Tuesday, 31 July 2012

You are truly wonderful



Since she passed away last month, I've heard numerous stories of letters written by Nora Ephron — generous letters which were, more often than not, heartwarming, positive, and laced with humour. Below is just one example, written in 1994 to Elizabeth Wurtzel in response to a request to supply a blurb for Prozac Nation, the acclaimed memoir of her battle with depression. If only all refusals were so pleasant.

Transcript follows.

(Source: Elizabeth Wurtzel; Image: Nora Ephron, via.)



Transcript
Dear Elizabeth Wurtzel:

I'm sorry not to have written sooner, but your letter and book landed in a pile that other things got on top of. I finally read P.N. and I think you are a brilliant and funny writer. I don't give quotes, took myself out of the quote business years ago when my vet wrote a book (I had pets once) and asked for a quote. Not to link you with my vet. Anyway, you are truly wonderful and so is your book and I hope they do not send you to places like Detroit to promote it, which could make even a person with no history of depression depressed. I cannot imagine that you would ever want to write a screenplay, but if you ever do, call me up. I'm in the book.

Very best,

Nora Ephron

Monday, 30 July 2012

Whatever you like doing, do it!



Since joining Pixar 22 years ago, award-winning animator Pete Docter has been influential in bringing some of the studio's most successful movies to the big screen, including Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., and Up — the last two of which he also directed. In 2009, Martin Kelsey — a teacher at South Valley Middle School in Liberty — wrote to Docter and asked for some advice to pass on to his students.

His generous, encouraging response can be read below.

Transcript follows. Also of note: Pete Docter's handwritten letter to a fan in 2008.

(Source: Mr. Kelsey; Image: Pete Docter, via.)



Transcript
PIXAR

May 5, 2009

Dear Mr. Kelsey,

What would I tell a class of Middle School students?

When I was in Middle School, I liked to make cartoons. I was not the best artist in my class — Chad Prins was way better — but I liked making comic strips and animated films, so after High school it was no surprise that I got into The California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), a school that taught animation.

CalArts only accepts 25 students a year, and it attracts some of the best artists in the country. Suddenly I went from being one of the top artists in my class to being one of the absolute worst. Looking at the talented folks around me, I knew there was no way I would make it as a professional. Everyone else drew way better than I did. And I assumed the people who were the best artists would become the top animators.

But I loved animation, so I kept doing it. I made tons of films. I did animation for my friends' films. I animated scenes just for the fun of it. Most of my stuff was bad, but I had fun, and I tried everything I knew to get better.

Meanwhile, many of the people who could draw really well kind of rested around and didn't do a whole lot. It made me angry, because if I had their talent, man, the things I would do with it!

Years later, a lot of those guys who probably still draw really well don't actually work in animation at all. I don't know what happened to them. As for me, I got hired at Pixar Animation Studios, where I got to work on Toy Story 1 and 2, direct Monsters, Inc., and Up (due out May 29th this year).

So, Middle School Student, whatever you like doing, do it! And keep doing it. Work hard! In the end, passion and hard work beats out natural talent. (And anyway, if you love what you do, it's not really "work" anyway.)

Good luck,

(Signed, 'Pete')

Pete Docter

Thursday, 26 July 2012

The proverbial "really good" sci-fi movie



On March 31st of 1964, Stanley Kubrick initiated contact with author Arthur C. Clarke by way of the following letter, in which the filmmaker declared an interest in the two collaborating to produce, in his words, "the proverbial 'really good' science-fiction movie." Clarke was immediately keen  so much so that just three weeks later, on April 22nd, the pair met at the Plaza Hotel in New York and, according to Clarke, "talked for eight solid hours about science fiction."

Four years later, the groundbreaking result of their partnership — 2001: A Space Odyssey — was released to the public. 

(Source: Amy Fletcher; Image: Clarke & Kubrick on the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey, via.)

SOLARIS PRODUCTIONS, INC

March 31, 1964

Mr. Arthur C. Clarke
[Address redacted]

Dear Mr Clarke:

It's a very interesting coincidence that our mutual friend Caras mentioned you in a conversation we were having about a Questar telescope. I had been a great admirer of your books for quite a time and had always wanted to discuss with you the possibility of doing the proverbial "really good" science-fiction movie.

My main interest lies along these broad areas, naturally assuming great plot and character:
  1. The reasons for believing in the existence of intelligent extra-terrestrial life.
  2. The impact (and perhaps even lack of impact in some quarters) such discovery would have on Earth in the near future.
  3. A space probe with a landing and exploration of the Moon and Mars.
Roger tells me you are planning to come to New York this summer. Do you have an inflexible schedule? If not, would you consider coming sooner with a view to a meeting, the purpose of which would be to determine whether an idea might exist or arise which could sufficiently interest both of us enough to want to collaborate on a screenplay?

Incidentally, "Sky & Telescope" advertise a number of scopes. If one has the room for a medium size scope on a pedestal, say the size of a camera tripod, is there any particular model in a class by itself, as the Questar is for small portable scopes?

Best regards,

(Signed)

Stanley Kubrick

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

This is my son. He speaks Greek.



In 1957, at 18 years of age, future billionaire and founder of CNN, Ted Turner, informed his father that he would be majoring in Classics after being inspired by a professor at Brown University. His father was furious to say the least, and responded to his son's announcement with the following despairing letter — a letter which Ted later sent to the college paper in retaliation, who then reprinted it in full.

(Source: Call Me Ted; Image: Ted Turner, via.)

My dear son,

I am appalled, even horrified, that you have adopted Classics as a major. As a matter of fact, I almost puked on the way home today. I suppose that I am old-fashioned enough to believe that the purpose of an education is to enable one to develop a community of interest with his fellow men, to learn to know them, and to learn how to get along with them. In order to do this, of course, he must learn what motivates them, and how to impel them to be pleased with his objectives and desires.

I am a practical man, and for the life of me I cannot possibly understand why you should wish to speak Greek. With whom will you communicate in Greek? I have read, in recent years, the deliberations of Plato and Aristotle, and was interested to learn that the old bastards had minds which worked very similarly to the way our minds work today. I was amazed that they had so much time for deliberating and thinking, and was interested in the kind of civilization that would permit such useless deliberation. Then I got to thinking that it wasn't so amazing—after all they thought like we did because my Hereford cows today are very similar to those ten or twenty generations ago. I am amazed that you would adopt Plato and Aristotle as a vocation for several months when it might make pleasant and enjoyable reading to you in your leisure time as relaxation at a later date. For the life of me I cannot understand why you should be vitally interested in informing yourself about the influences of the Classics on English literature. It is not necessary for you to know how to make a gun in order to know how to use it. It would seem to me that it would be enough to learn English literature without going into what influence this or that ancient mythology might have upon it. As for Greek literature, the history of the Roman and Greek churches, and the art of those eras, it would seem to me that you would be much better off by learning something about contemporary literature and writings and things that might have some meaning to you with the people with whom you are to associate.

These subjects might give you a community of interest with an isolated few impractical dreamers, and a select group of college professors. God forbid!

It would seem to me that what you wish to do is to establish a community of interest with as many people as you possibly can. With people who are moving, who are doing things, and who have an interesting, not a decadent, outlook.

I suppose everybody has to be a snob of some sort, and I suppose you will feel that you are distinguishing yourself from the herd by becoming a Classical snob. I can see you drifting into a bar, belting down a few, turning around to the guy on the stool next to you—a contemporary billboard baron form Podunk, Iowa—and saying, "Well, what do you think about old Leonidas?" Your friend, the billboard baron, will turn to you and say, "Leonidas who?" You will turn to him and say, "Why Leonidas, the prominent Greek of the Twelfth Century." He will, in turn, say to you, "Well, who in the hell was he?" You will say, "Oh, you don't know about Leonidas?" and dismiss him, and not discuss anything else with him the rest of the evening. He will feel that he is a clodhopper from Podunk, Iowa. I suppose this will make you both happy, and as a result of it, you will wind up buying his billboard plant.

There is no question but this type of useless information will distinguish you, set you apart from the doers of the world. If I leave you enough money, you can retire to an ivory tower, and contemplate for the rest of your days the influence that the hieroglyphics of prehistoric man had upon the writings of William Faulkner. Incidentally, he was a contemporary of mine in Mississippi. We speak the same language—whores, sluts, strong words, and strong deeds.

It isn't really important what I think. It's important what you wish to do with your life. I just wish I could feel that the influence of those oddball professors and the ivory towers were developing you into the kind of a man we can both be proud of. I am quite sure that we both will be pleased and delighted when I introduce you to some friend of mine and say, "This is my son. He speaks Greek."

I had dinner during the Christmas holidays with an efficiency expert, an economic adviser to the nation of India, on the Board of Directors of Regents at Harvard University, who owns some 80,000 acres of valuable timber land down here, among his other assets. His son and his family were visiting him. He introduced me to his son, and then apologetically said, "He is a theoretical mathematician. I don't even know what he is talking about. He lives in a different world." After a little while I got to talking to his son, and the only thing he would talk to me about was about his work. I didn't know what he was talking about either so I left early.

If you are going to stay on at Brown, and be a professor of Classics, the courses you have adopted will suit you for a lifetime association with Gale Noyes. Perhaps he will even teach you to make jelly. In my opinion, it won't do much to help you learn to get along with people in this world. I think you are rapidly becoming a jackass, and the sooner you get out of that filthy atmosphere, the better it will suit me.

Oh, I know everybody says that a college education is a must. Well, I console myslef by saying that everybody said the world was square, except Columbus. You go ahead and go with the world, and I'll go it alone.

I hope I am right. You are in the hands of the Philistines, and dammit, I sent you there. I am sorry.

Devotedly,

Dad

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Tolstoy wasn't Sendak, either



Mid-1961, as he prepared to illustrate one of Tolstoy's books, 33-year-old Maurice Sendak wrote to his editor, the legendary Ursula Nordstrom, and expressed some doubts about his own capabilities as a writer. Her typically supportive and rousing response can be read below. Two years after this letter was written, Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are—edited by Nordstrom—was published.

(Source: Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom; Image: Ursula Nordstrom in 1969, via.)

August 21, 1961

Dear Maurice,

I've been out of the office with a bad throat and assorted aches, which is why I haven't written you before. Also I spent the entire day Saturday writing you a big fat long-hand letter about Tolstoy, Life, Death, and other items which you can get at your friendly Green Stamps store. And then I left it at home. Will now send the gist of what I think I wrote, and it will be more legible than my handwriting anyhow.

OK about the Zolotow book, of course. We're sorry but she is so glad you're illustrating it, and so are we, that nothing can cloud our pleasure.

I was glad to have your note about the Doris Orgel story. She is making a few changes which she thinks will improve it, and it will really be a charming book and quite original. She came to see me. Isn't she an interesting person? I was much impressed with her, and I was irritated all over again with myself for not having been enthusiastic about Dwarf Long Nose.

Your cabin by the lake, and your own boat, sound fine. Please remember that the moon will be full on Friday, the 25th, and take a look at it. It should be beautiful over Lake Champlain.

I loved your long letter and hope it clarified some things for you to write it. Sure, Tolstoy and Melville have a lot of furniture in their books and they also know a lot of facts ("where the mouth of a river is") but that isn't the only sort of genius, you know that. You are more of a poet in your writing, at least right now. Yes, Tolstoy is wonderful (his publisher asked me for a quote) but you can express as much emotion and "cohesion and purpose" in some of your drawings as there is in War and Peace. I mean that. You write and draw from the inside out—which is why I said poet.

I was absorbed when I read you had "the sense of having lived one's life so narrowly—with eyes and senses turned inward. An actual sense of the breadth of life does not exist in me. I am narrowly concerned with me... All I will ever express will be the little I have gleaned of life for my own purposes." But isn't that what every fine artist-writer ever expressed? If your expression is now more an impressionist one that doesn't make it any less important, or profound. That whole passage in your letter was intensely interesting to me. Yes, you did live "with eyes and senses turned inward" but you had to. Socrates said "Know thyself." And now you do know yourself better than you did, and your work is getting richer and deeper, and it has such an exciting, emotional quality. I know you don't need and didn't ask for compliments from me. These remarks are not compliments—just facts.

The great Russians and Melville and Balzac etc. wrote in another time, in leisure, to be read in leisure. I know what you mean about those long detailed rich novels—my god the authors knew all about war, and agriculture, and politics. But that is one type of writing, for a more leisurely time than ours. You have your own note to sound, and you are sounding it with greater power and beauty all the time. Yes, Moby Dick is great, but honestly don't you see great gobs of it that could come out? Does that offend you, coming from a presumptuous editor? I remember lines of the most piercing beauty (after he made a friend there was something beautiful about "no more would my splintered hand and shattered heart be turned against the wolfish world.") But there are many passages which could have been cut. But I wander...

You wrote "my world is furniture-less. It is all feeling." Well feeling (emotion) combined with an artist's discipline is the rarest thing in the world. You love and admire the work of some other contemporary artists and writers today but really, think how few of them have any vigorous emotional vitality? What you have is RARE. You also wrote "Knowledge is the driving force that puts creative passion to work"—a true statement, and also very well put. But it would include self knowledge for some as well as knowledge of facts for others. (Is this English I'm writing? I need an editor.)

You reminded me that you are 33. I always think 29, but OK. Anyhow, aren't the thirties wonderful? And 33 is still young for an artist with your potentialities. I mean, you may not do your deepest, fullest, richest work until you are in your forties. You are growing and getting better all the time. I hope it was good for you to write me the thoughts that came to you. It was very good for me to read what you wrote, and to think about your letter. I'm sorry you have writers cramp as you put it but glad that you're putting down "pure Sendakian vaguery" (I think you invented that good word). The more you put down the better and I'll be glad to see anything you want to show me. You referred to your "atoms worth of talent." You may not be Tolstoy, but Tolstoy wasn't Sendak, either. You have a vast and beautiful genius. You wrote "It would be wonderful to want to believe in God. The aimlessness of living is too insane." That is the creative artist—a penalty of the creative artist—wanting to make order out of chaos. The rest of us plain people just accept disorder (if we even recognize it) and get a bang out of our five beautiful senses, if we're lucky. Well, not making any sense but will send this anyhow.

Hope the rest of your vacation is wonderful. I'll see you when you get back. And thanks again for writing.

Ursula

You know one of these days you'll go back to Old Potato, or a version of that situation, and it will have "cohesion and purpose" and will have so many universal emotions within its relatively simple framework. Love, fear, acceptance, rejection, re-assurance, and growth. No more for now.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Sure, go ahead



In February of 1945, James Thurber — much-loved New Yorker cartoonist and author of, most notably, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty — delivered, quite brilliantly, a playful jab to his attorney and friend, Morris Ernst, by way of the following letter — written in response to a request from the lawyer to reprint some of Thurber's drawings in a forthcoming book.

(Source: The Thurber Letters; Image: James Thurber, via.)

410 East 57th St.,
N.Y. 22,
N.Y.

Feb. 5, 1945

Dear Morris:

This is to certify, declare, state and assert that I hereby and herewith cause to reside, exist and otherwise be, in you, Morris Ernst, the right, privilege and power to use, reprint and reproduce on the cover of your forthcoming book here and after to be known as The Book, any or all of the alleged drawings said to be of, about or in reference to the party of the first part (herein before not previously identified) but here and after to be referred to as Morris Ernst.

It is understood and hereby set forth that the above mentioned right, privilege and power do not entail any reward, recompense or honorarium, and that they are to be exercised without let, hindrance, suggestion or specification on the part of the party of the first part, herein below, to be set forth as the assignor.

It is further understood that any cracks, gags or drolleries which may be made, delivered, vouchsafed or otherwise said by the party of the first part or the party of the second part in regard to or in connection with the above mentioned right, privilege and power, must be of the first order, class and type.

Nothing herein embodied, implied or hinted at, however, shall be construed as an attempt, effort or move to withdraw, modify, or in any other wise change this simple fact: Dear Morris—sure, go ahead.

Respectfully yours,

Jim

Thursday, 19 July 2012

You've got to sell your heart



Late-1938, eager to gain some feedback on her work, aspiring young author and Radcliffe sophomore Frances Turnbull sent a copy of her latest story to celebrated novelist and friend of the family, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Before long the feedback arrived, in the form of the somewhat harsh but admirably honest reply seen below.

(Source: F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters; Image: F. Scott Fitzgerald, via.)

November 9, 1938

Dear Frances:

I've read the story carefully and, Frances, I'm afraid the price for doing professional work is a good deal higher than you are prepared to pay at present. You've got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell.

This is the experience of all writers. It was necessary for Dickens to put into Oliver Twist the child's passionate resentment at being abused and starved that had haunted his whole childhood. Ernest Hemingway's first stories "In Our Time" went right down to the bottom of all that he had ever felt and known. In "This Side of Paradise" I wrote about a love affair that was still bleeding as fresh as the skin wound on a haemophile.

The amateur, seeing how the professional having learned all that he'll ever learn about writing can take a trivial thing such as the most superficial reactions of three uncharacterized girls and make it witty and charming—the amateur thinks he or she can do the same. But the amateur can only realize his ability to transfer his emotions to another person by some such desperate and radical expedient as tearing your first tragic love story out of your heart and putting it on pages for people to see.

That, anyhow, is the price of admission. Whether you are prepared to pay it or, whether it coincides or conflicts with your attitude on what is "nice" is something for you to decide. But literature, even light literature, will accept nothing less from the neophyte. It is one of those professions that wants the "works." You wouldn't be interested in a soldier who was only a little brave.

In the light of this, it doesn't seem worth while to analyze why this story isn't saleable but I am too fond of you to kid you along about it, as one tends to do at my age. If you ever decide to tell your stories, no one would be more interested than,

Your old friend,

F. Scott Fitzgerald

P.S. I might say that the writing is smooth and agreeable and some of the pages very apt and charming. You have talent—which is the equivalent of a soldier having the right physical qualifications for entering West Point.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

John is an admirable name



In February of 1892, after one of his plays was mauled by a drama critic, Oscar Wilde wrote the following letter to the publication's editor and complained — not about the review itself, but about the critic's insistence on naming him "John Wilde."

(Source: Oscar Wilde: A Life in Letters; Image: Oscar Wilde, via.)

16 Tite Street

February, 1892

Sir,

John is an admirable name. It was the name of the most charming of all the Disciples, the one who did not write the Fourth Gospel. It was the name of the most perfect of all the English poets of this century, as it was the greatest English poet of all the centuries. Popes and princes, wicked or wonderful, have been called John. John has been the name of several eminent journalists and criminals. But John is not amongst the many delightful names (they included, besides Oscar, Fingal O'Flahertie Wills) given to me at my baptism. So kindly let me correct the statement made by your reckless dramatic critic in his last and unavailing attack on my play.

The attempt he makes to falsify one of the most important facts in the history of the arts must be checked at once.

Oscar Wilde

Friday, 13 July 2012

I'm unhappy, hope you're unhappy too



Here we have the first letter sent by 21-year-old Morrissey to his Scottish pen-pal, Robert Mackie in 1980, in response to a personal ad in Sounds magazine. His note was written on the back of a James Dean photo (James Dean was of course the subject of a book written by Morrissey around that time), and as a result of the letter Morrissey and Mackie became pen-pals for 18 months. The Smiths formed in 1983.

A couple of Morrissey's letters have already been featured on Letters of Note and can be read here.

(Source: This Charmless Girl; Image of 25-year-old Morrissey via.)



Transcript
Steven Morrissey
384- Kings Rd
STRETFORD
Manchester- M32 8GW

Dear Person,

So nice to know there's another soul out there, even if it is in Glasgow.

Does being Scottish bother you? Manchester is a lovely little place, if you happen to be a bedridden deaf mute.

I'm unhappy, hope you're unhappy too.

In poverty,

Steven

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Regarding your dam complaint



In December of 1997, as a result of an official complaint from a neighbour, a Michigan resident named Stephen Tvedten received, indirectly, a stern warning from the region's Department of Environmental Quality in the form of a letter—a letter in which he was given six weeks to remove two "unauthorized" and "hazardous" dams from the stream on his property, or else face prosecution. Tvedten’s amusing response, in which he makes a mockery of the complaint and refuses to comply on behalf of the beavers who built those dams, soon made the local news. The case was quickly dropped.

This letter, along with 124 other fascinating pieces of correspondence, can be found in the bestselling book, Letters of Note. For more info, visit Books of Note.

STATE OF MICHIGAN

Reply to:
GRAND RAPIDS DISTRICT OFFICE
STATE OFFICE BUILDING 6TH FLOOR
350 OTTAWA NW
GRAND RAPIDS MI 49503-2341

JOHN ENGLER, Governor
DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY
HOLLISTER BUILDING, PO BOX 30473, LANSING MI 48909-7973
INTERNET: http://www.deq.state.mi us
RUSSELL J. HARDING, Director

December 17, 1997

CERTIFIED

Mr. Ryan DeVries
2088 Dagget
Pierson, MI 49339

Dear Mr. DeVries:

SUBJECT: DEQ File No. 97-59-0023-1 T11N, R10W, Sec. 20, Montcalm County

It has come to the attention of the Department of Environmental Quality that there has been recent unauthorized activity on the above referenced parcel of property. You have been certified as the legal landowner and/or contractor who did the following unauthorized activity:

Construction and maintenance of two wood debris dams across the outlet stream of Spring Pond. A permit must be issued prior to the start of this type of activity. A review of the Department's files show that no permits have been issued.

Therefore, the Department has determined that this activity is in violation of Part 301,. Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Michigan Compiled Laws annotated. The Department has been informed that one or both of the dams partially failed during a recent rain event, causing debris dams and flooding at downstream locations. We find that dams of this nature are inherently hazardous and cannot be permitted. The Department therefore orders you to cease and desist all unauthorized activities at this location, and to restore the stream to a free-flow condition by removing all wood and brush forming the dams from the strewn channel. All restoration work shall be completed no later than January 31, 1998. Please notify this office when the restoration has been completed so that a follow-up site inspection may be scheduled by our staff. Failure to comply with this request, or any further unauthorized activity on the site, may result in this case being referred for elevated enforcement action. We anticipate and would appreciate your full cooperation in this matter.

Please feel free to contact me at this office if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

David L. Price
District Representative
Land and Water Management Division
616-356-0269

dlp:bjc

cc: LWMD, Lansing
MontcaImCEA
Pierson Township
Lieutenant Mary C. Sherzer, DNR LED

------------------------------------------

Reply:

1/6/98

David L. Price
District Representative
Land and Water Management Division
Grand Rapids District Office
State Office Bldg., 6th Floor
350 Ottawa, N.W.
Grand Rapids, MI 49503-2341

Dear Mr. Price:

Re: DEQ File No. 97-59-0023; T11N, R10W, Sec 20; Montcalm County

Your certified letter dated 12/17/97 has been handed to me to respond to. You sent out a great deal of carbon copies to a lot of people, but you neglected to include their addresses. You will, therefore, have to send them a copy of my response.

First of all, Mr. Ryan DeVries is not the legal landowner and/or contractor at 2088 Dagget, Pierson, Michigan — I am the legal owner and a couple of beavers are in the (State unauthorized) process of constructing and maintaining two wood "debris" dams across the outlet stream of my Spring Pond. While I did not pay for, nor authorize their dam project, I think they would be highly offended you call their skillful use of natural building materials "debris". I would like to challenge you to attempt to emulate their dam project any dam time and/or any dam place you choose. I believe I can safely state there is no dam way you could ever match their dam skills, their dam resourcefulness, their dam ingenuity, their dam persistence, their dam determination and/or their dam work ethic.

As to your dam request the beavers first must fill out a dam permit prior to the start of this type of dam activity, my first dam question to you is: are you trying to discriminate against my Spring Pond Beavers or do you require all dam beavers throughout this State to conform to said dam request? If you are not discriminating against these particular beavers, please send me completed copies of all those other applicable beaver dam permits. Perhaps we will see if there really is a dam violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Michigan Compiled Laws annotated.

My first concern is — aren't the dam beavers entitled to dam legal representation? The Spring Pond Beavers are financially destitute and are unable to pay for said dam representation — so the State will have to provide them with a dam lawyer. The Department's dam concern that either one or both of the dams failed during a recent rain event causing dam flooding is proof we should leave the dam Spring Pond Beavers alone rather than harassing them and calling their dam names. If you want the dam stream "restored" to a dam free-flow condition — contact the dam beavers — but if you are going to arrest them (they obviously did not pay any dam attention to your dam letter — being unable to read English) — be sure you read them their dam Miranda first.

As for me, I am not going to cause more dam flooding or dam debris jams by interfering with these dam builders. If you want to hurt these dam beavers — be aware I am sending a copy of your dam letter and this response to PETA. If your dam Department seriously finds all dams of this nature inherently hazardous and truly will not permit their existence in this dam State — I seriously hope you are not selectively enforcing this dam policy — or once again both I and the Spring Pond Beavers will scream prejudice!

In my humble opinion, the Spring Pond Beavers have a right to build their dam unauthorized dams as long as the sky is blue, the grass is green and water flows downstream. They have more dam right than I to live and enjoy Spring Pond. So, as far as I and the beavers are concerned, this dam case can be referred for more dam elevated enforcement action now. Why wait until 1/31/98? The Spring Pond Beavers may be under the dam ice then, and there will be no dam way for you or your dam staff to contact/harass them then. In conclusion, I would like to bring to your attention a real environmental quality (health) problem; bears are actually defecating in our woods. I definitely believe you should be persecuting the defecating bears and leave the dam beavers alone. If you are going to investigate the beaver dam, watch your step! (The bears are not careful where they dump!)

Being unable to comply with your dam request, and being unable to contact you on your dam answering machine, I am sending this response to your dam office.

Sincerely,

Stephen L. Tvedten

cc: PETA

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

let me begin by not beginnin



Early-January of 1964, at which point his third studio album was soon-to-be released, 22-year-old Bob Dylan wrote the following letter to Sis Cunningham and Gordon Friesen — both founding editors of Broadside, a highly influential underground magazine of the period — and spoke of, amongst other things, his recent rise to fame, the money and guilt that came with it, and his love for Suze Rotolo. The letter was published in the magazine's next issue.

Below is an image of its first page, followed by a full transcript; the original signed letter can be seen its entirety, here.

(Source: Broadside Magazine; Image: Bob Dylan, via Lost in the Cloud.)



Transcript
A LETTER FROM BOB DYLAN

for sis and gordon an all broads of good sizes

let me begin by not beginnin
let me start not by startin but by continuin
it sometimes gets so hard for me --
I am now famous
I am now famous by the rules of public famiousity
it snuck up on me
an pulverized me...
I never knew what was happenin
it is hard for me t walk down the same streets
I did before the same way because now
I truly dont know
who is waitin for my autograph...
I dont know if I like givin my autograph
oh yes sometimes I do...
but other times the back of my mind tells me
it is not honest... for I am just fulfillin
a myth t somebody who'd actually treasure my
handwritin more'n his own handwritin...
this gets very complicated for me
an proves t me that I am livin in a contradiction...
t quote mr froyd
I get quite paranoyd
an I know this isn't right
it is not a useful healthy attitude for one t have
but I truly believe that everybody has their fears
everybody yes everybody...
I do not think it good anymore t overlook them
I think they ought t be admitted...
an I think that all fellings should be admitted...
people ask why do I write the way I do
how foolish
how monsterish
a question like that hits me...
it makes me think that I'm doin nothin
it makes me think that I'm not being heard
yes above all the mumble jumble an rave praises
an all the records I've sold... thru all the packed
houses I play... thru all the communication systems
an rants an bellows an yellin an clappin comes
a statement like "why do you do what you do"
what is this?
some kind of constipated idiot world?
some kind of horseshoe game we're all playin
responding only when a ringer clangs
no no no
not my world
everybody plays in my world
aint nobody first second third or fourth
everybody shoots at the same time
an ringers dont count
an everybody wins
an nobody loses
cause everybody lives an breathes
an takes up space
an cant be overlooked
an I am a people too
I cannot pretend I'm not
an I feel guilty
god how can I help not feel guilty
I walk down on the bowery and give money away
an still I feel guilty for I know I do not
have enuff money t give away...
an people say "think a yourself, dylan, you're
gonna need it someday" and I say yeah yeah
an I think maybe about it for a split second
but then the floods of vomit guilt swoop my
drunken head an I spread forth more gut torn
bloody money from the depths of my forsaken
pockets... an I whisper "ah it's so useless"
man so many people need so many things
an what am I anyway? some kind a messiah walkin
around...?
hell no I'm not
an I ask why dont other people with things give
some of it away
an I know the answer without lookin
security security security...
everybody wants security
they want t be secure
they want t be protected
an I say protected?
protected aginst what?
protected against starvin I guess
an power too
an protected against the forces that they know will
get them if they lose their money.
an why does it have t be like that?
man why are these walls built?
who is this god that is so feared?
certainly not in my life this isnt
yes I have my fears but mine are the fears of
the mind. the fears of the head
a lonely person with money is still a lonely person
I have never had much money before
an so it is easy for me I guess t spend it
an overlook it
but I'm sure that many other people could overlook
some of theirs too
I'm not speakin now of the century ridin millionares
but rather of "get theirs and get out" people
I dont understand them
I dont understand them at all
there's many things I admit I dont understand
I dont understand the blacklist
I dont understand how people aginst it go along
with it
I'm talkin about the full thing
not just a few of us refusin t be on the show
I'm talkin about the poeple that stand up
against it violently an then in some way have something t do with it...
not just the singers mind you
but the managers an agents an buyers an sellers...
they are the dishonest ones
for they are never seen
they play both sides against each other
an expect t be repected by everybody

the heroes of this battle are not me an Joan
an the Kingston Trio nor Peter Paul an Mary
for none of us need t go on that show
none of us really need that kind of dumbness
but there's some that could use it
for they could use the money
I mean people like Tom Paxton, Barbara Dane,
an Johnny Herald... they are the heroes if
such a word has t be used here
they are the ones that lose materialistically
ah yes but in their own minds they dont
an that is much more important
it means much more
we need more kind a people like that
poeple that cant go against their conscience
no matter what they might gain
an I've come to think that that might be the most
important thing in the whole wide world...
not going against your conscience
nor your own natural senses
for I think that that is all the truth there
is... an no more
thru all the gossip, lies, religions, cults
myths, gods, history books, social books,
all books, politics, decrees, rules, laws,
boundarie lines, bibles, legends, an bathroom
writings, there is no guidance at all except
from ones own natural senses
from being born
an it can only be exchanged
it cant be preached
nor sold
nor even understood...

my mind sometimes runs like a roll of toilet paper
an I hate like hell t see it unravel an unwind
at my empty walls
I'm movin out a here soon
yes the landlord has beaten me it hurts t tell you.
this place I am typin in is so filthy
my clothes cover the floor an once in a while
I pick up somethin an use it for a blanket...
the damn heat goes off at ten
an dont come on til ten...
that's mornin wise
gushes of warm smelly heat always wake me up
when I sleep here
the plaster falls constantly
an the floor is tiltin an rottin
but somehow there is a beauty to it
columbia records gave me a record player
of the goodness of some keeps on amazin me
an sometimes I play it.
gettin back t the landlord tho
he is really too much
he owns I guess three buildings
I pay him way too high
an I'm gettin screwed an I know it
an he knows it
but I just dont have the time t go down t the
rent control board. I been told they'd get after
him but I'm so lazy. when sue was here he was
gonna jack up the price cause he said I never told
him I had a wife. you really got t see this place
t believe it. I ought a've jacked him up a long
time ago an used him for heat. last year he put
in a new window (there was a god damn hole in the
other one) man it was like I asked 'm for his blood relation
or something. (which he'd probably give away)
anyway the record player's on now
an I'm listenin t Pete sing Guantanamera for
the billionth time. I dont have many folk music
records (I dont have many records really) but
I do have that one of Pete's.
god it's like I go in a trance
he is so human I could cry
he tells me so much
he makes me feel so good
it's as tho of all the things that're sold t make
one feel better, aint none of it worth while.
all the cars, an clothes, an trinkets an foods,
an jewels an diamonds an lollypops an gifts of
glad tidings, just dont do nothin for the soul.
I believe I'd rather listen t Pete sing Guantanamera than t
own everything there is t own...
(that's my own private selfishness shinin thru there)
yes for me he is truly a saint
an I love him
perhaps more than I could show
(as always is the case ha)

I think of love in weird terms.
sometimes I even feel guilty about it
because I know I love sue
but I should love everybody like I love sue
an in all honesty I dont
I just love her that way
an I say what way?
an a voice says "that way"
an I get quite up tite
an I know I have a long way t go
when the day comes when I can love everything
that breathes the way I love sue then
I will truly be a Jesus Christ ha ha
(but I dont wanna be a Jesus Christ ha ha)
an so I am again contradictin myself
away away be gone all you demons
an just let me be me
human me
ruthless me
wild me
gentle me
all kinds of me

saw the last issue of broadside
an especially flipped out over
"talkin Merry Christmas"
I have never met Paul Wolfe but I'd like to
he has an uncanny sense of touch
as for Phil, I just cant keep up with him
an he's gettin better an better an better
(spoke with someone who was with him in Hazzard
named Hamish Sinclair.. an englishman
of high virtues an common tongue)
I want t get over an see Phil's baby
I'm told the girl came out yellin about
the bomb. good girl

my novel is going noplace
absolutely noplace
like it dont even tell a story
it's about a million scenes long
an takes place on a billion scraps
of paper... certainly I cant make nothin out of
it.
(oh I forgot.
hallelullah t you for puttin Brecht in your
same last issue. he should be as widely known as
Woody an should be as widely read as Mickey Spalline
an as widely listened to as Eisenhower.)

anyway I'm writin a play out of this here so called
novel (navel would be better I guess)
an I'm up to my belly button in it.
quite involved yes
I've discovered what the power of playwriting means
as opposed t song writing means
altho both are equal, I'm wrapped in playwriting
for the minute, my songs tell only about me an how
I feel but in the play all the characters tell how
they feel. I realize that his might be more confusin
for some but in the total reality of things it might
be much better for some too. I think at best you could
say that the characters will tell in an hour
what would take me, alone, two weeks t sing about

I shall get up t see you one of these days
just cause I haven't in a while please dont think
I'm not with you. I am with you more'n ever.
yours perhaps is the only paper that I am on the
side of every single song you print
an I am with with with you

my nite is closin again now
an I shall drift off in dreams
an climb velvet carpets up t the stars
with newsweek magazines burnin an disappointin
people smoulderin and disgustin tongues blazin
an jealous mongrel dogs walkin on hot coals
before my smilin unharmful eyes
(oh such nitemares)

an I shall wake in the mornin an try t start
lovin again

I got a letter from Pete an he closed by sayin
"take it easy but take it" I thought about that
for an hour or more when I reached my conclusion
of what it really meant I either cried or laughed
(I cant remember which) I will repeat the same an
add "give it easy but give it" an I'll think about
that for an hour an at the end either cry or laugh
(I'll write you another letter an tell you which
one it is)

all right then
faretheewell
shaloom an vamoose
I'm off agian
off t the hazzards an lost angels an minneapoilcemen
an boss towns an burnin hams an everything else
combined an combustioned for me...
tryin t remain sane at all times

love t agnes
she is one of the true talents of the universe
I've always thought that an would like t see her
again some time

love t everybody in your house

see yuh

softly an sleepy
but ready an waitin

Bob Dylan

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Think always of me



In the early hours of October 16th, 1793, nine months after the execution of her husband, Louis XVI, the 37-year-old former Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, wrote the following tear-stained farewell letter to her sister-in-law, Madame Elisabeth, and her children. Just eight hours later, Marie Antoinette was beheaded.

Her letter never reached Elisabeth.

Transcript and translation follow.

(Source: Tea at Trianon; Image: Marie Antoinette, via.)







Transcript
Ce 16 octobre, à quatre heures et demie du matin.

C'est à vous, ma soeur, que j'écris pour la dernière fois. Je viens d'être condamnée, non pas à une mort honteuse – elle ne l'est que pour les criminels, mais à aller rejoindre votre frère. Comme lui innocente j'espère montrer la même fermeté que lui dans ses derniers moments. Je suis calme comme on l'est quand la conscience ne reproche rien. J'ai un profond regret d'abandonner mes pauvres enfants. Vous savez que je n'existais que pour eux et vous, ma bonne et tendre soeur, vous qui avez par votre amitié tout sacrifié pour être avec nous, dans quelle position je vous laisse! J'ai appris par le plaidoyer même du procès que ma fille était séparée de vous. Hélas! la pauvre enfant, je n'ose pas lui écrire, elle ne recevrait pas ma lettre, je ne sais pas même si celle-ci vous parviendra. Recevez pour eux deux ici ma bénédiction; j'espère qu'un jour, lorsqu'ils seront plus grands, ils pourront se réunir avec vous et jouir en entier de vos tendres soins. Qu'ils pensent tous deux à ce que je n'ai cessé de leur inspirer: que les principes et l'exécution exacte de ses devoirs sont la première base de la vie, que leur amitié et leur confiance mutuelle en fera le bonheur. Que ma fille sente qu'à l'âge qu'elle a, elle doit toujours aider son frère par les conseils que l'expérience qu'elle aura de plus que lui et son amitié pourront lui inspirer; que mon fils, à son tour, rende à sa soeur tous les soins, les services que l'amitié peuvent inspirer; qu'ils sentent enfin tous deux que dans quelque position où ils pourront se trouver ils ne seront vraiment heureux que par leur union; qu'ils prennent exemple de nous. Combien, dans nos malheurs, notre amitié nous a donné de consolation! Et dans le bonheur on jouit doublement quand on peut le partager avec un ami, et où en trouver de plus tendre, de plus uni que dans sa propre famille? Que mon fils n'oublie jamais les derniers mots de son père que je lui répète expressément: qu'il ne cherche jamais à venger notre mort.

J'ai à vous parler d'une chose bien pénible à mon coeur. Je sais combien cet enfant doit vous avoir fait de la peine. Pardonnez-lui, ma chère soeur, pensez à l'âge qu'il a et combien il est facile de faire dire à un enfant ce qu'on veut et même ce qu'il ne comprend pas. Un jour viendra, j'espère, où il ne sentira que mieux le prix de vos bontés et de votre tendresse pour tous deux. Il me reste à vous confier encore mes dernières pensées. J'aurais voulu les écrire dès le commencement du procès, mais, outre qu'on ne me laissait pas écrire, la marche a été si rapide que je n'en aurais réellement pas eu le temps.

Je meurs dans la religion catholique, apostolique et romaine, dans celle de mes pères, dans celle où j'ai été élevée et que j'ai toujours professée, n'ayant aucune consolation spirituelle à attendre, ne sachant pas s'il existe encore ici des prêtres de cette religion, et même le lieu où je suis les exposerait trop s'ils y entraient une fois. Je demande sincèrement pardon à Dieu de toutes les fautes que j'ai pu commettre depuis que j'existe; j'espère que, dans sa bonté, il voudra bien recevoir mes derniers voeux, ainsi que ceux que je fais depuis longtemps pour qu'il veuille bien recevoir mon âme dans sa miséricorde et sa bonté. Je demande pardon à tous ceux que je connais et à vous, ma soeur, en particulier, de toutes les peines que, sans le vouloir, j'aurais pu leur causer. Je pardonne à tous mes ennemis le mal qu'ils m'ont fait. Je dis ici adieu à mes tantes et à tous mes frères et soeurs. J'avais des amis, l'idée d'en être séparée pour jamais et leurs peines sont un des plus grands regrets que j'emporte en mourant; qu'ils sachent du moins que, jusqu'à mon dernier moment, j'ai pensé à eux.

Adieu, ma bonne et tendre soeur; puisse cette lettre vous arriver. Pensez toujours à moi; je vous embrasse de tout mon coeur ainsi que ces pauvres et chers enfants. Mon Dieu, qu'il est déchirant de les quitter pour toujours! Adieu, adieu! je ne vais plus m'occuper que de mes devoirs spirituels. Comme je ne suis pas libre dans mes actions, on m'amènera peut-être un prêtre; mais je proteste ici que je ne lui dirai pas un mot et que je le traiterai comme un être absolument étranger.

---------------------------------

Translation:

16th October, 4.30 A.M.

It is to you, my sister, that I write for the last time. I have just been condemned, not to a shameful death, for such is only for criminals, but to go and rejoin your brother. Innocent like him, I hope to show the same firmness in my last moments. I am calm, as one is when one's conscience reproaches one with nothing. I feel profound sorrow in leaving my poor children: you know that I only lived for them and for you, my good and tender sister. You who out of love have sacrificed everything to be with us, in what a position do I leave you! I have learned from the proceedings at my trial that my daughter was separated from you. Alas! poor child; I do not venture to write to her; she would not receive my letter. I do not even know whether this will reach you. Do you receive my blessing for both of them. I hope that one day when they are older they may be able to rejoin you, and to enjoy to the full your tender care. Let them both think of the lesson which I have never ceased to impress upon them, that the principles and the exact performance of their duties are the chief foundation of life; and then mutual affection and confidence in one another will constitute its happiness. Let my daughter feel that at her age she ought always to aid her brother by the advice which her greater experience and her affection may inspire her to give him. And let my son in his turn render to his sister all the care and all the services which affection can inspire. Let them, in short, both feel that, in whatever positions they may be placed, they will never be truly happy but through their union. Let them follow our example. In our own misfortunes how much comfort has our affection for one another afforded us! And, in times of happiness, we have enjoyed that doubly from being able to share it with a friend; and where can one find friends more tender and more united than in one's own family? Let my son never forget the last words of his father, which I repeat emphatically; let him never seek to avenge our deaths.

I have to speak to you of one thing which is very painful to my heart, I know how much pain the child must have caused you. Forgive him, my dear sister; think of his age, and how easy it is to make a child say whatever one wishes, especially when he does not understand it. It will come to pass one day, I hope, that he will better feel the value of your kindness and of your tender affection for both of them. It remains to confide to you my last thoughts. I should have wished to write them at the beginning of my trial; but, besides that they did not leave me any means of writing, events have passed so rapidly that I really have not had time.

I die in the Catholic Apostolic and Roman religion, that of my fathers, that in which I was brought up, and which I have always professed. Having no spiritual consolation to look for, not even knowing whether there are still in this place any priests of that religion (and indeed the place where I am would expose them to too much danger if they were to enter it but once), I sincerely implore pardon of God for all the faults which I may have committed during my life. I trust that, in His goodness, He will mercifully accept my last prayers, as well as those which I have for a long time addressed to Him, to receive my soul into His mercy. I beg pardon of all whom I know, and especially of you, my sister, for all the vexations which, without intending it, I may have caused you. I pardon all my enemies the evils that they have done me. I bid farewell to my aunts and to all my brothers and sisters. I had friends. The idea of being forever separated from them and from all their troubles is one of the greatest sorrows that I suffer in dying. Let them at least know that to my latest moment I thought of them.

Farewell, my good and tender sister. May this letter reach you. Think always of me; I embrace you with all my heart, as I do my poor dear children. My God, how heart-rending it is to leave them forever! Farewell! Farewell! I must now occupy myself with my spiritual duties, as I am not free in my actions. Perhaps they will bring me a priest; but I here protest that I will not say a word to him, but that I will treat him as a total stranger.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Letter to a Young Poet



In 1902, a 19-year-old aspiring poet named Franz Kappus sent a letter and some of his work to the hugely influential Bohemian-Austrian poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, and politely asked for some feedback. Some months later, the following invaluable response reached Kappus, and it didn't end there — over the course of the next 5 years, Rilke continued to write to him with advice. 

In 1929, three years after his idol's death, Franz Kappus published Rilke's ten letters in a book.

(Source: Letters to a Young Poet; Image: Rainer Maria Rilke, via The BBC.)

Paris,
February 17th, 1903

Your letter only reached me a few days ago. I want to thank you for its great and kind confidence. I can hardly do more. I cannot go into the nature of your verses; for all critical intention is too far from me. With nothing can one approach a work of art so little as with critical words: they always come down to more or less happy misunderstandings. Things are not all so comprehensible and expressible as one would mostly have us believe; most events are inexpressible, taking place in a realm which no word has ever entered, and more inexpressible than all else are works of art, myterious existences, the life of which, while ours passes away, endures.

After these prefatory remarks, let me only tell you further that your verses have no individual style, although they do show quiet and hidden beginnings of something personal. I feel this most clearly in the last peom, "My Soul." There something of your own wants to come through to word and melody. And in the lovely peom "To Leopardi" there does perhaps grow up a sort of kinship with that great solitary man. Nevertheless the poems are not yet anything on their own account, nothing independent, even the last and the one to Leopardi. Your kind letter, which accompanied them, does not fail to make clear to me various shortcomings which I felt in reading yur verses without however being able to specifically name them.

You ask whether your verses are good. You ask me. You have asked others before. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are disturbed when certain editors reject your efforts. Now (since you have allowed me to advise you ) I beg you to give up all that. You are looking outward, and that above all you should not do now. Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all—ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple, "I must," then build your life according to this necessity; your life even into its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it. Then draw near to Nature. Then try, like some first human being, to say what you see and experience and love and lose. Do not write love-poems; avoid at first those forms that are too facile or commonplace: they are the most difficult, for it takes a great, fully matured power to give something of your own where good and even excellent traditions come to mind in quantity. Therefore save yourself from these general themes and seek those which your own everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, passing thoughts and the belief in some sort of beauty—describe all these with loving, quiet, humble sincerity, and use, to express yourself, the things in your environment, the images from your dreams, and the objects of your memory. If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place. And if you were in some prison the walls of which let none of the sounds of the world come to your senses—would you not then still have your childhood, that precious, kingly possesion, that treasure-house of memories? Turn your attention thither. Try to raise the submerged sensations of that ample past; your personality will grow more firm, your solitude will widen and will become a dusky dwelling past which the noise of others goes by far away.—And if out of this turning inward, out of this absorption into your own world, verses come, then it will not occur to you to ask anyone whether they are good verses. Nor will you try to interest magazines in your poems: for you will see in them your fond natural possession, a fragment and a voice of your life. A work of art is good if it has sprung from necessity. In this nature of its origin lies the judgement of it: there is no other. Therefore, my dear sir, I know no advice for you save this: to go into yourself and test the deeps in which your life takes rise; at its source you will find the answer to the question whether you must create. Accept it, just as it sounds, without inquiring into it. Perhaps it will turn out that you are called to be an artist. Then take that destiny upon yourself and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking what recompense might from outside. For the creator must be a world for himself and find everything in himself and in Nature to whom he has attached himself.

But perhaps after this descent into yourself and into your inner solitude you will have to give up becoming a poet; (it is enough, as I said, to feel that one could live without writing: then one must not attempt it at all.) But even then this inward searching which I ask of you will not have been in vain. Your life will in any case find its own way thence, and that they may be good, rich and wide I wish you more than I can say.

What more shall I say to you? Everything seems to me to have its just emphasis; and after all I do only want to advise you to keep growing quietly and seriously throughout your whole development; you cannot disturb it more rudely than by looking outward and expecting from the outside replies to questions that only your inmost feeling in your most hushed hour can perhaps answer.

It was a pleasure to me to find in your letter the name of Professor Horacek; I keep for that lovable and learned man a great veneration and a gratitiude that endures through the years. Will you, please, tell him how I feel; it is very good of him still to think of me, and I know how to appreciate it.

The verses which you kindly entrusted to me I am returning at the same time. And I thank you once more for your great and sincere confidence, of which I have tried, through this honest answer given to the best of my knowledge, to make myself a little worthier than, as a stranger, I really am.

Yours faithfully and with all sympathy:

Rainer Maria Rilke

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Oh my ass burns like fire!



When he wasn't busy composing some of the most beautiful music ever to seduce the human ear, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart could often be found writing shockingly crude letters to his family. The fine example below (translated by Robert Spaethling) was penned to Mozart's 19-year-old cousin and possible love interest, Marianne — also known as "Betsie" ("little cousin") — in November of 1777, at which point the poop-loving musical genius was 21 years of age.

If you're easily offended, please do not read any further.

Note: The term "spuni cuni fait" was used in many of Mozart's letters. Its meaning is unknown. 

(Source: Mozart's Letters, Mozart's Life; Image: Mozart, via Wikipedia.)

Mannheim, 5 November, 1777

Dearest cozz buzz!

I have received reprieved your highly esteemed writing biting, and I have noted doted that my uncle garfuncle, my aunt slant, and you too, are all well mell. We, too, thank god, are in good fettle kettle. Today I got a letter setter from my Papa Haha safely into my paws claws. I hope you too have gotten rotten my note quote that I wrote to you from Mannheim. So much the better, better the much so! But now for some thing more sensuble.

So sorry to hear that Herr Abbate Salate has had another stroke choke. But I hope with the help of God fraud the consequences will not be dire mire. You are writing fighting that you keep your criminal promise which you gave me before my departure from Augspurg, and will do it soon moon. Well, I will most likely find that regretable. You write further, indeed you let it all out, you expose yourself, you indicate to me, you bring me the news, you announce onto me, you state in broad daylight, you demand, you desire, you wish you want, you like, you command that I, too, should send you my Portrait. Eh bien, I shall mail fail it for sure. Oui, by the love of my skin, I shit on your nose, so it runs down your chin.

apropós. do you also have the spuni cuni fait?—what?—whether you still love me?—I believe it! so much the better, better the much so! Yes, that's the way of the world, I'm told, one has the purse, the other has the gold; whom do you side with?—with me, n'est-ce pas?—I believe it! Now things are even worse, apropós.

Wouldn't you like to visit Herr Gold-smith again?—but what for?—what?—nothing!—just to inquire, I guess, about the Spuni Cuni fait, nothing else, nothing else?—well, well, all right. Long live all those who, who—who—who—how does it go on?—I now wish you a good night, shit in your bed with all your might, sleep with peace on your mind, and try to kiss your own behind; I now go off to never-never land and sleep as much as I can stand. Tomorrow we'll speak freak sensubly with each other. Things I must you tell a lot of, believe it you hardly can, but hear tomorrow it already will you, be well in the meantime. Oh my ass burns like fire! what on earth is the meaning of this!—maybe muck wants to come out? yes, yes, muck, I know you, see you, taste you—and—what's this—is it possible? Ye Gods!—Oh ear of mine, are you deceiving me?—No, it's true—what a long and melancholic sound!—today is the write I fifth this letter. Yesterday I talked with the stern Frau Churfustin, and tomorrow, on the 6th, I will give a performance in her chambers, as the Furstin-Chur said to me herself. Now for something real sensuble!

A letter or letters addressed to me will come into your hands, and I must beg of you—where?—well a fox is no hare—yes there!—Now, where was I?—oh yes, now, I remember: letters, letters will come—but what kind of letters?—well now, letters for me, of course, I want to make sure that you send these to me; I will let you know where I'll be going from Mannheim. Now, Numero 2: I'm asking you, why not?—I'm asking you, dearest numbskull, why not?—if you are writing anyway to Madame Tavernier in Munich, please include regards from me to the Mademoiselles Freysinger, why not?—Curious! why not?—and to the Younger, I mean Frauline Josepha, tell her I'll send my sincere apologies, why not?—why should I not apologize?—Curious!—I don't know why not?—I want to apologize that I haven't yet sent her the sonata that I promised, but I will send it as soon as possible, why not?—what—why not?—why shouldn't I send it?—why should I not transmit it?—why not?—Curious! I wouldn't know why not?—well, then you'll do me this favor;—why not?—why shouldn't you do this for me?—why not?, it's so strange! After all, I'll do it to you too, if you want me to, why not?—why shouldn't I do it to you?—curious! why not?—I wouldn't know why not?—and don't forget to send my Regards to the Papa and Mama of the 2 young ladies, for it is terrible to be letting and forgetting one's father and mother. Later, when the sonata is finished,—I will send you the same, and a letter to boot; and you will be so kind as to forward the same to Munich.

And now I must close and that makes me morose. Dear Herr Uncle, shall we go quickly to the Holy Cross Covent and see whether anybody is still up?—we won't stay long, just ring the bell, that's all. Now I must relate to you a sad story that happened just this minute. As I am in the middle of my best writing, I hear a noise in the street. I stop writing—get up, go to the window—and—the noise is gone—I sit down again, start writing once more—I have barely written ten words when I hear the noise again—I rise—but as I rise, I can still hear something but very faint—it smells like something burning—wherever I go it stinks, when I look out the window, the smell goes away, when I turn my head back to the room, the smell comes back—finally My Mama says to me: I bet you let one go?—I don't think so, Mama. yes, yes, I'm quite certain, I put it to the test, stick my finger in my ass, then put it to my nose, and—there is the proof! Mama was right!

Now farwell, I kiss you 10000 times and I remain as always your

Old young Sauschwanz
Wolfgang Amadé Rosenkranz
From us two Travelers a thousand
Regards to my uncle and aunt.
To every good friend I send
My greet feet; addio nitwit.
Love true true true until the grave,
If I live that long and do behave.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Must be raining in this old bunkhouse



Shortly after renowned "cowboy artist" Charles Russell passed away in 1926, his friend of many years, the popular American entertainer, Will Rogers, wrote him the following farewell letter. It was sent to Charles's widow, Nancy.

(Source: Dear Wit; Image: Horse of the Hunter, by Charles Russell, via.)

Dear Charley,

I bet you hadn't been up there three days until you had out your pencil and was drawin' something funny. And I bet you that a whole bunch of those great old joshers was just a waitin' for you to pop in with all the latest ones.

And I bet they are regular fellows when you meet 'em, ain't they? Most big men are.

Well, you will run into my old Dad up there, Charley, for he was a real cowhand, and I bet he's runnin' a wagon. And you will pop into some well-kept ranchhouse over under some cool shade trees, and you will be asked to dinner, and it will be the best one you ever had in your life. Well, when you are thankin' the women folks you just tell the sweet lookin' little old lady that you knew her boy, back on an outfit you used to rope for, and tell the daughters that you knew their brother, and if you see a cute little rascal runnin' around there with my brand on him, kiss him for me.

Well, can’t write any more, Charley, paper's all wet, it must be raining in this old bunkhouse.

From your old friend,

Will

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The novel is a wonder



On October 27th of 1924, 28-year-old F. Scott Fitzgerald sent a letter to his editor, Maxwell Perkins, along with an early draft of his new novel, tentatively titled The Great Gatsby. That missive, and Perkins's delighted but constructively critical response, can be enjoyed below. Fitzgerald took his editor's suggestions on board, immediately made some major revisions to the story, and in April of 1925, six months after the initial letter had been sent, The Great Gatsby as we now know it was published.

The story originally sent to Perkins has since been published in its entirety, titled Trimalchio.

(Source: A Life in Letters; Image: F. Scott Fitzgerald, via.)

October 27th, 1924
Villa Marie, Malescure
St. Raphael, France

Dear Max:

Under separate cover I'm sending you my third novel:

The Great Gatsby

(I think that at last I've done something really my own), but how good "my own" is remains to be seen.

I should suggest the following contract.

15% up to 50,000
20% after 50,000

The book is only a little over fifty thousand words long but I believe, as you know, that Whitney Darrow has the wrong psychology about prices (and about what class constitute the bookbuying public now that the lowbrows go to the movies) and I'm anxious to charge two dollars for it and have it a full size book.

Of course I want the binding to be absolutely uniform with my other books—the stamping too—and the jacket we discussed before. This time I don't want any signed blurbs on the jacket—not Mencken's or Lewis' or Howard's or anyone's. I'm tired of being the author of This Side of Paradise and I want to start over.

About serialization. I am bound under contract to show it to Hearsts but I am asking a prohibitive price, Long hates me and it's not a very serialized book. If they should take it—they won't—it would put of publication in the fall. Otherwise you can publish it in the spring. When Hearst turns it down I'm going to offer it to Liberty for $15,000 on condition that they'll publish it in ten weekly installments before April 15th. If they don't want it I shan't serialize. I am absolutely positive Long won't want it.

I have an alternative title:

Gold-hatted Gatsby

After you've read the book let me know what you think about the title. Naturally I won't get a nights sleep until I hear from you but do tell me the absolute truth, your first impression of the book & tell me anything that bothers you in it.

As Ever
Scott

[10 days later, he writes again...]

November 7th, 1924
Hotel Continental, St. Raphael, Sun.
(Leaving Tuesday)

Dear Max:

By now you've received the novel. There are things in it I'm not satisfied with in the middle of the book—Chapters 6 & 7. And I may write in a complete new scene in proof. I hope you got my telegram.

Trimalchio in West Egg

The only other titles that seem to fit it are Trimalchio and On the Road to West Egg. I had two others Gold-hatted Gatsby and The High-bouncing Lover but they seemed too light.

We leave for Rome as soon as I finish the short story I'm working on.

As Ever
Scott

---------------------

Nov. 18, 1924

Dear Scott:

I think the novel is a wonder. I'm taking it home to read again and shall then write my impressions in full;—but it has vitality to an extraordinary degree, and glamour, and a great deal of underlying thought of unusual quality. It has a kind of mystic atmosphere at times that you infused into parts of "Paradise" and have not since used. It is a marvelous fusion, into a unity of presentation, of the extraordinary incongruities of life today. And as for sheer writing, it's astonishing.

Now deal with this question: various gentlemen here don't like the title,—in fact none like it but me. To me, the strange incongruity of the words in it sound the note of the book. But the objectors are more practical men than I. Consider as quickly as you can the question of a change.

But if you do not change, you will have to leave that note off the wrap. Its presence would injure it too much;—and good as the wrap always seemed, it now seems a masterpiece for this book. So judge of the value of the title when it stands alone and write or cable your decision the instant you can.

With congratulations, I am,
Yours,

[Maxwell E. Perkins]

[Two days later, after re-reading...]

November 20, 1924

Dear Scott:

I think you have every kind of right to be proud of this book. It is an extraordinary book, suggestive of all sorts of thoughts and moods. You adopted exactly the right method of telling it, that of employing a narrator who is more of a spectator than an actor: this puts the reader upon a point of observation on a higher level than that on which the characters stand and at a distance that gives perspective. In no other way could your irony have been so immensely effective, nor the reader have been enabled so strongly to feel at times the strangeness of human circumstance in a vast heedless universe. In the eyes of Dr. Eckleberg various readers will see different significances; but their presence gives a superb touch to the whole thing: great unblinking eyes, expressionless, looking down upon the human scene. It's magnificent!

I could go on praising the book and speculating on its various elements, and meanings, but points of criticism are more important now. I think you are right in feeling a certain slight sagging in chapters six and seven, and I don't know how to suggest a remedy. I hardly doubt that you will find one and I am only writing to say that I think it does need something to hold up here to the pace set and ensuing. I have only two actual criticisms:—

One is that among a set of characters marvelously palpable and vital—I would know Tom Buchanan if I met him on the street and would avoid him—Gatsby is somewhat vague. The reader's eyes can never quite focus upon him, his outlines are dim. Now everything about Gatsby is more or less a mystery i.e. more or less vague, and this may be somewhat of an artistic intention, but I think it is mistaken. Couldn't he be physically described as distinctly as the others, and couldn't you add one or two characteristics like the use of that phrase "old sport",—not verbal, but physical ones, perhaps. I think that for some reason or other a reader—this was true of Mr. Scribner and of Louise—gets an idea that Gatsby is a much older man than he is, although you have the writer say that he is little older than himself. But this would be avoided if on his first appearance he was seen as vividly as Daisy and Tom are, for instance;—and I do not think your scheme would be impaired if you made him so.

The other point is also about Gatsby: his career must remain mysterious, of course. But in the end you make it pretty clear that his wealth came through his connection with Wolfsheim. You also suggest this much earlier. Now almost all readers numerically are going to be puzzled by his having all this wealth and are going to feel entitled to an explanation. To give a distinct and definite one would be, of course, utterly absurd. It did occur to me though, that you might here and there interpolate some phrases, and possibly incidents, little touches of various kinds, that would suggest that he was in some active way mysteriously engaged. You do have him called on the telephone, but couldn't he be seen once or twice consulting at his parties with people of some sort of mysterious significance, from the political, the gambling, the sporting world, or whatever it may be. I know I am floundering, but that fact may help you to see what I mean. The total lack of an explanation through so large a part of the story does seem to me a defect;—or not of an explanation, but of the suggestion of an explanation. I wish you were here so I could talk about it to you for then I know I could at least make you understand what I mean. What Gatsby did ought never to be definitely imparted, even if it could be. Whether he was an innocent tool in the hands of somebody else, or to what degree he was this, ought not to be explained. But if some sort of business activity of his were simply adumbrated, it would lend further probability to that part of the story.

There is one other point: in giving deliberately Gatsby's biography when he gives it to the narrator you do depart from the method of the narrative in some degree, for otherwise almost everything is told, and beautifully told, in the regular flow of it,— in the succession of events or in accompaniment with them. But you can't avoid the biography altogether. I thought you might find ways to let the truth of some of his claims like "Oxford" and his army career come out bit by bit in the course of actual narrative. I mention the point anyway for consideration in this interval before I send the proofs.

The general brilliant quality of the book makes me ashamed to make even these criticisms. The amount of meaning you get into a sentence, the dimensions and intensity of the impression you make a paragraph carry, are most extraordinary. The manuscript is full of phrases which make a scene blaze with life. If one enjoyed a rapid railroad journey I would compare the number and vividness of pictures your living words suggest, to the living scenes disclosed in that way. It seems in reading a much shorter book than it is, but it carries the mind through a series of experiences that one would think would require a book of three times its length.

The presentation of Tom, his place, Daisy and Jordan, and the unfolding of their characters is unequalled so far as I know. The description of the valley of ashes adjacent to the lovely country, the conversation and the action in Myrtle's apartment, the marvelous catalogue of those who came to Gatsby's house,—these are such things as make a man famous. And all these things, the whole pathetic episode, you have given a place in time and space, for with the help of T. J. Eckleberg and by an occasional glance at the sky, or the sea, or the city, you have imparted a sort of sense of eternity. You once told me you were not a natural writer—my God! You have plainly mastered the craft, of course; but you needed far more than craftsmanship for this.

As ever,

[Maxwell E. Perkins]

P.S. Why do you ask for a lower royalty on this than you had on the last book where it changed from 15% to 17½% after 20,000 and to 20% after 40,000? Did you do it in order to give us a better margin for advertising? We shall advertise very energetically anyhow and if you stick to the old terms you will sooner overcome the advance. Naturally we should like the ones you suggest better, but there is no reason you should get less on this than you did on the other.

---------------------

December 1st, 1924

Hotel des Princes
Piazza di Spagna
Rome, Italy

Dear Max:

Your wire & your letters made me feel like a million dollars—I'm sorry I could make no better response than a telegram whining for money. But the long siege of the novel winded me a little & I've been slow on starting the stories on which I must live.

I think all your criticisms are true.

(a) About the title. I'll try my best but I don't know what I can do. Maybe simply "Trimalchio" or "Gatsby." In the former case I don't see why the note shouldn't go on the back.

(b) Chapters VI & VII I know how to fix

(c) Gatsby's business affairs I can fix. I get your point about them.

(d) His vagueness I can repair by making more pointed—this doesn't sound good but wait and see. It'll make him clear

(e) But his long narrative in Chap VIII will be difficult to split up. Zelda also thought I was a little out of key but it is good writing and I don't think I could bear to sacrifice any of it.

(f) I have 1000 minor corrections which I will make on the proof & several more large ones which you didn't mention.

Your criticisms were excellent & most helpful & you picked out all my favorite spots in the book to praise as high spots. Except you didn't mention my favorite of all—the chapter where Gatsby & Daisy meet.

Two more things. Zelda's been reading me the cowboy book aloud to spare my mind & I love it—tho I think he learned the American language from Ring rather than from his own ear.

Another point—in Chap. II of my book when Tom & Myrte go into the bedroom while Carraway reads Simon called Peter—is that raw? Let me know. I think it's pretty necessary.

I made the royalty smaller because I wanted to make up for all the money you've advanced these two years by letting it pay a sort of interest on it. But I see by calculating I made it too small—a difference of 2000 dollars. Let us call it 15% up to 40,000 and 20% after that. That's a good fair contract all around.

By now you have heard from a smart young french woman who wants to translate the book. She's equal to it intellectually & linguisticly I think—had read all my others—If you'll tell her how to go about it as to royalty demands ect.

Anyhow thanks & thanks & thanks for your letters. I'd rather have you and Bunny like it than anyone I know. And I'd rather have you like it than Bunny. If its as good as you say, when I finish with the proof it'll be perfect.

Remember, by the way, to put by some cloth for the cover uniform with my other books.

As soon as I can think about the title I'll write or wire a decision. Thank Louise for me, for liking it. Best Regards to Mr. Scribner. Tell him Galsworthy is here in Rome.

As Ever
Scott

Monday, 2 July 2012

A gap-toothed & hoary-headed ape



In January of 1874, on hearing that fellow poet Ralph Waldo Emerson had described him as "a perfect leper, and a mere sodomite" in an interview, Algernon Charles Swinburne wrote the following letter to the New York Tribune and delivered one of the greatest ripostes I've ever read. It was published in the paper the next day, and as far as I can tell generated no response from Emerson.

(Source: The Yale Edition of The Swinburne Letters: Volume 2, 1869-1875; Image: A. C. Swinburne, via The Guardian.)

January 30, 1874

Sirs:

I am informed that certain American journalists, not content with providing filth of their own for the consumption of their kind, sometimes offer to their readers a dish of beastliness which they profess to have gathered from under the chairs of more distinguished men. While the abuse lavished on my name and writings could claim no higher than a nameless source, I have always been able to say with Shelley, "I have neither curiosity, interest, pain nor pleasure, in anything, good or evil, they can say of me. I feel only a slight disgust, and a sort of wonder that they presume to write my name." If I am to believe that that name has been made the mark for such vile language as is now publicly attributed to men of note in the world of letters, I, who am not sufficiently an expert in the dialect of the cesspool and the dung-cart to retort in their own kind on these venerable gentlemen — I, whose ears and lips alike are unused to the amenities of a conversation embroidered with such fragments of flowery rhetoric as may be fished up by congenial fingers or lapped up by congenial tongues out of the sewerage of Sodom — can return no better or more apt reply than was addressed by the servant Octavia to the satellites of Nero, and applied by Lord Denman, when counsel for Queen Caroline, to the sycophants of George IV.

A foul mouth is so ill matched with a white beard that I would gladly believe the newspaper scribes alone responsible for the bestial utterances which they declare to have dropped from a teacher whom such disciples as these exhibit, to our disgust and compassion, as performing on their obscene platform the last tricks of tongue now possible to a gap-toothed and hoary-headed ape, carried first into notice on the shoulder of Carlyle, and who now, in his dotage, spits and chatters from a dirtier perch of his own finding and fouling; Coryphaeus or choragus of his Bulgarian tribe of autocoprophagous baboons who make the filth they feed on.

Averting, with a peculiar emotion which I need not specify, my eyes and nostrils from the sight and savour of such things, I need not stoop as though to blow off any speck of their leaving from a name which I trust and think, though it may well be that it has gained nothing, has at least lost nothing in my hands of its hereditary honour. Those to whom it is known only as an object of reviling from writers with or without a name of their own may yet do well to ask themselves how far such follies and such villainies may be likely to affect the repute or disturb the conciousness of one to whom it is given to remember that well-nigh at the very outset of his course he had earned the praise and won the friendship of Landor, of Hugo, and of Mazzini; and who, though he may see no need and feel no inclination to seek shelter behind the name or beneath the countenances of any man, has yet, in the sense of this not unmerited honour, an enduring source of such pleasures and such pride as the "most sweet voices" of his revilers are about equally competent to give and to take away.

A. C. Swinburne