Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A letter from Jan. 18, 1981

My mother, my sister and I wrote each other many letters, and some of them I've saved. I was going through a box the other day and I thought this letter my mother had written me in 1981 really gives you a sense of her vivid imagination, and where mine comes from.

The first part of the letter, which I left out, was about whether my sister should come with me on a lecture tour. (My mother was against it.) The rest of the letter is below:

I just read your "Dome of Peace ". It' s a beautiful story Sally and once again I can't get over the gift you have for writing. I knew you had done some interesting things at Smith but didn't realize the extent of your creative abilities.

I like this story particularly because it is positive. The world needs to hear and read of victorious characters. The character in your story is confronted with destructive forces and manages to be victorious over them. So many writers like to leave their characters in hopeless defeat or hopeless anxiety.

Of course that is the true meaning of Christianity--victory. I never told Daddy but I had the deepest respect for Martin Luther King--"I have a dream" and "We can overcome", just think
what he accomplished in his short life . Writers can have tremendous influence on people without ever knowing it. I am so moved by what I read that I have to make vigilant choices.

I actually gave up novels because I couldn't read them like regular people. I was "them" in the novel and couldn't do anything else till I was finished with "them". That's why I like biographies and autobiographies. I know the people turned out O.K. so I can read at my leisure, like regular
people. Even here I find myself wanting to copy down all the wise conclusions they come to so my children can have the benefit of them! With Schweitzer I was in steaming Africa, with Zelda Fitzgerald in the nut house, with Baruch on Wall Street, and so it goes... There are many people, not in the public eye who live victoriously and it is these people who deserve plaudits, like Enether and Jean Wallace.

Must close this, I am taking Bee Burnett to church and because she wants to/will sit thru a lecture on Islamic religion set up by the education dept at St. Pauls. Talk about negative! Who ever said I was prejudiced! If he isn't too darling about it I may find it interesting. He is a
professor, not a missionary.

My afternoon is going to be wonderful. First the football game and then the tennis!

Lots of love


(The letter was typewritten and I was able to scan it and then use a program that recognized the text to paste it here. )


Linda said...


Thanks for sharing this wonderful letter.
May we read your "Dome of Peace"?

I'm not at all in fashion; I agree with your mom about positivity. I like the way she thinks.

The way she read novels!!!

But I'm puzzled that she says she didn't realize the extent of your creative abilities. 1981 is post-Quasi even.

So heartening to read what she says about Martin Luther King.

"My afternoon is going to be wonderful..." I love your mom.

stray said...

I am so impressed with how intelligent your mom is and what a good writer, also how positive and aware, and also how supportive of you. I prefer reading nonfiction to fiction, too.

Namowal said...

I can understand your mom getting sucked into novels and considering herself part of the story- when I'm sucked into a good one I too become one of "them", and remember the story almost as if it happened to me.

Her observation that "The character in your story is confronted with destructive forces and manages to be victorious over them." makes me think of- don't laugh- the Harry Potter books. Harry is up against vicious of all sorts: murderous brutes, corrupt authority figures, mean kids. He gets slandered, insulted, humiliated and physically hurt, but he does triumph in the end.
I suspect that's one reason the stories are so popular. They sort of pat you on the shoulder and say "See, bad things happen to the best of us but we still can triumph"
Ah well, enough of my rambling.

So let's hear this Dome of Peace story!

Jane said...

Thank you for posting that letter, Sally. It does indeed give a revealing glimpse into who your mother is.

Sally said...

I'm glad you all enjoyed this letter. The story I wrote wasn't so good, but I left mention of it in because it led into all her thoughts on fiction and non-fiction, which I'd forgotten. I had wondered why she preferred reading biographies, because mostly I don't. (unless by manly men of course. ;-) )

She's been on the ship again, yesterday the captain was drunk on gin and they needed ropes to keep it afloat, but today she was back at Princeton for yet another game.