oday is Dalton Trumbo’s birthday, and as far as I can tell nobody gives a damn. I believe he’d be 109. I feel like I should say something—but what? I’m sure everybody already knows the story—how he refused to testify before HUAC and got blacklisted as a result—and so on and so forth.
I have the problem that the only things of his I’ve ever read are Eclipse and Johnny Got His Gun (if those are even the titles) and I read them a long time ago. On the other side of the coin I feel a weird sort of family connection with him. He was born in Montrose and grew up in Grand Junction, both places in which I have (or have had) relatives, and both places in which I have spent at least some time. He wrote stories for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, a newspaper with which my father had some equally tenuous connection in his youth. Knowing of my father’s literary ambitions people there used to tell him he was going to be “the next Dalton Trumbo”, a phrase he was not apparently fond of. (To judge from my memories of the scraps that survived him I suspect he was aiming somewhere between George S. Kaufman and Ring Lardner, but that’s just an opinion.)
In the 1960s Johnny Got His Gun was circulated about by the Zeitgeist, and I’m pretty sure I read it then. In spite of its anti-war theme and all that I never really warmed up to it. I certainly reread it during my college years though I don’t specifically recall why. It probably seemed like a good idea the time. I read The Bell Jar then too.