.  To search for the correct answer, I had written the writer (Robert) for the blog Chuck Redux – a site devoted solely to Chuck Jones’ memory and works – and asked him about this letter.

According to Robert – whose authority I trust regarding the works and life of Chuck Jones – Jones had never stated that he was inspired by a literary work for the character Pepe le Pew.  In light of Jones’ photographic memory, such a mistake in a letter from him causes concern regarding the authenticity of the letter.  Other aspects of the letter have raised red flags as well.

In short, the Roberts reference is not correct and Roberts was not an influence on Pepe le Pew, and the letter’s authenticity is in question.  Unfortunately, the letter is making its way throughout the blogosphere as many have caught on to the post at Letters of Note AND the letter has been sold from the ebay auction.

Hopefully more to come.

By the way, check out Robert’s great blog on Chuck Jones.  As a fan of Looney Tunes (growing up and now), this blog is a great way to know the animator that created those characters we grew up with.

I’d withheld publishing these posts in 2011 as Robert checked out the authenticity of the letter, and as time passed, I forgot to update. So there you go!  A bit of news that’s more than likely untrue, but interesting nonetheless.

Visit Rocky Pastures – Kenneth Roberts’ Estate

I can’t believe that it’s been almost a year since I’ve last posted on this site.  My apologies for lack of attention to this site!  I must confess, I didn’t realize how busy a Ph D keeps you despite hearing testimonials from friends in the program!

With that said, I received a comment from Paula Robinson Rossouw regarding an opportunity for the public to view Kenneth Roberts’ estate, Rocky Pastures.  Here’s what the comments said:

Rocky Pastures will be open to the public for the first time this summer between June 23 and July 14. The Kennebunkport Historical Society are organizing a Designer Show House. Here’s the link: http://www.kporthistory.org/things-to-do/design-show-house/

I must say that this would definitely be a treat for Kenneth Roberts fans, and I am quite jealous of those who can make it!  If you do happen to go and take pictures, I’ll be glad to post them on this site (giving credit, of course, to the source).

K.R. in the Blogosphere: “Northwest Passage” in the News – a Blast from the Past

My Military History has a nice post showing snippets of news from the past regarding Roberts’ novel Northwest Passage and the movie based upon that book.  Russ, the author of the blog, sent me links to these contemporary news bits, but I’ve been unable to do anything with them yet (doctoral work … ‘nough said).  I’m glad he worked up something showing contemporary reaction to Roberts’ work.

Hopefully I’ll be able to take a gander at these clippings in more detail in the near future; until then, stop on by Russ’ blog and enjoy.

K.R. in the Blogosphere: Enter a Raffle to Win a Trip to Rocky Pastures

The Maine Humanities Council has put together a wonderful raffle for a tour of Kenneth Roberts’ Rocky Pastures estate.  If you win, you also receive a lunch at Arundle Wharf, and a basket of “good Maine books.”  Hurry, though!  They are raffling only 100 tickets, so get yours!

You can purchase your ticket on-line at the following link: Kenneth Roberts Rocky Pastures Tour.

Kenneth Roberts' Rocky Pastures. Courtesy Maine Humanities Council

K.R. in the Blogosphere: Jack Bales’ bio of Kenneth Roberts

Okay, so what I found wasn’t on a blog, but instead on Dartmouth’s library website.  Nevertheless, I found a brief bio on Kenneth Roberts written by his biographer, Jack Bales (of whom I’ve written on in the past).  This short bio is a great glimps into Kenneth Roberts the man.

What stuck out to me was Bales’ discussion on Kenneth Roberts’ discouragement over the lack of sales and acclaim of his first several novels during the first 6 years of his writing (which included my all-time favorite novel, Rabble in Arms).  Bales states:

After exhaustively researching Benedict Arnold’s march to capture Quebec during the first year of the American Revolution, Roberts wrote Arundel (1930), which he soon followed with The Lively Lady (1931) and Rabble in Arms (I933). By I934, none of the books had sold very well, and as Roberts recalled years later, some prominent critics had pointedly disdained his literary efforts :

I understood them to say my dialogue was inept, I was deplorably weak in delineating character, knew nothing about plot-structure, couldn’t interpret history adequately and, generally speaking, would be well advised to turn to other means of livelihood. I’d worked hard on those books for [six] years without any noticeable reward or acclaim; and their reception and sales were discouraging in the extreme so much so that I was broke and on the verge of abandoning the course I’d charted for myself [six] years before. (Bales)

While Roberts was generally known as an opinionated, curmudgeonly man, this piece by Bales reveals that popular sentiment did not paint a full picture of Roberts.  Roberts ended up receiving a letter from the president of Dartmouth (Ernest Martin Hopkins) which praised his works, thus serving as a turning point in Roberts’ career.

This, then, brings us to an interesting piece of Roberts trivia: though Roberts was a native of Maine and loved Maine with practically his whole being, Dartmouth serves as the home of his works and correspondence because of Hopkins’ letter and Roberts’ receiving an honorary doctorate from Dartmouth.


“Oliver Wiswell”: an Authoritative Work?

As stated before, I am catching up on Kenneth Roberts news in the blogosphere.  I try to post on matters I find relevant and helpful to those interested in learning more about one of America’s least-known great authors.  However, sometimes you’ve just got to post things out of the ordinary.

Over at On, Now, to the 3rd Level, Daniel Yordy discusses what I believe to be about community, particularly Christian community (not so much a church in the traditional sense, but a community in the sense of a commune?).  In this long post, Yordy discusses the issue of freedom and the “lie” that freedom does not result from war (I hope I understand his point correctly).  Now, what I find interesting is that Yordy quotes favorably Roberts’ Oliver Wiswell seemingly as an authoritative work in this matterHere’s what Yordy states:

If you want to know for certain that the American Revolution had absolutely nothing to do with freedom, just read the first three chapters of Oliver Wiswell by Kenneth Roberts. The American Revolution opposed freedom in every possible way. In reality, it was nothing more than an excuse to kill one’s neighbor and to burn down his home.

While I believe that Roberts was faithful to his commitment to accurately portray historical events (which I believe is backed up by his tedious research), I’m not sure how far one is to take the fictional aspect of his work as authoritative.  The chapters Yordy refers to, if I am not mistaken, are written from the perspective of the fictional character, Oliver Wiswell, who is a Tory living in America during the Revolutionary War.  The character gives his view, as a Tory, on the war.  While chapters 1 – 3 are technically Roberts’ words, he intends to portray common Tory sentiment of the war. On the other hand, I believe Roberts himself would side with the “rabble” who fought against England.

This issue raises the question on the role of historical fiction in one’s research and support.  If historical fiction is written in the manner of Kenneth Roberts (backed by significant research and historical facts presented as faithfully as possible), can it be used authoritatively? At the very least those parts that are historical fact in nature, as opposed to fiction written with no intention of presenting any historical fact (I am sure there are numerous forms of fiction; here I use “fiction” in its most general form, as a story made up by its author, not reflecting any true person(s) or even(s))?

Personally, I believe one treads on shaky ground if he bases an argument, in part or in whole (and outside of the realm of literature and the arts), on historical fiction; however, my opinion may be a result of my doctoral studies in which any reliance upon fictional works is frowned upon.

K.R. in the Blogosphere: The Beak Speaks

I am trying to catch up on things for this site, on of which consists of finding blogs that reference Kenneth Roberts.  So, bear with me for any redundancy, hopefully soon I’ll be caught up!

Over at The Beak Speaks, Beakerkin (?) provides a favorable review of Rabble in Arms, my favorite of Roberts’ works.  Interestingly, the Beak has read and reviewed other works of Roberts, such as Arundel and Oliver Wiswell.  Great to see that there are some who appreciate Roberts’ works today.  Though only half a century removed from the height of his career, he is largely unknown today.  Hopefully this blog will help in getting his name out there, especially to those who want to read good historical fiction.

Any thoughts on how to make this blog better?

***Update 9/2/10*** I found another The Beak Speaks review of a K.R. book, this one on The Battle of Cowpens, probably one of the lesser known books written by Roberts.

K.R. in the Blogosphere: Summer Reading List

Kenneth Roberts recently made a summer reading list!  Oliver Wiswell was the book of choice by USA Conservative News.  Here’s the opening line when Roberts was mentioned:

The best historical novels ever written about the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 are by Kenneth Roberts, a very popular author 70 years ago that most people today have never heard of.

This statement, in my opinion, is true on several levels, unfortunately so in regards to the last part “…that most people today have never heard of.”

One Eternal Day” also suggested Oliver Wiswell for summer reading.  Jim Skaggs, the blog author, also suggests Rabble in Arms, The Lively Lady, and Captain Caution.  I like what he says about the quality of Roberts’ work: he makes John Jakes’ work look like “pulp fiction.”  It’s great to see that there are others who appreciate Roberts’ work.

Arundel made it on the reading list at the Hackley Public Library.  A rather trite review of the book, but I think it’s because the author didn’t like it too much; they only gave Arundel a 5.  Oh well, not all are fans!

Kenneth Roberts in the Blogosphere: “Feast of Nemesis” on Oliver Wiswell

Feast of Nemesis provides short, but interesting thoughts on Roberts’ novel, Oliver Wiswell, of whom the main character is a Tory during the American Revolutionary War.

According to the post, Oliver Wiswell is contemporary:

The tragic dilemma of Oliver Wiswell and the tories is a central tragedy of our time. They learn what modern exiles have to learn: 1) that decency, thrift, sobriety, intelligence have no value in a civil war; 2) that there is no hope for the vanquished in a social revolution except to start life over again in a new country.

The post further states that “like all Roberts romances, Oliver Wiswell is also important history.”  I’m not sure I’d say that all of Roberts’ novels were primarily romances; rather, they were primarily history that involved romance within the plot.  I don’t think Roberts wrote with the idea of developing a new romance.  If this were so, his novels were all the same because the romance aspect seems to be rather identical in all of his novels.  Anyway, I digress.  The post goes on to say in regards to the novel as history:

Novelist Roberts sees the American Revolution as a social revolution in which the colonial masses, stirred by rabble rousers like Sam Adams and John Hancock, brought the colonies to the brink from which they were later saved by the men who framed the Constitution. This book explains why Americans became tories, why the tories, through they appear to have represented at least half of the population in the 13 colonies, were defeated, why the English were unable to quash the rabble in arms.

Again, interesting perspective in regards to one of K.R.’s most famous novels.

Kenneth Roberts in the Blogosphere: K.R. and his use of journals

Mary O’Gara at www.examiner.com/albuquerque  writes a neat post on how to use a journal for a writing project.  Before sharing her tips on using a project journal,  she gives accounts of how past well-known authors used their journals.  In doing so, she mentions Kenneth Roberts:

For other authors, the journal is a record of creative work, book by book and day by day. Kenneth Roberts, whose journal was published as I Wanted to Write, ranted against inaccurate historians and loud neighborhood children. The most touching entries in Roberts’ journal are his relief when his friend Booth Tarkington complimented him on a particularly difficult piece of writing.

It’s great to see that Kenneth Roberts is still recognized today!

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