To Isabel Paterson [Letter 151]

Item Reference Code: 145_PA6_001_001

Date(s) of creation

February 14, 1948


Isabel Paterson


[Page 1]
February 14, 1948

Dear Pat:

This is what the principle of voluntary action will do to people. The moment you tell me that you will not be offended if I do not write often, I have an irresistible urge to write to you. I seem to feel easier about it if I know that you will not be angry at me the next time some difficult chapter of my novel prevents me from answering immediately. I was so glad when I saw, in my mail, an envelope with the letterhead of the Herald-Tribune Books and then when I saw your inimitable typing, that I realized how much I have missed your letters for all this long time. Incidentally, you are the only person I know who manages to have a handwriting on the typewriter. This is really the triumph of man over machine.

, by all means, mention my name in speaking to Mr. Shuster of Appleton-Century, and tell him anything you find of importance about our personal friendship and political closeness. I will be only too glad if this can help in any way to interest him in backing the “Think Magazine.” I have never met him in person, but if you find that he is really as enthusiastic about my work as I was told he is, you might tell him that I would like to be one of the contributors to the magazine. There are a great many things I would like to say in articles for which there really is no suitable publication, and I have heard the same complaint from several good, intelligent, conservative writers. If, as Isaac Don Levine said, my name has value on a magazine cover, I will be more than happy to have it used as a possible attraction for the “Think Magazine.”

If Mr. Shuster thinks that such a magazine is not “practical,” you might tell him about the twelve publishers who rejected THE FOUNTAINHEAD as “not practical” or “noncommercial,” and tell him how you predicted its commercial success with more assurance than I had about it and certainly more than Bobbs-Merrill had. This might help to convince him that you do know the practical side of writing and publishing.

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For your information, or for any psychological clue that you may find in it, I will tell you exactly what I was told about Mr. S. by Mr. Purdee, their editor, who came to see me here in California about a year ago or more. He told me at the time that Mr. S. was not what he called a literary man. He said, “If you meet him, don’t expect a real literary discussion of his reasons for liking THE FOUNTAINHEAD. He would probably not be able to tell you. All he said to us is that ‘it is the kind of book I like.’” Of course, to me that was the kind of statement that would predispose me in Mr. S’s favor. I asked the editor whether Mr. S. was an uncompromising man in his political convictions, because my new novel would be an extremely uncompromising story politically, in defense of industrialists and free enterprise. The editor said that if Mr. S. knew this he would give me another $100,000 for it. So you see, the man sounds awfully good. I hope he really is. I think it is an excellent idea for you to try to interest him in the magazine, I hope you will do it, and I hope you will succeed.

I knew that Luce had postponed his magazine. I had just received a letter from John Chamberlain about it, in which he asked me to keep the advance they had paid me for my article. Incidentally, is this the usual practice in such cases, and is it ethical to keep the advance? I feel rather embarrassed about it, since I had not yet finished the article, and it seems to be unearned money. I intend to put the article aside for the time being, but shall finish it anyway, when I can take some time off the novel without risking to interrupt a good streak of writing.

I was very sorry to hear about their postponing the magazine, because I quite agree with you that such a magazine is desperately needed, and I was looking forward to seeing it. But perhaps it is for the best. If you are able to get several of your boy-friends together to start such a magazine independently, without the kind of interference and what you called “wobbling” that they would have had on the Luce publication, perhaps this will amount to an intellectual event of the first importance.

As to your question about where are our “practical men” going when they die if there is no hell—I have to admit you’ve got me there. This argument in favor of hell is practically irrefutable.

Thank you for your compliments to my letter. I was sort of childishly happy about it, because I did not write that letter with any kind of literary

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intention, in fact, I thought it was too hurried, and I am delighted if you found it good. Yes, I have a carbon copy of it. If you find it suitable for your column, by all means use it, all or any part of it, except the things that might get somebody into trouble. I can see only three things in it which we should not use in print: The references to the railroad men breaking the rules for me, the reference to Mr. Kaiser’s steel plant (he might sue both you and me for it) and the story about regulations told to me by the men at Inland Steel; if you want to use this story, then I think it would be better not to name Inland Steel as the source—I don’t want some lousy bureaucrat to take it out on them. As for my riding in the locomotive, it does not have to be kept secret so long as we don’t name the railroad and the train. I know that the incident of the old guy on the cowcatcher is the funniest thing that happened on the trip, but I don’t want the company to make trouble for the engineer for putting me at the throttle. If you think it is worth the bother, perhaps you could ask Col. Henry about it. Since the engineer did not seem to hesitate about giving me his seat, and I was seen by quite a few people in the stations we passed, maybe it is just one of those rules that everybody winks at, and maybe it’s quite all right to print the story without naming the train. You know better than I do what is permissible in a column and what is not, so I will leave it up to you. I don’t mind your using it, in fact, I am always delighted and flattered when I see myself in your column, but you can understand why I don’t want to make trouble for those train crews when they were so nice to me.

No, I can’t use that little incident in my novel, I don’t have any lady novelists, nor any women driving Diesel engines. Having a woman Operating Vice-President is bad enough.

Thank you tremendously for the detailed statement of reasons why I should not use superfluous details in my novel. That was a beautiful exposition. The line describing a train as “almost as if the power of the engine streamed out behind in the form of the train like an airflow or wake,” is magnificent. I think I understand the comparison, and I certainly agree with you. The only question now would be in the application of it to the specific terms of a novel. I am not sure that we will always agree on what constitutes an essential part of the engine and what constitutes lace curtains in the cab window. But I will be as strict as I can about it, to the best of my understanding.

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I am not in the least surprised by your having a Congressman among your admirers. All I can say is it’s about time. I wish you had about 600 of them. You’re only half-kidding when you ask whether you and I are setting a new fashion in females. I never thought of it in that way before, but I think it’s absolutely true, we are. I can’t judge that about myself, but I really and most seriously see it in you. I have the testimony of my two best boy-friends, Frank and Albert [Mannheimer], who speak admiringly of your feminine charm, and they do mean it, so there!

I have no new news about myself. It is the same as a week ago, with the exception of such an event as that I got a haircut—the first one since I came back from the East. This will give you a good homey idea of what I looked like. I got the haircut only because I had to go to Hollywood to run the Italian movie of WE THE LIVING. I have finally received a print of it for myself. The screening took a whole day off my work, and I am slightly sore about it, but I had to attend to that. We are still in the process of negotiating about that picture, and if the Italian company meets my conditions, I might let them release it in this country. The picture is quite good and the performance of the girl in the starring part is magnificent. But they did garble and distort the end of the story, so that it kind of lost fire. If I let them release it in this country, I will have to change the ending by means of new English dialogue and extra film footage. That will be quite a job, but if we reach an agreement, I will have a writer of my own choice do it for me; I cannot take time off my novel now for this work.

I am thinking very hard of something nonintellectual to tell you about us, but can’t find anything. We are just too damn intellectual, and all I can think of is how much I love my new novel and how happy I am that it is going well at the moment. There really isn’t any other thought in my brain right now.

Give my best regards to all your boy-friends. And love to you from both of us,


(over) [handwritten by AR]

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P.S. You have a wonderful line in your column of February 8—“Good fiction is private life or high imagination of adventures of the spirit set in suitable time, place and persons.” “Adventures of the spirit” is what my own novels are to me. I would like to quote your line, with due credit, in my unfinished article about novels, if I can fit it in. May I? That whole passage in your column was swell, particularly the description of the kind of novels that foreign correspondents turn out.