Thursday, May 07, 2009

RIP Alfred Appel Jr.

One of the first courses I took at Northwestern was Appel's "Introduction to Contemporary American Literature," in which he taught his own book, The Annotated Lolita. (The annotations were his; the book was of course Nabokov's.) Twenty-six years later, I still have that book, and I still refer to it. And I remember with pleasure many wonderful lectures he gave on that and other classics, his screenings of adaptations like The Killers (1946), and his stories of brushes with greatness with the likes of Nabokov, Hemingway, Gary Cooper, and Lee Marvin. An inspiring professor and a nice guy, too, who I always enjoyed chatting with between classes; looks like I'll be picking up his 1991 revision of The Annotated Lolita to see what he added.


John said...

Mr. Appel was my official academic advisor during a good portion of my four years at Northwestern University (class of 1975). He was charming, erudite, and gracious -- with an elegant, immaculate personal style that perfectly matched his cutting wit. When I reported to his campus office for our first meeting in 1971 he was engaged in routing a bumble bee from the premises – using a tennis racket – and made a perfect quip which, alas, I have forgotten. I was looking forward to his next books – and cannot begin to assay the value of what I learned from his classes. While he was not a close friend or indeed a very close mentor as mentors go, his influence on my thinking and cultural values was immeasurable

--John McMasters, New York City

Robert Cashill said...

Thanks for sharing that. All we can hope to leave behind is a positive influence on the people we met, and Prof. Appel did just that. He had the erudition to be intimidating, but that wasn't his way.

The Lee Marvin story: He goes into a drugstore and sees Marvin. He's dumbstruck. Speechless, he says "Lee Marvin!"

And Lee Marvin replies, "Joe Blow!"

I love that.