Sixty-six Park Avenue
January 30, 1937
Dear Mr. Graves,
My sincere, if belated, gratitude for the nice things you have said about me in your column.[*] I hope you will forgive my long delay in writing to you when I tell you that since summer I have been in what amounted to a solitary confinement due to urgent work on the dramatization of my novel “We the Living”. A New York theatrical producer bought the play before it was written and I had to work on it for solid days and nights, trying to finish it in time for this season. You can understand what a difficult job it was. I have just completed it, but it is now too late for a production this winter and we plan to open it early in the fall. The play is being cast now—and that is a tremendous difficulty, considering the part of “Kira”.
Speaking of plays, I hope against hope that you have not seen “Night of January 16th”, when it played in Birmingham. I am very grateful for the advance notice you gave it in your column, but I felt, when I read it, as if I had betrayed the confidence of a friend. I must admit that I am somewhat ashamed of “Night of January 16th” in its present form. This is due to the fact that, the play being my first one, I had a very unfortunate contract with the producer, which allowed him to make such cuts in the manuscript that all sense has been eliminated from the play. Only the plot and the characters have been kept, but every abstract or psychological implication has been destroyed, so that it is now nothing but a rather vulgar melodrama. It has been successful in New York last winter, but it is not at all the kind of success I wanted. I am afraid that the play must have been a shock to you, if you saw it, coming as it did after my novel. I know that there can be no comparison between the two. My only consolation is that I have learned a lesson and never again will I entrust any work of mine to a producer whose artistic standards are so different from mine.
I have read, at last, “Who Owns America”.[**] I think it is a splendid book and I thank you for calling my attention to it. In principle, I agree with its authors completely and could subscribe to almost everything they
Sixty-six Park Avenue
said. I am not sufficiently versed in economics to judge the practical value of their recommendations, but I was delighted to read such a rarity as a sane criticism of our present system, which did not turn into Communistic drivel. I am glad to know that there still are people and a mode of thinking that can be opposed to Communism in a true, sensible democratic spirit. I have met so many people who declared bluntly that anyone criticizing Soviet Russia is automatically a fascist and a capitalistic exploiter. And it was gratifying to hear a voice in refutation of that preposterous nonsense.
I would appreciate it very much if you could let me know the names of any other books that have been written on the same thesis as “Who Owns America”. My economic reading has been quite limited because I have not had the time to keep up with it.
I do hope I shall hear from you again.
With my best wishes,
*Graves mentioned AR on numerous occasions and devoted at least one column to We the Living, which he praised as “one of the most powerful novels ever written.”
**Who Owns America, ed. Herbert Agar and Allen Tate (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1936).