139 East 35th Street
New York City
October 10, 1943
I got a special thrill out of your letter—all my life, reading the published correspondence of famous people, I have envied them because they received personal letters on important and abstract subjects, I mean from friends, not just professional correspondence. I thought nobody wrote that way any more—but you do—and now I have one of those letters myself. Also, I’m glad that here’s one of your brilliant letters that’s not wasted on some fool collectivist somewhere.
Darling, thank you immensely for everything you said. Particularly, for saying that I am your sister. Why did you add: “That is, if you also find it so”? I hope you don’t have to doubt how I find it.
I know that I will now have to write “The Strike” [Atlas Shrugged]—you’ll push me into it. If I ever hesitate, I will just read page 2 of your letter again. Your quotation about Averroes is most interesting. And pertinent.[*] I am really beginning to think that the idea is not fantastic at all, but probably more tragically real than I imagine. It seems to apply to many people, on different levels of ability or achievement—but when I think of people I have known, who have puzzled me because they seemed to kill precisely the best in them, I now see that that “strike” is the explanation, whether they consciously knew it or not. I find myself dropping everything and thinking about that story—which I shouldn’t do right now. But by all the signs, I know I’m hooked—this is the beginning of my next one. That’s how I usually start. So may God help me—also you and Frank.
I am sort of crossing my fingers when I say this, but things are still going awfully well for me, one thing after another. Bobbs-Merrill are most friendly and enthusiastic and I suddenly seem to be the fair-haired child there, even without Archie. They are laying out their ads right now, and ready to start. Incidentally, the money is to be spent between now and January 1—so the campaign will be good and thick—I hope. I have today’s best-seller list here—and it’s five mentions all right—and the fifth one is San Francisco. I wonder if perhaps you saw the list of next week, which would be nice, too.
Thank you with all my heart for the plug in your
column. I was terribly touched when I saw that you thought of “The Fountainhead” and mentioned it last thing before finishing your column before going away. It was like a personal greeting—and I am very grateful.
Am I one of the “gifted novelists” you had in mind when you wrote that they threatened to use you in a novel? Because you’ll certainly be in “The Strike”, though probably not in a recognizeable form.
I met Dr. Virgil Jordan [head of the National Industrial Conference], Friday—and spent an hour talking politics with him. He has read your book and was most enthusiastic and admiring about it. Don’t ask me, if so, what he is doing about it. I don’t know. I still don’t quite understand how these organizations function. He has not read my book yet—but he told me an interesting story about his son. You may remember that he sent my book to his son, who is in the Air Corps, and the son wrote a rave letter to Bobbs-Merrill about it, specifically about “magnificent individualists.” So I took for granted that his son had always been on our side. But here is the story: the boy went to Dartmouth and emerged as a complete pink. This was his father’s problem for years. Jordan says he tried everything—he spent hours and hours argueing with the boy—he gave him all the material they had in their organization—he tried “Zarathustra” on him, and Steiner’s “The Ego and its own”—and nothing worked. And then my book turned the boy completely to our side—in two days. Jordan actually said it was “a miracle.” His son wrote him a letter about it, and Jordan says it was like a revelation to the boy, like a “sudden explosion.” I really think this is wonderful—the kind of effect I hoped to accomplish. By the way, Jordan himself hasn’t read the book, in[ ]spite of this. But I can’t hold it against him too much. Don’t be angry at me if I say that I really liked him, he is very intelligent, and forthright, and there’s nothing half-way or “compromising” about his political views. He seemed to think and talk as we do.
And today I met Tom Girdler. At his broadcast. The most flattering thing was the way he said: “OH!” when I was introduced to him. He has read my book—and spoke of it very highly—and asked me to have lunch with him week after next when he’ll be back in New York. I liked him on sight—even before he praised the book. He rushed right to the airport after the broadcast, but the rest of us had lunch and Mr. Hill, his press-agent, spoke to me in more detail. He said that Girdler showed him my letter and that Girdler “was very proud of it.” (!) Then Hill asked me if I had seen Isabel Paterson lately. I told him you were away on your vacation. He has read your book, and so has Girdler. Hill said he thought it was one of the most important books
ever written on our side and that it was “a book that will live.” There you are.
By the way, about Herbert Hoover’s admiration for you—Frank said that to match it I would have to win the admiration of Willkie. Which God forbid. But, seriously, I think that a lot of Hoover’s sins can be forgiven him for that.
I haven’t written a sentence on my present book—I’m still in a kind of stupor—but I have had to do a lot of things and running around for my novel, which is more important now and urgent, so I guess I can be excused. I think, though, that I will be better when all this is settled—and that I will really work.
I’m enclosing the “Wake up, America” debate. It ain’t much—but let me know what you think of it. I was only glad and amused to see how Mr. Villard wiggled in order not to admit that he is a collectivist. Look at his opening sentence—and tell me what case he has left for himself after that.[**] For once, it’s their side that betrays their cause in the crucial point. Also, here he is, granting us theoretical correctness, that is, idealism,—and pleading expediency. Oh, well, everything is screwy!
I can’t force myself to answer a few lines to my fan mail—and here I am sending you a small manuscript. I hope you don’t mind this complete report. I miss you a lot. And so does Frank.
Love from both of us,
*The quote read in part: “The happy few whom God has endowed with a philosophical mind should content themselves with a solitary possession of rational truth.”
**Oswald Garrison Villard’s opening line: “Complete individualism, if possible, would in the long run make more for progress than collectivism.”