International Mark Twain Society has voted My Ántonia a silver medal, but must go to St. Louis to receive it. She might enjoy reading enclosed report done for the Society. Please don't show people in Red Cloud who are spiteful or would gape at Annie Pavelka to see how dissimilar Ántonia is. Why won't people believe fiction is not a direct portrait of real people? "Two Friends" not about Mr. Miner and Mr. Richardson, but the emotional response to them felt by a child. It recreates a memory. Similarly, Ántonia sums up emotions about immigrant people she knew there. Mr. Sadilek's suicide was the first thing she heard about upon arriving in Nebraska. Her fiction has always been a precise representation of her feelings, never faked or exaggerated feeling. P.S.: Enjoyed seeing Irene when she was in New York. Willie [Stout #1214]
Appreciates wonderful, reassuring letter, which answered her questions about Dr. Creighton and Bess. Feels overwhelmed by good news of Bess. Will Elsie please take a good stock of food out there from Mrs. Burden's store so that Mrs. Kourtner can cook. Buy them new bedding or furniture if they need it. Is enclosing a check for forty dollars to assist with property taxes. Hopes Elsie will give Kitty work; will help her and Elsie both. Is as pleased as the Bishop that Elsie saved the trees at the church. Bishop is an impressive man. If West Virginia is to be at the University of Chicago, why doesn't Elsie go there for Christmas and enjoy some shows and music? She herself always stays at the La Salle hotel. Is amazed that though she is so busy Elsie had the house painted, but a good time to do it with labor and materials cheap. Nebraska climate always hard, but Michigan, Wisconsin, and even England are very hot and dry now. Grand Manan seems to be the only cool place left. Wishes she could bring Red Cloud in its entirety there for a week. Friend of J. M. Barrie wrote to ask that she inscribe a book to Barrie, since he often reads Death Comes for the Archbishop and My Antonia. Hard to know how to write such an inscription; he would not be pleased by anything reeking of flattery. Would rather write a book than this, but has to do it. Elsie should take it easy and rest after the heat of the summer. Willie
Claude [One of Ours] seems to have caused a commotion. People are reading the novel incorrectly as a position statement as if in a debate. Friends including Mencken and Fanny Butcher do not like it. They expected another My Antonia. Can't be expected to do the same things again and again, but hates to lose friends. They claim the book lacks the deep human touch of the earlier books and think she tried to write a spectacular war novel. Many like the book a lot, but they are not the people she hoped to satisfy. In life and in art there are always tradeoffs. Has lost friends but advanced technically as a writer. Please read enclosed reviews to Dr. Tyndale, even though his mind is feeble with age and drugs. If she reads them aloud, he'll understand a little, and he deserves whatever pleasures he can get. She herself is the only thing in his life that has succeeded. Confidentially: Knopf has sold 15,000 copies with 18,000 in reserve—a gamble that will pinch him if there are no re-orders. He invested heavily in the book but says if he goes under on it so be it. Gets thirty-seven cents herself for each copy sold. Sinclair [Lewis] review in tonight's New York Evening Post calls it a failure and asks why a woman should write about war. Why indeed? But the topic chose her, she had to do it. Skip the Lewis review with Dr. Tyndale, but do read Zoë's and both of Burton Rascoe's. Will send Heywood Broun's review later. Is in bed and not feeling very literary. Just returned yesterday, hasn't even unpacked. Has seen only Knopf, but has received a lot of correspondence offering both congratulations and condolences! Willie
Started this letter a long while ago. New York is brimming with soldiers back from the war. Has been trying to see them often. They enjoy speaking about France to anybody who is interested. Is mailing a copy of a terrific review [of My Ántonia]—complete with a large photograph—from the Sunday Sun. ["My Nebraska Antonia," [New York] Sun (6 October 1918) section 6, p. 1] Had to special order the copies, for extras aren't readily available due to paper shortages. Is stunned by the popular response. Doesn't everybody in the U.S. have such a tale? Has never cared for tales herself, and less so now that she is so conscious of their construction. In My Ántonia, didn't intensify the drama of life one bit, yet people really enjoy it. Professor Geoghegan [possibly linguist Richard Henry Geoghegan?] tells her that he believes it is the greatest American novel; father also says it is as good as any he has read. How delightful to reach such different readers! Hopes she can do it again. Is pleased Virginia likes her coat. Sorry to hear about the whooping cough going around in his family. Was in Red Cloud when Trix Mizer's children were suffering from it. Please write soon. Enjoys hearing about his life. Ask Meta to write, too. Is working some on the Blue Mesa story [a version of "Tom Outland's Story," which later appeared in the novel The Professor's House], but is struggling with it mightily. Does not want to write it conventionally, but the alternative is very hard. Willie.