I liked it and I didn’t. It started off with that marvelous description of Sara and Gerald (goddamn it Dos took it with him so I can’t refer to it. So if I make any mistakes—). Then you started fooling with them, making them come from things they didn’t come from, changing them into other people and you can’t do that, Scott. If you take real people and write about them you cannot give them other parents than they have (they are made by their parents and what happens to them) you cannot make them do anything they would not do. You can take you or me or Zelda or Pauline or Hadley or Sara or Gerald but you have to keep them the same and you can only make them do what they would do. You can’t make one be another. Invention is the finest thing but you cannot invent anything that would not actually happen.
That is what we are supposed to do when we are at our best—make it all up—but make it up so truly that later it will happen that way.
Goddamn it you took liberties with peoples’ pasts and futures that produced not people but damned marvellously faked case histories. You, who can write better than anybody can, who are so lousy with talent that you have to—the hell with it. Scott for gods sake write and write truly no matter who or what it hurts but do not make these silly compromises. You could write a fine book about Gerald and Sara for instance if you knew enough about them and they would not have any feeling, except passing, if it were true.
There were wonderful places and nobody else nor none of the boys can write a good one half as good reading as one that doesn’t come out by you, but you cheated too damned much in this one. And you don’t need to.
In the first place I’ve always claimed that you can’t think. All right, we’ll admit you can think. But say you couldn’t think; then you ought to write, invent, out of what you know and keep the people’s antecedants straight. Second place, a long time ago you stopped listening except to the answers to your own questions. You had good stuff in too that it didn’t need. That’s what dries a writer up (we all dry up. That’s no insult to you in person) not listening. That is where it all comes from. Seeing, listening. You see well enough. But you stop listening.
It’s a lot better than I say. But it’s not as good as you can do.
You can study Clausewitz in the field and economics and psychology and nothing else will do you any bloody good once you are writing. We are like lousy damned acrobats but we make some mighty fine jumps, bo, and they have all these other acrobats that won’t jump.
For Christ sake write and don’t worry about what the boys will say nor whether it will be a masterpiece nor what. I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket. You feel you have to publish crap to make money to live and let live. All write but if you write enough and as well as you can there will be the same amount of masterpiece material (as we say at Yale). You can’t think well enough to sit down and write a deliberate masterpiece and if you could get rid of Seldes and those guys that nearly ruined you and turn them out as well as you can and let the spectators yell when it is good and hoot when it is not you would be all right.
Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt use it—don’t cheat with it. Be as faithful to it as a scientist—but don’t think anything is of any importance because it happens to you or anyone belonging to you.
About this time I wouldn’t blame you if you gave me a burst. Jesus it’s marvellous to tell other people how to write, live, die etc.
I’d like to see you and talk about things with you sober. You were so damned stinking in N.Y. we didn’t get anywhere. You see, Bo, you’re not a tragic character. Neither am I. All we are is writers and what we should do is write. Of all people on earth you needed discipline in your work and instead you marry someone who is jealous of your work, wants to compete with you and ruins you. It’s not as simple as that and I thought Zelda was crazy the first time I met her and you complicated it even more by being in love with her and, of course you’re a rummy. But you’re no more of a rummy than Joyce is and most good writers are. But Scott, good writers always come back. Always. You are twice as good now as you were at the time you think you were so marvellous. You know I never thought so much of Gatsby at the time. You can write twice as well now as you ever could. All you need to do is write truly and not care about what the fate of it is.
Go on and write.
Anyway I’m damned fond of you and I’d like to have a chance to talk sometimes. We had good times talking. Remember that guy we went out to see dying in Neuilly? He was down here this winter. Damned nice guy Canby Chambers. Saw a lot of Dos. He’s in good shape now and he was plenty sick this time last year. How is Scotty and Zelda? Pauline sends her love. We’re all fine. She’s going up to Piggott for a couple of weeks with Patrick. Then bring Bumby back. We have a fine boat. Am going good on a very long story. Hard one to write.
Always your friend
[Written on envelope: What about The Sun also and the movies? Any chance? I dint put in about the good parts. You know how good they are. You’re write about the book of stories. I wanted to hold it for more. That last one I had in Cosmopolitan would have made it.]
So, Death Cab for Cutie is, finally, coming to Charlottesville (July 14th! Right before my birthday!). Fifteen year old me is freaking out (as is current me). My friends can tell you that I spend at least a day a year whining about how I’ve never seen Death Cab. So yeah, this is pretty major. Excuse me while I go lose my mind, Oprah audience style. Or Nicolas Cage style.
Or a mash up of the two freak out styles. CAN YOU IMAGINE?!
I think it’s great for two people to be together. That is a good number. I think, that to keep it alive though, you can’t spend every day together. It wears out the magic. Love means nothing to me if it’s not fortified with fierce, painful longing, brief explosive instances of furious passion and intimacy and then a sad parting for a time. In that way, you can give your life to it and still have a life of your own. I think some couples spend too much time together. They flatten out the potential for experience by constant closeness. Passion builds over time like steam. Let it rage until it’s exhausted and then leave it alone to let it build up again. Why can’t love be insane and distorted? How can it be vital if it has the same threshold as normal day-to-day experience?
Why can’t you write burning letters and let your nocturnal self smolder with desire for one who is not there? Why not let the days before you see her be excruciating and ferment in your mind so on the day you go to the airport to pick her up, you’re nearly sick with anticipation? And then when desire shows the first sign of contentment, throw it back in its cage and let it slowly build itself back into a state of starved fury. Then when you are together, it all matters. So that when you look into her eyes, you lose your balance, so that when she touches you, it feels like you have never been touched before. When she says your name, you think it was she who named you. When she has gone, you bury your face in the pillow to smell her hair and you lie awake at night remembering your face in her neck, her breathing and the amazing smell of her skin. Your eyes go wet because you want her so bad and miss her so much. Now that is worth the miles and the time. That matches the inferno of life. Otherwise you poison each other with your presence day after day as you drag each other through the inevitable mundane aspects of your lives. That is the slow death that I see slapped on faces everywhere I go. It’s part of the world’s sadness that’s more empty than cold, poorly lit rooms in cities of the American night.
Lots of things might happen. That’s the thing about writers. They’re unpredictable. They might bring you eggs in bed for breakfast, or they might all but ignore you for days. They might bring you eggs in bed at three in the morning. Or they might wake you up for sex at three in the morning. Or make love at four in the afternoon. They might not sleep at all. Or they might sleep right through the alarm and forget to get you up for work. Or call you home from work to kill a spider. Or refuse to speak to you after finding out you’ve never seen To Kill A Mockingbird. Or spend the last of the rent money on five kinds of soap. Or sell your textbooks for cash halfway through the semester. Or leave you love notes in your pockets. Or wash you pants with Post-It notes in the pockets so your laundry comes out covered in bits of wet paper. They might cry if the Post-It notes are unread all over your pants. It’s an unpredictable life.
But what happens if a writer falls in love with you?
This is a little more predictable. You will find your hemp necklace with the glass mushroom pendant around the neck of someone at a bus stop in a short story. Your favorite shoes will mysteriously disappear, and show up in a poem. The watch you always wear, the watch you own but never wear, the fact that you’ve never worn a watch: they suddenly belong to characters you’ve never known. And yet they’re you. They’re not you; they’re someone else entirely, but they toss their hair like you. They use the same colloquialisms as you. They scratch their nose when they lie like you. Sometimes they will be narrators; sometimes protagonists, sometimes villains. Sometimes they will be nobodies, an unimportant, static prop. This might amuse you at first. Or confuse you. You might be bewildered when books turn into mirrors. You might try to see yourself how your beloved writer sees you when you read a poem about someone who has your middle name or prose about someone who has never seen To Kill A Mockingbird. These poems and novels and short stories, they will scatter into the wind. You will wonder if you’re wandering through the pages of some story you’ve never even read. There’s no way to know. And no way to erase it. Even if you leave, a part of you will always be left behind.
If a writer falls in love with you, you can never die.
YES. To everything here. I always steal from the one(s) I love.
“‘Maybe you’ll fall in love with me all over again.’
‘Hell,’ I said, ‘I love you enough now. What do you want to do? Ruin me?’
‘Yes. I want to ruin you.’
‘Good,’ I said. ‘That’s what I want too.’”—Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms (via boxofoctaves)