Her blush would flush through her cheeks, soar up past her blue eyes and under the roots of the long, thick blond hair, and the tears would threaten and she'd literally cover her ears with her hands and you'd have to stop saying nice things. Sometimes Marion Clark seemed physically incapable of hearing herself praised and loved.
So by now, had she been able to read the testimonials, hear the grieving, see the tears, know how many of her friends flew into Detroit for her funeral, Marion Clark would have fled, would have fixed her ancient Austin-Healey yet again and gone, say, to Disneyland to hide out. She never missed a chance to visit Disneyland, anyway. Once she even announced with charming facetiousness: "I'd like to spend the rest of my life in Disneyland."
Marion Clark edited this magazine. She was killed three weeks ago today at an upper Michigan airport when she walked into the propeller of a light plane after a holiday jaunt with friends.
It was pointless, of course, but then she'd always teased us that she'd die young, and if it was bizarre, it was also Isadora Duncan, a spirit vanished in an instant. Most of all, it was complicated, because Marion was complicated, so it wasn't a simple grief for anyone who knew her.
She took absolutely everything personally, for one thhing, and those drab, bureaucratic, administrative, Washingtonian details that she couldn't, she ignored. She was the despair of telephoners she left on hold while she chatted with other people she couldn't bear to hang up on, for fear of slighting them. She was the bane of free lance strangers waiting for her decision on their work while she reveled in the fulmination of story ideas, angles, twists, jokes with the writers she knew. You didn't write under her, you wrote for her, to her.
She didn't couldn't, pull rank. She blamed all her successes on accident or foolish superiors. Her desk's nameplate read "Lush Places." This is the title of a nature column an Evelyn Waugh character writes, in Scoop , for an English newspaper until sheer chance puts him on the biggest story of the year. Just so, Marion would have insisted, she stumbled onto the Wayne Hays-Liz Ray scandal, and, with co-author Rudy Maxa, won national fame for exposing it.
She was, like F. Scott Fitzgerald, her favorite writer, a "last Apollonian," but somehow a last Dionysian too. Her sensitivity to the properties of public situations was exquisite. So, when she took the centerof a dance floor, calling for more champagne, as if every party were either her first or her last but should last forever in any case, she may have inspired wonder, envy, or admiration, but not embarrassment. She was one of the few people in the world who knows how little difference there is, finally, between style and substance, innocence and sophistication.
She was famous for her presents, her rememberings of birthdays, anniversaries, babies coming. She wanted things to be perfect and happy, but she had the dangerous knowledge that for better or worse, our universe, as Martin Buber said, is a human one.
One colleague remembers swapping memories with her of college days infatuation with Fitzgerald. He recalled with some embarrassment how beautiful he'd thought a Fitzgerald poem was, a spring-love poem from the notebooks collected in The Crack-up . It was corny, she agreed ruefully, with those last lines being something about "her barefoot voice," and the ending: "In autumn, we should find graver things, and rejoice."