- Mr. Blue by Myles Connolly
At a tender age of nineteen, I read two books that I could directly relate to my careful Catholic up-bringing. Mr. Blue by Myles Connolly and The Cardinal by Henry Morton Robinson. It was the former book that had made a deeper impression on my imagination and was inspirational to my youthful, spiritual desires of benevolence. This preference of mine was contrary to popular opinion, since The Cardinal was an instant bestseller when published in 1950, selling over two million copies and translated into a dozen languages. Mr. Blue, on the other hand, barely made a ripple on the literary waters when first published in 1928. The Cardinal featured the glamorous Steve Fermoyle, the handsome avatar of the priesthood, engaged in every exciting and dashing event that could ever happen to any priest—all rolled into one super-priest able to jump tall cathedrals with a single bound and solve canonical problems faster than a speeding bullet. Five-hundred and sixty pages of action-packed marvels as Fermoyle speeds from handsome seminarian to an elegant aging Prince of the Church. I read these books in 1954—back-to-back- and fell in love with Mr. Blue in a scant one-hundred and twenty-five pages.
What I remember of Mr. Blue came back to me when reading the first few chapters sixty five years later. Blue was a mystic. A monk without a monastery living in a packing crate on the roof of a New York skyscraper, gleefully flying a kite off the top of the building. He hoped that those who saw it from below could rise above the smallness of their own lives and see the beauty of the heavens. Blue espoused no dogmas, no rules or regulations—just beauty, truth and goodness—the metaphysical reality of Thomas Aquinas. It was a reality that rose beyond limits of logical reasoning and obligatory social obligations. He experienced life sub specie aeternitatis. Blue seemed oblivious to any laws and customs, civil or ecclesiastical. “[He] had little interest in form but he was ever hungry for color.24 [End Page 70]
This disinterest in form and preference for color is exemplified by the roof-top party Blue threw one night. The party was as sui generis as its host. Guests were two in number, the building manager and the Jewish owner of the newsstand on the street corner below. Entertainment was provided by the incomparable General Grant and his military band. Grant was a tall and regal ‘negro’ and he brought to the roof-top party his twelve band members—all dressed in their colorful marching band uniforms. Connolly writes, “. . . there was never such a concert . . . the night, the height, the stars, the twinkling dark in the distance, the yellow haze over uptown Broadway . . . the music blazed so that you could almost see it . . . it was a strange concert.”25 Indeed, a strange concert that I would have loved to attend—music that touched the soul of the earth from the top of the world.
Blue had other glorious plans for his roof-top universe. He talked of creating a self-sustaining “village for poor people.” There would be flower beds, vegetable gardens, and playgrounds for the children. More importantly, it would give the marginalized and down-trodden of society a new heightened view of the world and of themselves—literally. This passage describing Blue’s plan, remains an inspirational ideal in support of the on-going struggle to attain some semblance of social justice and to strengthen one’s resolve to heed Christ’s message of serving the least of our brethren.
With the proper walls and protection . . . they would be more comfortable than in their slums . . . think of the beautiful lives they would live up here on these clean heights. Think of the customs they would build up and the literature they would create. Can’t you picture a group of laboring men gathered together out over some cornice after their day’s work, gazing into the sunset and making the tales and legends of a new race of...