This letter was previously published only on the Ayn Rand Institute website.
August 25, 1950
Thank you for your letter. It is I who have to ask you to forgive me for my long delay in answering, this time. I think you know that the only valid reason which could have prevented me from writing you sooner was the work on my novel. I am just approaching the end of Part I, and I did not dare interrupt myself while I had the whole world crashing—in the novel, I mean.
I hope that you won’t be let down by hearing that I am only at the end of Part I. As you know, my speed of writing always accelerates as I approach the climax of a story, so I don’t think that it will be too long now before I finish the whole book—but I won’t even make a guess at the date, in order not to disappoint you later. Part I, however, is about two-thirds of the whole book in length.[*] I can’t tell you how much I wish I could show you what I have written since I saw you last. I know you would be pleased. Be patient with me for taking such a long time—it is really going to be worth the waiting. As for me, I am simply crazy about the story and I am very happy with it.
Thank you for the things you said about me in your letter, about my manner of integrating ideas into a story. You and I are probably the only two people in the literary profession who understand fully how difficult and how important this is. Your remarks on the subject were one more proof to me, though I didn’t need any, that you are the one and only editor for me. I hope that sooner or later you will be my official editor in fact. You will always be my personal one in spirit.
I was delighted to hear that you are happy at being back in the publishing business. This supports
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what I had always expected. You were wasting your talent on the movies, and publishing is where you belong.
Who is the young man you mention in your letter, the one who admires THE FOUNTAINHEAD and is writing a novel about the steel business? Is his name Thaddeus Ashby? I strongly suspect that it is, and if so, I must warn you to be careful. Ashby is a boy whom I met here some years ago and who professed a great admiration for THE FOUNTAINHEAD. I have not been in touch with him for a long time, but I have heard that he had gone to work in a steel mill and was writing a novel. He is a young man who professes all the ideals of Roark, but practices the methods of Peter Keating, or worse. When I met him, he told me a great many things about himself, all of which turned out to be untrue. For instance, he said that he had just come from the Pacific where he had been an aviator and had been shot down twice. Later, I learned that he had been in aviation training during the war, but had never left this country. If he gave you the impression that he learned about you and the history of THE FOUNTAINHEAD in some mysterious way—then that is a typical example of his behavior. He heard all about you and the history of THE FOUNTAINHEAD—from me. If he did not tell you so, it is probably because he knows that I would not give him a good recommendation, and that he had no right to approach you in that manner, to use—without my knowledge or approval—any information which he obtained from me. I do not want to be indirectly responsible for some fraud which he might possibly have in mind against you. My impression of him is that he is intelligent, but I have my doubts about his literary talent. It is possible that he may develop, but I would be inclined to doubt whether he is yet ready to produce a good novel. If you find that you want to deal with him, I would warn you to take every legal precaution that might be necessary. For instance, I would not advise you to give him any advance or commitment on unfinished work.
Let me know the name of the novel which is your own choice on your fall list—I would like to read it. No, do not send me a free copy—I want to have the privilege of buying and supporting any novel
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which is your choice. If I were a collectivist, I would be jealous of any writer you select, but since I am an individualist who believes that there is no clash of interests among people and that any talent is a help, not a threat, to another talent, I will wish you to discover a whole list of your own writers, all of them good. In fact, I wish you a whole harem of them. But, of course, being selfish, I want to be the wife No. 1. And being conceited, I am not afraid of competition for that title.
With best regards to both of you from both of us—and all my love to you,
*In the published version of Atlas Shrugged, the “Part I” AR mentions in this and other letters became Parts One and Two.