139 East 35th Street
New York City
May 17, 1943
Mr. DeWitt M. Emery
1635 Pittsfield Building
Dear Mr. Emery:
This is to explain my hurried long distance call. Since you have my book, you can see why I have neglected my correspondence so badly for over a year. The size of that book will serve, I hope, as my apology and justification.
I am enclosing a review of the book from yesterday’s Sunday Times.[*] It explains, better than I could do it myself, what connection there is between a story of architecture and our political cause. It shows why I consider my book important for our side. This review is the first one to state my theme clearly and honestly. The other New York reviewers (four of them, in the daily papers) have ignored the theme completely and spoken of the book only as a story about architecture. Since the theme is overstated (it’s practically in every line of the novel) such an omission could not be accidental. One case could be ascribed to stupidity. Four of them can be explained only by intention.
That is why I thought of the plan I discussed with you over the phone. If the Reds and some of our own cowardly “conservatives” do not want to let it be known that a book has come out on the theme of the Individual against the Collective, I want to break through and make it known, in a very loud manner, in spite of them. There is a vast audience for such a theme. The mood of the whole country is going our way. The people are with us—only the intellectuals remain Pink-New Deal-Collectivist. It’s a blockade and it must be broken.
In the last ten years, the Reds have done a good job of building up literary celebrities for their own purposes, such as Orson Welles, Clifford Odets, John Steinbeck, etc. These celebrities then appear on Red committees, endorse Red causes, build up other Red names, and the racket works as the radicals’ best propaganda method. It’s a monopoly now. Not one new novelist or playwright of our side has been allowed to break through in the last decade. I think it’s time our side took some action. It’s time we realized—as the Reds do—that spreading our ideas in the form of fiction is a great weapon, because it arouses the public to an emotional,
as well as intellectual response to our cause. Call it a sugar-coating—though I don’t like to say that. It works. Look at the Reds to see how it works. Look how savagely they have defended the art field from all intrusions of conservatives. They know its value.
So I think that my book will give our side the opportunity we need—if there are any intelligent “reactionaries” willing to stand by me. I want to find an organization or, preferably, a private person who would undertake to finance a campaign to publicize my book from the political-ideological angle on a large scale—as the books of Willkie, Quentin Reynolds, Vincent Shean, Steinbeck and the rest of the comrades have been publicized. My publishers are doing quite well with the book, but they can’t undertake the kind of campaign I have in mind and they can’t make it political.
Of course, I have a selfish motive in this—such a campaign would give me a name on a national scale. But I believe in selfish motives—and so do you, and so does any intelligent supporter of the capitalist system. However, you know me well enough to know that my financial gain is not my first concern in this case. I want the book and the ideas of this book to be spread all over the country. When you read it, you’ll see what an indictment of the New Deal it is, what it does to the “humanitarians” and what effect it could have on the next election—although I never mention the New Deal by name. People who’ve read it told me that, without any prompting on my part. And to prove to any potential backer that I’m not after his money to swell my own royalties, I am willing to give him such share of my rights in the book as he would consider proper to cover his risk.
I would still profit by the build-up. That will be my gain—and that will also be the gain of our side. You know what a good propagandist I am and what I can do, as witness that little manifesto I wrote in five days. Let our side now build me up into a “name”—then let me address meetings, head drives and endorse committees. I think I can do better than the Steinbecks and Orson Welleses—and God knows they’ve done plenty for their side. I can be a real asset to our “reactionaries”, and I say it as a matter of fact, not of conceit. I have always thought that the reactionaries should discover me. But I had nothing concrete to offer them. Now I have. Let them get behind me. I performed a miracle in getting a book like this published in these times, when the whole publishing world is trembling before Washington. Now let the reactionaries help me spread the book. If the book goes over big, it will break the way for other writers of our side. If it’s allowed to be killed by the Reds—our good industrialists had better not expect anyone else to stick his neck out in order to try to save them from getting their throats cut.
That is why I would be most grateful if you could help me find an intelligent “Tory” to back the book in this way. I saw Mr. Edmunds on the day after I spoke to you—he was about to leave for Washington, so I don’t know whether he has written to you about our conversation. He was very nice and he gave me two leads: one to reach the Du Ponts, the other to reach Senator Hawkes. I am following them up and will hope for the best. But I am particularly anxious to approach Henry Ford and Helen Frick, and I wonder whether it would be possible for you to help me with that.
As to the commercial aspects of the book’s future right now, it looks very promising. We have had considerable re-orders already and I’ve had a movie offer, which I am not in a hurry to accept. I want to see how things go and I haven’t even seen the out-of-town reviews as yet. But none of that is important at the moment—it’s the political side of it that I am anxious to push, and the publishers or booksellers can’t help me with that. They all have to be neutral and they’re all scared of controversy. It’s our side—if there is such a thing—that should help me now.
Well, this long letter might make up, I hope, for all the letters I haven’t written in a year. Let me know what you think of my idea. And—when you’ve read it—let me know what you think of the book. This is not a hint to rush you—I know how long that book is. Incidentally, I never received the letter you sent me and I’m sorry to have missed it—the mails are awful right now—there’s a collectivist enterprise in action.
With my best regards,
*Lorine Pruette’s review of The Fountainhead.