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Fed by Fables

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July 8th, 1944

Dear Mr. Connor,

Despite your best efforts to discourage me, I have written a manuscript, and you will find it enclosed.  I am sending it to you not because I think you have any influence and can help me get it published-- and certainly not because I want to hear your thoughts on it-- but to taunt you with my disregard for your advice.

Tracy and Dexter send their regards.  I mentioned to Mother that I was writing you, but she has forgotten who you are.  After I reminded her, she asked me to enclose her regards, but I suspect they are not sincere.

Love,
Dinah


                          

August 1, 1944

Dear Miss Lord,

Consider me taunted.  

For the record, my attempt to "discourage" you was in fact a kindly warning meant to encourage you in other pursuits.  For example, you are a gifted pianist, or at least a strange pianist.  It so happens I wish someone had advised me when I was nineteen to follow a path more rewarding and less exhausting than that of a writer.  

I know you're not interested in my thoughts on your manuscript, and that you typed up a second copy to send me just because, and for no other reason, but here are my thoughts anyway:

Your writing is very good.  You move between very large things and very small things, sometimes breathlessly, and you tell everything with a sympathy that is beyond your years.  I especially like the story titled "Home in the Rock."  I assume your sister has not read it?  

Lastly, please remove the semi-colon key from your typewriter, if it has not already been destroyed from overuse.

Yours,
Macaulay Connor




August 4, 1944

Dear Mr. Connor,

You are full of it; you think being a writer is the keenest thing anyone could ever be, which is why you always feel so superior to everyone, and resentful of their comforts.  I use the semi-colon here for further injury.

Tracy hasn't read "Home in the Rock" or any of my other stories.  Tracy likes to improve on me the same way she likes to improve on herself, so she's always full of stern advice, and I didn't want to hear it.  

Also she probably would not like to hear of my circulating thinly-veiled retellings of her marital misadventures, especially since some of the details were delivered to me in confidence, which I suppose is a great betrayal.  I trust you will keep my secret.  If you don't, I'll just tell her you've flipped your wig.  You are a writer, after all; Dexter says I myself am destined to drink heavily and beat my wife.  Mother looks very upset whenever he says it.  

Dexter has read the story and likes it, but as you know he's a strange sort.  He could read anything about himself and would only be philosophical about it.  He's nearly impossible to embarrass; I know because I've tried.  He's charmed by anything that has gentleness in it, and I guess prose has that.

Tracy asked me last time to send her regards to Liz Imbrie, but I had already sent my letter, so here they are belatedly.  I think she is trying to make some kind of point by extending them, but I don't care about it.  

Love,
Dinah




August 10th, 1944

Dear Miss Lord,

Your insights are good vis-à-vis  my arrogance.  But please do not write a science fiction story about me.  You are wrong on one count, however: I do still have a little bit of imagination.  If I had to pick the keenest thing a person could be, it would probably be something like a czar or a pope.  Or a wizard.

I greatly admire that you trust I will keep your secret even as you acknowledge that writers are in the business of betrayal.  I think Tracy would like your story very much, whatever confidences it contains, if you weren't her sister and she didn't feel responsible for you.  Grown-ups are weird about the insights of children.  I will try to find a proverb to that effect in case you ever want to write a story about it.  

Speaking of which, I recently came across this Chinese proverb that you might find useful in conversation at one of your high society parties, if not your fiction: "The friendship of a gentleman is insipid as water."

Thank you for extending your sister's regards to Miss Imbrie.  Please tell her to mind her own business.

Yours,
Macaulay Connor



Sept 2, 1944

Dear Mr. Connor,

Your admonition to become a wizard is too late.  I just got a notice in the mail that "Home in the Rock" has been accepted by a quarterly magazine called Astounding Wonder Stories.  The story will run under the pseudonym Haydin Conte in the Winter issue, out in October, and I expect you to buy it.  

I would buy your works, only I understand you resent being supported financially, which I'm sure has nothing whatsoever to do with your difficulties in making a living.

Your request to not be written into a science fiction story is also belated;  clearly you are the insane copyist in "The Atlantean Reel."  

I like that Chinese proverb.  I don't spend more time with high society types than I have to, but maybe I should seek some out just so I can compare them to water.    

I bought a book of folk wisdom for the sake of sending you some quotations in exchange, but most of the collection turned out to be home remedies and advice on farming.  I did like this Russian proverb: "The nightingale can't be fed by fables."  I'm not sure what it means, but it reminded me of you.

I am also prepared to advise you on farming.

Love,
Dinah

 

Sept 17, 1944


Dear Miss Lord,

Congratulations on having your first story published!  You are now well on your way to being under-appreciated and bitterly disappointed.  

But in all seriousness-- congratulations.  It is an uncanny alchemy, to have strangers' eyes pour over your writing, but the right alchemy, the best alchemy, could make the smallest imaginings into gold.

I like your pseudonym; it's very George Eliot.  No one will suspect that you are actually a nineteen-year-old Main Line debutante who has cobbled together an impressive amount of life history simply by spying on other people for her whole life.

That is quite a melancholy axiom.  If a nightingale can't be fed by fables, you and I shall surely starve.

Yours,
Macaulay Connor

PS.  With the greatest reluctance, I convey to you fond regards for Tracy from Miss Elizabeth Imbrie.

 

 

Sept 21, 1944

Dear Mr. Connor,

I'm very proud of the pseudonym; I have had it in mind since I was fourteen.  "Conte" is French for "count"-- a synonym for "Lord"-- but it also means a fairytale or short story.  

It also sounds like an impolite word that Tracy once socked me for using.  Probably a hundred years from now some scholar will assume I meant it as a coy allusion to my sex, but really it was a happy accident.  (That part did not occur to me when I was fourteen.)

"Haydin" is an anagram of Dinah, of course.  It derives from the Old German word for "heathen."  

Love,
Dinah

 

 

Sept 21, 1944


Dear Mr. Connor,

I was too excited about explaining my pseudonym to you.  I have more letter to write.  

First of all, thank you for your congratulations.  I have no concerns about bitter disappointment, as you have properly prepared me, unlike the person who introduced you to authorship, apparently, who I can only suppose was William Shakespeare.  (That was an allusion to your lofty expectations, not to your age, although that too I guess.)   Furthermore, I have cleverly distanced myself from disappointment by using a pen-name.  If people like me, then I can take on their praise of Conte at will; if they don't, I can distance myself by feeling that he is some other person.  And it may be that I can add to my oeuvre by having adventures of my own soon.  

Love,
Dinah

 

 

Nov 8, 1944


Dear Miss Lord,

I have nothing to say about this impolite word you reference except that whatever tavern you visited sometime between the ages of fifteen and eighteen ought to be ashamed of itself.  "Heathen" is right.  

Also, in my defense, my expectations were not that I would be revered as a writer but that I would be able to do my craft, like a man who makes chairs or necklaces, and still eat. 

Let me also assure you that, however people understand or demonstrate notice of your astounding wonder story, it does not mean that they do or do not like you.  That is my only real message: that whatever the future holds people definitely do like you.

Yours,
Macaulay Connor

 

Nov 25, 1944

Dear Mr. Connor,

Dear sir, please do not believe that you must defend yourself from me.  Remember that I am the one who re-introduced you to Mother, who now insists that we invite you for Christmas.   Please do not be so proud as to refuse.

Love,
Dinah

PS.  Re: tavern, I will give Uncle Willie your regards.