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The Absence of a Cello by Ira Wallach

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Trey Bigone As there are limited reviews of this book on the Internet, an electronic appraisal follows.
The Absence of a Cello by Ira Wallach, copyright 1960-later dramatised
ISBN: Nil [Not allocated to this book, or issued much later]; a penguin book, 1977.
The Lying Persona in Personnel Cover Blurb
Andrew Pilgrim gifted physicist, needs work. A slight attack of bankruptcy mars his curriculum vitae: otherwise, on paper, he’s just the man the Baldwin-Nelson Corporation is looking for.
Otis Clifton, personnel chief at Baldwin-Nelson, wants to see for himself. Persuaded that ‘a man’s home is what he is’; he arranges to call on the Pilgrims on a Sunday.
Andrew is hastily groomed by the family to conform to the Baldwin-Nelson pattern. To hell with bankruptcy, they argue. The things that matter are the cello, the racing-form, and the egg-head volumes written by Andrew’s wife – straight evidence of emotional irresponsibility. The evidence is concealed.
Otis arrives…
SYNOPSIS. Trevor McKenna -- Corporate Persona Head-hunting
Andrew Pilgrim gifted physicist applies for a job, ostensibly in a multi-national refrigerator company; and as is current in the 1960s a personnel officer comes to his home, to see if the applicant is good corporation material. This is in the period where the boss is also frequently involved in your homelife ala Bewitched; I Dream of Jeannie and other early sixties TV shows.
The book explores the lies that ‘creatives’ play with ‘pragmatists’, when they attempt to sell out. In this situation based comedy, the evidence of the ‘creativity’ is hidden from the personnel officer: the cello, the racing papers, and the overt scholarship of the wife – Celia; [her published manuscripts are put in other dust-jackets]. An attempt is made to portray Celia as a P.T.A. mom.
In a final twist, a lady’s glove, a book of sexual mores, a flask of brandy and an annotated racing form are taken from the personnel officer’s glove box, evidence of his duplicity.
He explains he is actually a ‘catcher in the rye’—trying to save ‘creatives’ from a stolid, boring corporate life. And the lie persona is specifically in passages from pages 126-127 and the second half page of 55 through to the first half page of 58; specifically
…Andrew protested. ‘I think Mr. Clifton is here to ask questions. Not answer them.’
… ‘Oh I don’t mind her pushing me, Mr. Pilgrim,’ he said. ‘I’m simply here because I’m looking for the right man to do a job.’
… [he knows] your qualifications, what is more important than that?’
‘Do you want the truth?’ asked Clifton.
‘I’m never sure until I’ve heard it, and then it’s usually too late.’
‘Very well.’ Clifton crossed his legs and managed suddenly to look British. ‘Anyone with the least knowledge of the field knows that Andrew Pilgrim’s qualifications are not to be challenged. But the operations of Baldwin-Nelson are different from the operations of a scientist in the laboratory where he is apt to be an isolate.’
‘Isolate, [said Marian] is a verb!’
‘Isolate, [said Clifton] was a verb! We changed all that.’
‘Does Baldwin-Nelson manufacture syntax, too?’
‘Only as a by-product. Now an isolate is a man who functions best by himself. The only whip over him is the whip that he himself wields, and he wields it without mercy. His greatest accolade is the satisfaction he awards himself for work he believes good, and he is the sole judge of that good. There you are. I’ve just given you a picture of a man whom we have no use for whatever.’
‘Ah, Mr. Clifton you make me feel wistful,’ Marian gave a mock sigh. ‘If you have no use for him perhaps I might have him for a few days?’
‘The more [his sister] Marian spoke the more Andrew envisioned himself a thousand miles beyond the pale of Baldwin-Nelson, the gates of the corporate ghetto shut forever in his face. He decided to stop letting his own sense of helplessness fascinate him. Summoning up his best horse sense…’I agree with Mr. Clifton, Marian. The day of the isolate is over. Marian and I have never seen eye to eye on things like this.’
Clifton nodded to express his satisfaction. ‘At Baldwin-Nelson you work in groups, he explained. ‘You check and counter-check each other. All your work will have one direction only. Everyone has to be on target.’
On target! The idiot bastard. ‘Oh, I’ve worked on group projects before,’ Andrew said. ‘I think the day of the scientist brooding by himself in the corner is over.’
Celia [his wife] who had just learned that, the day of the isolate was over, was disturbed to find that the day of the brooding scientist, was also over. Who would be next to go? She shuffled… and drew and cut the deck. ‘I’ve often told Andrew that a horse works best in harness.’
…Andrew glanced quickly at Celia, then away, wondering how long they could possibly keep this up. Didn’t it show? Evidently not, because the cheerful Mr. Clifton continued saying, ‘Don’t misunderstand me. We want a man whose imagination can explore new worlds, but he has to be able to curb that imagination when necessary.’
Irrelevantly, sidewalk signs popped into Andrew’s head. They read:
KEEP OUR CITY CLEAN
CURB YOUR IMAGINATION!
Then he had an inspiration. ‘Mr. Clifton,’ he said, ‘I think I know what you mean. You want a man who has enough elemental organization in his own personal life…’
‘Right, Mr. Pilgrim, that is exactly the personality profile we seek,’ rang out the joyous voice of Clifton, as Andrew took a moment off to bless Perry Blewitt [Pilgrim’s prospective son-in-law, who had helped him develop his corporate persona].
‘Everyone has two profiles,’ Marian observed, avoiding Andrew’s irritated glance.
Clifton turned to her and smiled. Marian did not like the smile. It said to her, ‘Poor child, don’t make the mistake of thinking me a fool.’ It was a patronizing smile, the smile of condescension that an adult bestows upon a bright youngster who used a big word incorrectly. ‘Two profiles, Mrs. Jellicoe [a widow], he agreed. ‘One for the camera, one for careless moments. We take that into account.’
Marian finished her drink quickly. ‘I’m more tired than I thought,’ she said. ‘I’m going to try to nap for a few minutes.’ At the door she turned to Celia, ‘Darling, I forgot to tell you that the local chairman of the Community Chest called.’
‘The who?’ asked Celia, trying to recollect what a Community Chest was. Could it be the bust of a popular local prostitute?’
‘The local chairman of the Community Chest,’ Marian repeated. ‘He wanted to know if you’d head up the drive in this apartment house again.’
‘Why, certainly,’ said Celia with a philanthropic smile.
‘He knows he can always depend on me.’
‘Yes, dear, that is what I told him,’ as she disappeared into the bedroom. Andrew was glad to see her go. With the discordant element out of the room he could get into a more comfortable position in the pigeonhole he had assigned himself.
‘Are you and Mrs. Pilgrim churchgoers?’ asked Clifton
* * *
pages 126-127…

‘It seems that Mr. Pilgrim and I don’t share the same moral outlook,’ said Clifton.
This made Grant [a neighbour] still more puzzled since he was unaware that Andrew had a moral outlook. Marian held Clifton’s coat high, an open invitation to him to put it on and go, but even as she held it she asked, ‘Who are you to make moral judgements of Andrew?’
Clifton smiled at her but made no move to put on the coat. Marian felt a little silly. She draped his coat on a chair. ‘I said his morals are different,’ explained Clifton, ‘not necessarily inferior. Anyway, it’s my business judgement that’s more important.’
Grant walked to the telephone to call the superintendent for a key to his apartment. Before he picked up the receiver, he muttered audibly enough for anyone to hear, ‘Does he have the brass to stand there and suggest that Andrew can’t solve the third-rate problems of a damn icebox?’ Then he dialed the superintendent.
Clifton finally reached for his coat. No one helped him put it on. He attached his briefcase to the end of his arm. Without farewell or comment he walked to the door. There he hesitated for a second, then turned to face everyone. ‘Let me explain something to you, Mr. Pilgrim,’ he said. ‘When I came here I expected you to present a picture of yourself that you believed I would like.
‘Are you insinuating that I was lying to you?’
‘Oh, certainly. But I don’t mind. When a man knows accurately what we want, then he stands a fair chance of delivering it. You chose the right lies, Mr. Pilgrim. That was the important thing. A man can choose his lies, but he can’t do that with his truths.’ He walked back into the room, picked up [one of] Celia’s book, and held it in his palm. ‘These books, I was quite willing to overlook them and to forgive Mrs. Pilgrim the sin of scholarship.’
‘Why, thank you, Mr. Clifton,’ Celia murmured.


Trey Bigone Anyone else wanting me to type out whole sections of novels, please contact, pay is by the schilling.


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