Monday, 29 July 2013

It's the real thing



In March of 1970, having been shown an advertisement for the newly-published book in the New York Times, Coca-Cola brand manager Ira C. Herbert wrote to Grove Press and asked that they stop using the quote "it's the real thing"—a slogan associated with the soft-drink since the 1940s—when promoting Diary of a Harlem SchoolteacherJim Haskins' classic first-hand account of life as an African-American teacher in 1960s Harlem, New York. A few days later, Grove Press's Richard Seaver responded defiantly with a letter that was both hugely entertaining and instantly effective, as it resulted in silence from the beverage behemoth from that point on. The full exchange can be read below.

(Letters very kindly submitted by Robert Wood, Sammamish High School; Image: Richard Seaver (left) at work at Grove Press, via Reality Studio.)

March 25, 1970

Mr. R. W. Seaver
Executive Vice President
Grove Press, Inc.
214 Mercer Street
New York, New York 10012

Dear Mr. Seaver:

Several people have called to our attention your advertisement for Diary of a Harlem Schoolteacher by Jim Haskins, which appeared in the New York Times March 3, 1970. The theme of the ad is "This book is like a weapon...it's the real thing."

Since our company has made use of "It's the Real Thing" to advertise Coca-Cola long prior to the publication of the book, we are writing to ask you to stop using this theme or slogan in connection with the book.

We believe you will agree that it is undesirable for our companies to make simultaneous use of "the real thing" in connection with our respective products. There will always be likelihood of confusion as to the source or sponsorship of the goods, and the use by such prominent companies would dilute the distinctiveness of the trade slogan and diminish its effectiveness and value as an advertising and merchandising tool.

"It's the Real Thing" was first used in advertising for Coca-Cola over twenty-seven years ago to refer to our product. We first used it in print advertising in 1942 and extended it to outdoor advertising, including painted walls—some of which are still displayed throughout the country. The line has appeared in advertising for Coca-Cola during succeeding years. For example, in 1954 we used "There's this about Coke—You Can't Beat the Real Thing" in national advertising. We resumed national use of "It's the Real Thing" in the summer of 1969 and it is our main thrust for 1970.

Please excuse my writing so fully, but I wanted to explain why we feel it necessary to ask you and your associates to use another line to advertise Mr. Haskins' book.

We appreciate your cooperation and your assurance that you will discontinue the use of "It's the real thing."

Sincerely,
Ira C. Herbert

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

March 31, 1970

Mr. Ira C. Herbert
Coca-Cola USA
P.O. Drawer 1734
Atlanta, Georgia 30301

Dear Mr. Herbert:

Thank you for your letter of March 25th, which has just reached me, doubtless because of the mail strike.

We note with sympathy your feeling that you have a proprietary interest in the phrase "It's the real thing," and I can fully understand that the public might be confused by our use of the expression, and mistake a book by a Harlem schoolteacher for a six-pack of Coca-Cola. Accordingly, we have instructed all our salesmen to notify bookstores that whenever a customer comes in and asks for a copy of Diary of a Harlem Schoolteacher they should request the sales personnel to make sure that what the customer wants is the book, rather than a Coke. This, we think, should protect your interest and in no way harm ours.

We would certainly not want to dilute the distinctiveness of your trade slogan nor diminish its effectiveness as an advertising and merchandising tool, but it did occur to us that since the slogan is so closely identified with your product, those who read our ad may well tend to go out and buy a Coke rather than our book. We have discussed this problem in an executive committee meeting, and by a vote of seven to six decided that, even if this were the case, we would be happy to give Coke the residual benefit of our advertising.

Problems not unsimilar to the ones you raise in your letter have occurred to us in the past. You may recall that we published Games People Play which became one of the biggest nonfiction best-sellers of all time, and spawned conscious imitations (Games Children Play, Games Psychiatrists Play, Games Ministers Play, etc.). I am sure you will agree that this posed a far more direct and deadly threat to both the author and ourselves than our use of "It's the real thing." Further, Games People Play has become part of our language, and one sees it constantly in advertising, as a newspaper headline, etc. The same is true of another book which we published six or seven years ago, One Hundred Dollar Misunderstanding.

Given our strong sentiments concerning the First Amendment, we will defend to the death your right to use "It's the real thing" in any advertising you care to. We would hope you would do the same for us, especially when no one here or in our advertising agency, I am sorry to say, realized that you owned the phrase. We were merely quoting in our ads Peter S. Prescott's review of Diary of a Harlem Schoolteacher in Look which begins "Diary of a Harlem Schoolteacher is the real thing, a short, spare, honest book which will, I suspect, be read a generation hence as a classic..."

With all best wishes,

Sincerely yours,
Richard Seaver

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

She was the music heard faintly at the edge of sound



Detective novelist Raymond Chandler's wife of 30 years, Cissy, died on December 12th, 1954 after a long and painful battle with pulmonary fibrosis during which the author wrote The Long Goodbye. As can be seen in the following touching and affectionate letter, written to friend Leonard Russell shortly after Cissy's passing, Raymond was deeply affected by the loss of his wife, and it seems he never really recovered. Sadly, he died five years later a broken man, having attempted suicide and returned to the alcoholism she had previously helped him to avoid.

(Letter taken from the More Letters of Note book. For more info and to read reviews of that book, go here. Image: One of the very few photos of Raymond and Cissy together, via.)

December 29, 1954

Dear Leonard:

Your letter of December 15th has just reached me, the mails being what they are around Christmas time. I have received much sympathy and kindness and many letters, but yours is somehow unique in that it speaks of the beauty that is lost rather than condoling with the comparatively useless life that continues on. She was everything you say, and more. She was the beat of my heart for thirty years. She was the music heard faintly at the edge of sound. It was my great and now useless regret that I never wrote anything really worth her attention, no book that I could dedicate to her. I planned it. I thought of it, but I never wrote it. Perhaps I couldn't have written it.

She died hard. Her body fought a hundred lost battles, any one of which would have been enough to finish most of us. Twice I brought her home from the hospital because she hated hospitals, and had her in her own room with nurses around the clock. But she had to go back. And I suppose she never quite forgave me for that. But when at the end I closed her eyes she looked very young. Perhaps by now she realizes that I tried, and that I regarded the sacrifice of several years of a rather insignificant literary career as a small price to pay, if I could make her smile a few times more.

No doubt you realize that this was no sudden thing, that it had been going on for a long time, and that I have said goodbye to my Cissy in the middle of the night in the dark cold hours many, many times. She admired and liked you very much. I'm not sure that she liked Dilys as much as I did, because possibly she suspected that I liked her too much. And it is just possible that I thought she liked you a little too much.

I hope that you are both well and prosperous and that I may have the privilege of seeing you again in the not too distant future, with or without the butler from the Ritz. And I hope I am not being too sentimental if I sign myself,

Yours affectionately,

(Signed)

Monday, 22 July 2013

Every hour is precious



In March of 1886, at the age of 26, acclaimed Russian author and physician Anton Chekhov wrote this fascinating and honest letter of advice to his troubled older brother, Nikolai, a talented painter and writer who, despite being just 28 himself, had for many years been plagued by alcoholism to the point where he often slept on the streets, his days a blur; his notable skills as an artist largely untapped. This letter and the list it contained—eight qualities exhibited by "civilized" people—were essentially Anton's attempt at knocking some sense into the brother he was slowly losing.

Sadly, his efforts were ultimately futile. Nikolai passed away three years later.

(Source: James Vane; Translation by Michael Henry Heim; Image: Anton Chekhov, via.)

Moscow, March, 1886

My little Zabelin,

I've been told that you have taken offense at gibes Schechtel and I have been making. The faculty of taking offense is the property of noble souls alone, but even so, if it is all right to laugh at Ivanenko, me, Mishka and Nelly, then why is it wrong to laugh at you? It's unfair. However, if you're not joking and really do feel you've been offended, I hasten to apologize.

People only laugh at what's funny or what they don't understand. Take your choice.

The latter of course is more flattering, but—alas!—to me, for one, you're no riddle. It's not hard to understand someone with whom you've shared the delights of Tatar caps, Voutsina, Latin and, finally, life in Moscow. And besides, your life is psychologically so uncomplicated that even a nonseminarian could understand it. Out of respect for you let me be frank. You're angry, offended...but it's not because of my gibes or of that good-natured chatterbox Dolgov. The fact of the matter is that you're a decent person and you realize that you're living a lie. And, whenever a person feels guilty, he always looks outside himself for vindication: the drunk blames his troubles, Putyata blames the censors, the man who bolts from Yakimanka Street with lecherous intent blames the cold in the living room or gibes, and so on. If I were to abandon the family to the whims of fate, I would try to find myself an excuse in Mother's character or my blood spitting or the like. It's only natural and pardonable. It's human nature, after all. And you're quite right to feel you're living a lie. If you didn't feel that way, I wouldn't have called you a decent person. When decency goes, well, that's another story. You become reconciled to the lie and stop feeling it.

You're no riddle to me, and it is also true that you can be wildly ridiculous. You're nothing but an ordinary mortal, and we mortals are enigmatic only when we're stupid, and we're ridiculous forty-eight weeks of the year. Isn't that so?

You often complain to me that people "don't understand" you. But even Goethe and Newton made no such complaints. Christ did, true, but he was talking about his doctrine, not his ego. People understand you all too well. If you don't understand yourself, then it's nobody else's fault.

As your brother and intimate, I assure you that I understand you and sympathize with you from the bottom of my heart. I know all your good qualities like the back of my hand. I value them highly and have only the greatest respect for them. If you like, I can even prove how I understand you by enumerating them. In my opinion you are kind to the point of fault, magnanimous, unselfish, you'd share your last penny, and you're sincere. Hate and envy are foreign to you, you are open-hearted, you are compassionate with man and beast, you are not greedy, you do not bear grudges, and you are trusting. You are gifted from above with something others lack: you have talent. This talent places you above millions of people, for there is only one artist for every two million people on earth. It places you in a very special position: you could be a toad or a tarantula and you would still be respected, because talent is its own excuse.

You have only one failing, the cause of the lie you've been living, your troubles, and your intestinal catarrh. It's your extreme lack of culture. Please forgive me, but veritas magis amicitiae. The thing is, life lays down certain conditions. If you want to feel at home among intellectuals, to fit in and not find their presence burdensome, you have to have a certain amount of breeding. Your talent has brought you into their midst. You belong there, but...you seem to yearn escape and feel compelled to waver between the cultured set and your next-door neighbors. It's the bourgeois side of you coming out, the side raised on birch thrashings beside the wine cellar and handouts, and it's hard to overcome, terribly hard.

To my mind, civilized people ought to satisfy the following conditions:

1. They respect the individual and are therefore always indulgent, gentle, polite and compliant. They do not throw a tantrum over a hammer or a lost eraser. When they move in with somebody, they do not act as if they were doing him a favor, and when they move out, they do not say, "How can anyone live with you!" They excuse noise and cold and overdone meat and witticisms and the presence of others in their homes.

2. Their compassion extends beyond beggars and cats. They are hurt even by things the naked eye can't see. If for instance, Pyotr knows that his father and mother are turning gray and losing sleep over seeing their Pyotr so rarely (and seeing him drunk when he does turn up), then he rushes home to them and sends his vodka to the devil. They do not sleep nights the better to help the Polevayevs, help pay their brothers' tuition, and keep their mother decently dressed.

3. They respect the property of others and therefore pay their debts.

4. They are candid and fear lies like the plague. They do not lie even about the most trivial matters. A lie insults the listener and debases him in the liar's eyes. They don't put on airs, they behave in the street as they do at home, and they do not try to dazzle their inferiors. They know how to keep their mouths shut and they do not force uninvited confidences on people. Out of respect for the ears of others they are more often silent than not.

5. They do not belittle themselves merely to arouse sympathy. They do not play on people's heartstrings to get them to sigh and fuss over them. They do not say, "No one understands me!" or "I've squandered my talent on trifles!" because this smacks of a cheap effect and is vulgar, false and out-of-date.

6. They are not preoccupied with vain things. They are not taken in by such false jewels as friendships with celebrities, handshakes with drunken Plevako, ecstasy over the first person they happen to meet at the Salon de Varietes, popularity among the tavern crowd. They laugh when they hear, "I represent the press," a phrase befitting only Rodzeviches and Levenbergs. When they have done a penny's worth of work, they don't try to make a hundred rubles out of it, and they don't boast over being admitted to places closed to others. True talents always seek obscurity. They try to merge with the crowd and shun all ostentation. Krylov himself said that an empty barrel has more chance of being heard than a full one.

7. If they have talent, they respect it. They sacrifice comfort, women, wine and vanity to it. They are proud of their talent, and so they do not go out carousing with trade-school employees or Skvortsov's guests, realizing that their calling lies in exerting an uplifting influence on them, not in living with them. What is more, they are fastidious.

8. They cultivate their aesthetic sensibilities. They cannot stand to fall asleep fully dressed, see a slit in the wall teeming with bedbugs, breathe rotten air, walk on a spittle-laden floor or eat off a kerosene stove. They try their best to tame and ennoble their sexual instinct... What they look for in a woman is not a bed partner or horse sweat, [...] not the kind of intelligence that expresses itself in the ability to stage a fake pregnancy and tirelessly reel off lies. They—and especially the artists among them—require spontaneity, elegance, compassion, a woman who will be a mother... They don't guzzle vodka on any old occasion, nor do they go around sniffing cupboards, for they know they are not swine. They drink only when they are free, if the opportunity happens to present itself. For they require a mens sana in corpore sano.

And so on. That's how civilized people act. If you want to be civilized and not fall below the level of the milieu you belong to, it is not enough to read The Pickwick Papers and memorize a soliloquy from Faust. It is not enough to hail a cab and drive off to Yakimanka Street if all you're going to do is bolt out again a week later.

You must work at it constantly, day and night. You must never stop reading, studying in depth, exercising your will. Every hour is precious.

Trips back and forth to Yakimanka Street won't help. You've got to drop your old way of life and make a clean break. Come home. Smash your vodka bottle, lie down on the couch and pick up a book. You might even give Turgenev a try. You've never read him.

You must swallow your pride. You're no longer a child. You'll be thirty soon. It's high time!

I'm waiting...We're all waiting...

Yours,
A. Chekhov

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Very untruly yours



In March of 1987, having paid a hefty licensing fee of $500'000 to Capital Records and Michael Jackson for the privilege, Nike released the first ever television commercial to feature a song from the Beatles' sacred back catalogue—in this case, Revolution. Rather unsurprisingly, the move was seen by many as a controversial one, particularly by the Beatles/Monty Python fan responsible for sending the following wonderfully furious complaint letter to Nike's advertising department. The letter now hangs, so I'm told, at the company's head offices.

In July of that year, a lawsuit was filed by the surviving Beatles, all of whom opposed the song's appearance in the ad; they settled out of court in 1989.

(Source: Letter kindly submitted by Richard Denon.)



Transcript
March 30, 1987

Nike, Inc.
Advertising/Marketing Dept.
3900 SW Murray
Beverton, OR 97005

Dear Sir or Madam:

This letter of complaint is in response to a very nauseating advertisement of yours which I saw on television yesterday. From your complete lack of taste you have created a commercial for your "Michael Jordan" shoes which exploits, defiles and utterly insults Beatles' fans, and all others of musical distinction. Your debasement of the Beatles' song, "Revolution", in the commercial ad is apparently indicative of your lack of integrity as a business. Your tactic, obviously, is to use the Beatles' universal popularity to sell your product. Have you sunk that low? "Is nothing sacred anymore?", as the cliche' goes? Your only motive is to make more money for your greedy selves, and in the process you seemingly could not care less that you have trampled and befouled the precious memories of millions and millions of people throughout the entire world. Your kind makes me puke; you low, vacuous, malodorous perverts. Your dearth of sensitivity is equaled only by your plethora of obnoxiousness. To your credit, you have waited nearly seven years since the death of John Ono Lennon; but it was obviously not done out of respect (Huh? What's that?) for the deceased.

Throughout my high school years as a basketball player, on to my college years, and up to present day, I have bought your athletic shoes. However, as of this very day, I can assure you that I, and many of my friends, will never, EVER, contribute in any way whatsoever to your sickeningly corporate-selling tactics. You know, with people like you in the world, euthanasia has untapped possibilities.

Thank you, and I hope you choke.

Very untruly yours,

(Signed)

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

It is a good book



On May 22nd of 1925, the great Gertrude Stein wrote to fellow author F. Scott Fitzgerald and offered, in her own inimitable style, a brief review of his recently published novel, The Great Gatsby. It can be enjoyed below. Also of note: Fitzgerald's editor's reaction to an early draft of The Great Gatsby, here, and a rejection letter once sent to Stein by Arthur Fifield, here. All are fantastic.

(Source: The Crack-Up; Images via here and here.)

Hotel Pernollet
Belley
(Ain)

Belley, le 22 May, 192-

My dear Fitzgerald:

Here we are and have read your book and it is a good book. I like the melody of your dedication and it shows that you have a background of beauty and tenderness and that is a comfort. The next good thing is that you write naturally in sentences and that too is a comfort. You write naturally in sentences and one can read all of them and that among other things is a comfort. You are creating the contemporary world much as Thackeray did his in Pendennis and Vanity Fair and this isn't a bad compliment. You make a modern world and a modern orgy strangely enough it was never done until you did it in This Side of Paradise. My belief in This Side of Paradise was alright. This is as good a book and different and older and that is what one does, one does not get better but different and older and that is always a pleasure. Best of good luck to you always, and thanks so much for the very genuine pleasure you have given me. We are looking forward to seeing you and Mrs. Fitzgerald when we get back in the Fall. Do please remember me to her and to you always

Gtde Stein

Monday, 15 July 2013

You were my angel



Oprah Winfrey is one of the most successful and influential people in the world, having hosted and produced, for 25 years until 2011, the longest-running and most-watched talk show in the history of television, The Oprah Winfrey Show—a programme which was watched, at its peak, by upwards of 40 million people each week, was broadcast in over 100 countries, and which made its star, who was born into poverty, a billionaire. Since finding success, Oprah has recalled how The Supremes, and in particular Diana Ross, inspired her to aim higher than she ever thought possible.
"Coloured people on TV! Coloured people on TV! You never saw anything like it in the 1960s – three women of colour who were totally empowered, creative, imaginative ... beautiful. Poised. It's hard to imagine today, but back then such a thing was a true anomaly. As a small, coloured girl, the only influences I had on TV were characters like 'Buckwheat'. To see the Supremes and know that it was possible to be like them, that black people could do that ... Well, I wanted to be Diana … I think every little black girl of my generation wanted to grow up and be Miss Ross."
Diana Ross went on to be a guest on Oprah’s show three times. In January of 2000, Oprah wrote her idol a short letter of appreciation.

(Source: Diana Ross: A Biography; Image: Winfrey and Ross in 2000, via.)

10 January, 2000

Dear Diana,

I was flipping through the TV over the holiday trying to figure out how to work my satellite gadget and came across an Ed Sullivan special featuring all of the major Supremes performances. I was mesmerized, taken back to a younger self seeing you for the first time and everything that moment held for me—the possibilities for a future beyond poverty to something beautiful. You represented that beauty and more important, hope for me—hope that my life could be better, that I could do better. You were my angel. Please know that I still think of you often and hold you in the light.

Love, Oprah

Thursday, 11 July 2013

It's a strange and confusing world



In October 1974, as he lay on his death bed at the end of a battle with cancer and reflected on his past, Clyde S. Shield (pictured above) wrote the following heartfelt letter to his 3-week-old grandson and offered some poignant advice for the road ahead. 30 years previous, Clyde had played a significant role in World War II, having first taken to the air immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor in a valiant attempt to fight off the Japanese, and then, some time later, as lead test pilot during the Manhattan Project—a project during which the atomic bombs that ultimately devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and ended the war, were developed. His military career was a particularly illustrious one.

His proud grandson said of the letter in 2011:
"It has meant different things to me at different times in my life [...] Anytime I am struggling, in tough times or having to make a big decision, it is something I always come back to."
Full transcript follows; images of the remaining pages are here.

(Source: imgur, as kindly recommended by Mark; Image above: Clyde S. Shield via ArmyAirForces.com.)



Transcript
Dallas, Texas
7 October, 1974

[Redacted]

I doubt this letter will mean too much to you now – you can't even focus your eyes, yet, but maybe, years hence, it may mean something to you. So, I hope your father and mother will keep this for you until it does mean a little more to you.

You may or may not get to know me – your Grandfather – that is in someone else's hands. But just in case you do not – I'd like to leave a few ideas with you. Ideas, I may say, that I tried to germinate in your father's mind with varying degrees of success.

To begin with you are very welcome to this sad, tattered and abused old world. We really haven't done a very good job of preserving it for you. On the contrary we have plundered it of its wealth of minerals and oils, polluted its streams and even the very air we depend on for the very breath of our lives – and we've done this with our eyes wide open and with the knowledge that we were doing it! How we explain this, I really don't know except to say that I, for one, am sorry for it.

We have not learned, even, to live with our fellow men. Instead we have perfected more means to annihilate him – to wipe him (and ourselves) from the face of the Earth.

We produce record crops of grains and other foodstuffs, but still much of the world goes to bed on empty stomachs and thousands starve to death every day.

It's a strange and confusing world we leave to you. I only hope you can do a better job with it than we have done.

But, in spite of what I've said, there is much, in life to enjoy – to relish. There is also much that can be done to make life worth while and living worth the "candle." There is a rich heritage of literature and music that awaits your investigation – it's there for the taking – in the libraries of the country and in the archives of the museums. There is poetry and prose – enough to fill all the hours you can spare to listen to them and more knowledge, on every conceivable subject, than you can assimilate in a lifetime. It's all there just waiting for you to ask for it or to seek it out. Don't overlook it or pass it up for less important or less meaningful pastimes.

Most important of all is ability to savor life, to taste of it in as many variances as you can – while you can. Life never looks so short as when you look back on it. Unfortunately you cannot do this until it has passed you by. So, as you go through life, don't overlook the "Lily in the Field," the newborn puppy, the fledgling bird – for they are as much (or more) of life as the tall buildings, the shiny automobiles and the possessions we tend to place so much importance upon. If you can do just this much – life will be more meaningful for you.

When your Dad was born I was busy playing soldier, World War II was history – but recent history – and in which I had a small part. But then I lacked both the knowledge and the wisdom that comes from experience. Now, at 56, I think of what I might have done – and didn't. But all of us are blessed with "20/20" hindsight.

If I could package (with ribbon) those gifts that I would most like to give you, I would. But how do you package integrity, how do you wrap honesty, what kind of paper for a sense of humor, what ribbon for inquisitiveness?

But, since there is no way I can give you any of those things, I can in this year of your birth, wish that you will find some wisdom and some guidance from these words, and, perhaps my wish for a bright new life for you will, eventually, come to reality. At least I hope so – with all my heart.

Love,
Grandad.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Who is Karen Carpenter, really?



On February 4th, 1983, Karen Carpenter—one half of The Carpenters alongside her brother, Richard—passed away after suffering heart failure brought on by anorexia nervosa, an illness from which she had suffered for years. She was 32 when she died. One of her millions of fans was Kim Gordon, singer and bassist of Sonic Youth, a band who in 1990 released a song named Tunic (Song for Karen) in her memory. Kim said of the song in 1997:
"I wanted to put Karen Carpenter up in heaven playing drums and being happy. This whole thing about teenage girls cutting themselves and that being associated with anorexia and girls being conditioned to having such a big desire to please – I'm just curious, because of Coco, at what point do girls start getting their sense of self-worth and [need to please] people, and why don't they have anything else?"
Kim Gordon also wrote the following letter to Karen; it was reprinted, undated, in the brilliant book, Sonic Youth: Sensational Fix.

(Source: Sonic Youth: Sensational Fix; Image: Photo of Karen Carpenter via Popjustice; Photo of Kim Gordon courtesy of Wikipedia)

Dear Karen,

Thru the years of The Carpenters TV specials I saw you change from the Innocent Oreo-cookie-and-milk-eyed girl next door to hollowed eyes and a lank body adrift on a candy-colored stage set. You and Richard, by the end, looked drugged—there's so little energy. The words come out of yr mouth but yr eyes say other things, "Help me, please, I'm lost in my own passive resistance, something went wrong. I wanted to make myself disappear from their control. My parents, Richard, the writers who call me 'hippie, fat.' Since I was, like most girls, brought up to be polite and considerate, I figured no one would notice anything wrong—as long as, outwardly, I continued to do what was expected of me. Maybe they could control all the outward aspects of my life, but my body is all in my control. I can make myself smaller. I can disappear. I can starve myself to death and they won't know it. My voice will never give me away. They're not my words. No one will guess my pain. But I will make the words my own because I have to express myself somehow. Pain is not perfect so there is no place in Richard's life for it. I have to be perfect too. I must be thin so I'm perfect. Was I a teenager once?... I forget. Now I look middle-aged, with a bad perm and country-western clothes."

I must ask you, Karen, who were your role models? Was it yr mother? What kind of books did you like to read? Did anyone ever ask you that question—what's it like being a girl in music? What were yr dreams? Did you have any female friends or was it just you and Richard, mom and dad, A&M? Did you ever go running along the sand, feeling the ocean rush up between yr legs? Who is Karen Carpenter, really, besides the sad girl with the extraordinarily beautiful, soulful voice?

your fan – love,
kim

Thursday, 4 July 2013

You're off, by God!


Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton (United Archives GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo)

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were both already married when they fell in love on the set of Cleopatra in 1962 – she to fourth husband, Eddie Fisher, a singer, and he to actress Sybil Christopher. In 1964, with divorces finalised, they wed and became one of the most famous, bankable couples in Hollywood history: all told, they shared the screen in 11 films, including, in 1966, the multi-award-winning classic, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Nine years after marrying, as their extravagant and famously tempestuous relationship crumbled, Taylor gave Burton his marching orders – this passionate letter, just one of many he sent to her during and after their union, was his response. A year after he wrote it, they divorced; 16 months after that, they wed each other again. Their second marriage lasted just nine months.

Letter taken from the More Letters of Note book which is out now and should be gifted to all this Christmas. For more info and to read reviews of that book, go here.

June 25, 1973

So My Lumps,

You're off, by God!

I can barely believe it since I am so unaccustomed to anybody leaving me. But reflectively I wonder why nobody did so before. All I care about—honest to God—is that you are happy and I don't much care who you'll find happiness with. I mean as long as he's a friendly bloke and treats you nice and kind. If he doesn't I'll come at him with a hammer and clinker. God's eye may be on the sparrow but my eye will always be on you. Never forget your strange virtues. Never forget that underneath that veneer of raucous language is a remarkable and puritanical LADY. I am a smashing bore and why you've stuck by me so long is an indication of your loyalty. I shall miss you with passion and wild regret.

You may rest assured that I will not have affairs with any other female. I shall gloom a lot and stare morosely into unimaginable distances and act a bit—probably on the stage—to keep me in booze and butter, but chiefly and above all I shall write. Not about you, I hasten to add. No Millerinski Me, with a double M. There are many other and ludicrous and human comedies to constitute my shroud.

I'll leave it to you to announce the parting of the ways while I shall never say or write one word except this valedictory note to you. Try and look after yourself. Much love. Don't forget that you are probably the greatest actress in the world. I wish I could borrow a minute portion of your passion and commitment, but there you are—cold is cold as ice is ice.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Live as well as you dare



In February of 1820, on learning that his good friend, Lady Georgiana Morpeth, was suffering from a bout of depression, noted essayist and clergyman Sydney Smith sent her the following precious letter, in which he listed twenty pieces of advice to help her overcome "low spirits."

Two similarly helpful letters of advice—specifically on the subject of depression—spring to mind when reading this: one from Stephen Fry; the other, from Henry James. All three are wonderful. For more information about depression itself, the Mind website is a good place to start.

(Source: The Selected Writings of Sydney Smith; Image of Sydney Smith: Replica by Henry Perronet Briggs, oil on canvas, 1840 (1833) NPG 1475 © National Portrait Gallery, London.)

Foston, Feb. 16th, 1820

Dear Lady Georgiana,

Nobody has suffered more from low spirits than I have done—so I feel for you.

1st. Live as well as you dare.
2nd. Go into the shower-bath with a small quantity of water at a temperature low enough to give you a slight sensation of cold, 75° or 80°.
3rd. Amusing books.
4th. Short views of human life—not further than dinner or tea.
5th. Be as busy as you can.
6th. See as much as you can of those friends who respect and like you.
7th. And of those acquaintances who amuse you.
8th. Make no secret of low spirits to your friends, but talk of them freely—they are always worse for dignified concealment.
9th. Attend to the effects tea and coffee produce upon you.
10th. Compare your lot with that of other people.
11th. Don't expect too much from human life—a sorry business at the best.
12th. Avoid poetry, dramatic representations (except comedy), music, serious novels, melancholy sentimental people, and every thing likely to excite feeling or emotion not ending in active benevolence.
13th. Do good, and endeavour to please everybody of every degree.
14th. Be as much as you can in the open air without fatigue.
15th. Make the room where you commonly sit, gay and pleasant.
16th. Struggle by little and little against idleness.
17th. Don't be too severe upon yourself, or underrate yourself, but do yourself justice.
18th. Keep good blazing fires.
19th. Be firm and constant in the exercise of rational religion.
20th. Believe me, dear Georgiana, your devoted servant, Sydney Smith