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Posts Tagged ‘letters’

Zelda: A Worksheet

July 21, 2016 | by

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In our Fall 1983 issueThe Paris Review published twenty years’ worth of Zelda Fitzgerald’s letters to her husband, Scott. This selection comprises her correspondence between the spring of 1919 and Easter Sunday, 1920, the day Zelda and Scott married. Zelda Fitzgerald was born this month in 1900. Note: Zelda was known for her quirks in punctuation (she was a particularly fond of the em dash), and these are retained in the text. As in the original printing, asterisks denote substantial editorial deletions and ellipses are used to indicate minor omissions. Each letter is addressed to Scott Fitzgerald. —C.L.

Montgomery, 1919

Mrs. Francesca—who never heard of you—got a message from Ouija for me. Nobody’s hands were on it—but hers—and it told us to be married—that we were soul-mates. Theosophists think that two souls are incarnated together—not necessarily at the same time, but are mated—since the time when people were bisexual; so you see “soul-mate” isn’t exactly snappy-stylish; after all: I can’t get messages but it really worked for me last night—only it couldn’t say anything, but “dead,”—so, of course I got scared and quit. It’s really most remarkable, even if you do scoff. I wish you wouldn’t, it’s so easy, and believing is much more intelligent. Read More »

Kool Customer

July 18, 2016 | by

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Hunter S. Thompson, who would be seventy-nine today, started smoking Kools when he was a sophomore in high school; he remained loyal to the brand until 1962, when he discovered Dunhills. In 1960, he wrote the letter below to the distribution manager of the Brown and Williamson Tobacco Co. You can read more of Thompson’s early correspondence in The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955–1967. The Paris Review interviewed Thompson in our Fall 2000 issue.

January 15, 1960
164 Ave. Flamboyanes
Hyde Park, Puerto Rico

Distribution Manager
Brown-Williamson Tobacco Co.
Hill St.
Louisville, Kentucky

Dear Sir:

I regret to inform you that Salems have all but swamped Kools in the Puerto Rico cigarette market. I don’t know if this makes much difference to you or not, but let me tell you that it bothers the mortal hell out of me. I’ve been smoking Kools for close to ten years, but down here I’d have an easier time getting a steady supply of reefers. There are god knows how many cigarette machines in San Juan, and in only three of them can I find king-size Kools. This is working a tremendous hardship on me, and I’m writing you in hopes that you’ll do something about it. Read More »

Dear Bill Cunningham

July 1, 2016 | by

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At an auction in December 2010, I acquired a double-breasted men’s mink stroller coat owned by Edward Gorey. It was an unlikely purchase: I hadn’t intended to bid on anything, had never been to a proper auction before, and had very little money to my name.

I was there to write something about the once-in-a-lifetime auction of Gorey’s personal hoard of fur coats—twenty-one in all. I was a Gorey fan, not, outside a first edition or two, a collector. But that morning, I had deposited a meager paycheck from adjunct professing, and I began to feel the emergence of a dream. I could own the coat. Why couldn’t I at least try? I could at least pretend to be that person who wins precious objects at auction. Read More »

Falling for Fitzgerald

June 7, 2016 | by

A hopeless affair with America’s greatest—and deceased—man of letters.

FITZ

F. Scott Fizgerald.

Last year, I confessed to my best friend that I had fallen in love with another man. When she heard this man’s identity, she knew I was in trouble.

“First of all,” she told me, “you’re married. And so is he.”

“I know,” I said miserably.

“Plus, he has a mistress,” she pointed out.

“Yes,” I conceded.

“And, you know,” she went on, “he also happens to be dead.” Read More »

Tell Me How You Really Feel, Bro

June 6, 2016 | by

Thomas Mann, right, with his brother Heinrich.

In December 1903, Thomas Mann wrote his older brother, Heinrich, a long letter reviewing the latter’s novel—with brutal candor. Some of the most scathing bits are below. The complete missive is in The Letters of Heinrich and Thomas Mann, 1900–1949.

My impressions? They are not exactly very pleasant—which impressions, indeed, don’t absolutely need to be. It didn’t exactly make agreeable reading—which, indeed, however, is absolutely not necessary either. I struggled back and forth with the book, threw it aside, took it up again, groaned, complained, and then got tears in my eyes again … For days, in the lowest barometric pressure in a hundred years (according to the meteorologist), I went about in the agony your book caused in me. Now I know approximately what I have to say to you.

That I am not in agreement with your literary development—that must finally be said … When I think back ten, eight, five years! How do you appear to me? How were you? A refined connoisseur—next to whom I seemed to myself eternally plebeian, barbaric, and buffoonish—full of discretion and culture, full of reserve toward “modernity” and historically as talented as could be, free of all need for applause, a delicate and proud persaaonlity for whose literary endeavors there would quite probably be a select and receptive public … And now, instead of that? Instead, now these strained jokes, these vulgar, shrill, hectic, unnatural calumnies of the truth and humanity, these disgraceful grimaces and somersaults, the desperate attacks on the reader’s interest! … I read them and I don’t know you anymore. The psychological constant of the work, the desire of weak artificiality for life, this desire that would gladly masquerade as amorous desire within the lonely and sensuous artist—how is it supposed to move, to work convincingly when not even an attempt is being made to come close to life, to observe and capture even the air of the inner impulse of this simple madcap? Everything is distorted, screaming, exaggerated, “bellows,” “buffo,” romantic in the bad sense … Read More »

Thomas Hardy’s Letters Will Ruin Your Day

June 2, 2016 | by

Have a bad day.

Are you enjoying yourself at the moment? Please stop. It’s Thomas Hardy’s birthday, and he will wipe the smile right off your smug, contented, life-affirming face. You’re dealing with a man who knew how to deploy the word Niflheim, defined by the OED as “the region of eternal darkness, mist, and cold inhabited by those who died from old age or illness.” Hardy uses it to dispirited perfection in The Woodlanders, relating a kind of failure to connect: “But he continued motionless and silent in that gloomy Niflheim or fog-land which involved him, and she proceeded on her way.” Actually, The Woodlanders is full of an evocative, despondent murkiness. It extends even to the tiny twigs on the ground, which Hardy takes care to describe as they’re destroyed by a passing carriage: “they drove on out of the grove, their wheels silently crushing delicate-patterned mosses, hyacinths, primroses, lords-and-ladies, and other strange and common plants, and cracking up little sticks that lay across the track.”

But I’ve already digressed. I’m writing mainly to share a few excerpts from his letters that find him at his morose peak (nadir?). As a kind of warm-up, here’s a note from 1898 in which he critiques a prime minister’s funeral—always an exercise in good taste. Read More »