[handwritten note:] (FLW’s letter is in my special copy of “The Fountainhead.”)
590 North Rossmore Avenue
May 14, 1944
Dear Mr. Wright:
Thank you. Your letter was like the closing of a circle for me, the end of ten years of my life that began and had to end with you. I felt that “The Fountainhead” had not quite completed its destiny until I had heard from you about it. Now it is completed.
Thank you for your very gracious sentence: “So far as I have unconsciously contributed anything to your material you are welcome.” You know, of course, that you have contributed a great deal, and I think you know in what way. I have taken the principle which you represent, but not the form, and I have translated it into the form of another person. I was careful not to touch upon anything personal to you as a man. I took only the essence of what constitutes a great individualist and a great artist.
I have thought that you might resent Howard Roark, not for the things in which he resembles you, but precisely for the things in which he doesn’t. So I would like to tell you now that Howard Roark represents my conception of man as god, of the absolute human ideal. You may not approve of it and it may not be the form in which you see the ideal—but I would like you to accept, as my tribute to you, the fact that what I took from you was taken for the figure of my own god.
Am I really “sensationalizing” my material? If I am, I think it is in the same way in which your buildings are “sensationalized.” Your buildings are not designed for sloppy, “homey” living, not for flopping around in bedroom slippers, but for standing straight and making each minute count. I felt, whenever I entered a building of yours, that one could never relax here—relax in the sense most people do all their lives, that is, feel small, mean, slothful and comfortably insignificant. I felt that here one had to be a hero and lead a heroic life. Most people live in a kind of disgusting everyday stupor, and they experience a higher sense of existence only on very rare occasions, if at all. In your buildings one would have to experience it all the time. I think that is the way you build. Well, that is the way I write. No, my characters and events are not of the “century of the common man.” They are not little
people nor average people nor “just like the folks next door.” You don’t build for the way people live, but for the way they should live. I don’t write about people as they are, but as they could be and should be. There are no such people in real life? Why, yes, there are. I am one of them.
You said, when I met you here, that I was too young and couldn’t have suffered enough to write about integrity. Do you still think so?
I have been “set up in the market place” (the review of my book which you read in the Architectural Forum is just a little sample of that), but I can’t be “burned for a witch”, because I think I am made of asbestos.
I am not too afraid of what Hollywood might do to my book. So far, it looks as if I will win the battle and the book will be preserved on the screen. I am willing to take the chance, because my producer’s appreciation of the book is genuine, intelligent and enthusiastic. But should others interfere and succeed in ruining the story, even a ruined screen version will attract the attention of some proper readers to my book. And that is all I want. I have stated my complete case in the book. I want those who can hear me to hear me.[*]
Now, would you be willing to design a house for me? You said you had to be interested in a person before you accepted him or her as a client. I don’t know yet when and whether I will be able to go east to buy the land—but if I can go, would you care to design the house? I should like to know that before I buy the land.
Will you forgive me now for Roark’s long legs and orange hair?
Gratefully—and always reverently,
*After the film came out in 1949, the book returned to the bestseller list.