139 East 35th Street
February 19, 1942
Mr. Archibald G. Ogden
The Bobbs Merrill Company
468 Fourth Avenue
New York City
Dear Mr. Ogden:
You made me feel terribly guilty by your nice letter while I owed you one. Of course I shall be delighted to have lunch with you on the 24th and then I’ll ask you to forgive me in person.
But to prepare my defense, I must explain that I have not written to you sooner because I have been (and still am) in an orgy of writing the novel. It has been a day and night job, literally. The record, so far, was one day when I started writing at 4 p.m. and stopped at 1 p.m. the next day (with one interruption for dinner). I can not do that often, but that time I did my best writing. I have gone for two or three days at a time without undressing—I’d just fall asleep on the couch for a few hours, then get up and go on. But I’ll make myself clean and respectable by Tuesday.
I wanted to surprise you with the completed second part. I am not quite finished with it yet, but will be in a week or so. That will be a big load off my mind, because it gets easier to write further on. If you are not one of those people who think that an author is the last judge of his own work, I will say that I think the book is going very well so far.
Thank you very much for your most intelligent criticism of “We the Living.” I think you are right in everything you said about it. This is the second time that you have analyzed my work better than I could have explained it myself. As an editor, you seem to be the answer to an author’s prayer. I knock on wood—but I don’t think the precaution is necessary.
Will it be all right if I fill out the questionnaire you sent me after I have finished my second part of the novel? I most definitely will fill it out—I don’t want to be a “bete noir” with the publicity department—but it will take time to compose an intelligent “biography” for
myself, those things always sound so awful
I am enclosing a separate letter about the first serial rights clause which you wanted—so that you can have it for your strictly legal file.
With my best regards,
Among Ogden’s comments on We the Living: “In ‘Second-Hand Lives’ you have hit on something more fundamental—more universal—than in We the Living… Andrei [Taganov] was no Roark. We could sympathize with his ideal, perhaps, but not his ideas… If it were a manuscript coming to my desk by an unknown author, I would say, ‘Here’s a gal who is going places, let’s take a chance on her.’ With the new manuscript you know my feeling: ‘Here’s a gal who has arrived, we can’t afford to miss her.’”