I am taking advantage of this unfathomable holiday (Columbus Day, I think) to write to you. The last few days (extending from last Monday to last Saturday) have been as momentous as any days have been for a long time–in fact, so momentous that I haven’t recovered from their effects yet–not by a long shot. However, lest you die of suspense, let me proceed.
Monday, when I came home from school (this was a week ago exactly) I was informed by Helen that I had been solicited for a job, that she had accepted with alacrity for me (wise woman!) and that I was to go to work Tuesday afternoon, for half-time work indefinitely, along with school, you see. The office is the Personnel Research Federation, and the boss is an old friend (more or less) of the family.
So Tuesday afternoon (that’s enough excitement for one paragraph, don’t you think? that’s why I’m changing!) I wandered into this office with my school-bag in my hand and my only hat in (on, rather) my head. That hat was dug up in the New Haven panic, and is at least eight years old, but it was a twelve-dollar felt hat, and one advantage of them is that they LAST.… Read more
620 West 122nd Street New York City October 4, 1930
My dear Mate:
Your letter arrived here on Wednesday, the 24th of September. I remember that, because it was sent on the 22nd, and I remember my delight and amazement, and my admiration, too, for this world of wonders. A letter across the continent in two days? What next?!
I sat down at once and wrote an answer to it–yes, the very day I received it, mind you. Then, on reading my letter, it seemed too puny and putrid to exist, and hopelessly inadequate, so I tucked both your letter and my embryonic one away in a drawer. Then came the week-end–a week ago, and I firmly intended to answer you then. You see, Saturdays and Sundays are my only real days, and so I save up everything all week to do then, with the result that I get about half of the things done.
Well, I thought so very much about your letter, and my answer to it, that I thought myself into a state of believing that I had answered it, and it didn’t really occur to me until this morning that I hadn’t, and that my embryo was still lying in a drawer.… Read more
Having allowed the dentist to put a gold inlay into a tooth, having written, delivered, and been paid for three synopses, having seen Helen off for New Haven again (thereby making three trips back and forth from here to town in the course of the day, via that devastating subway), and having, alone and in peace at last, partaken of my bowl of soup and crust of bread–having done all this, and being still quite alive, I will now proceed (oh, luxury!) to sit down and quietly, and in leisurely fashion, write a letter to you.
How I have chuckled over your contributions from Pasadena headline English! I would answer in kind, but I scan the papers in vain. New York headlinists don’t seem to have that ingenious knack of balling things up; in fact, for the most part they are altogether too lucid to be interesting. DRIVE CAR DEATH LEAP TIES UP TRAFFIC, is the best I can do, for the time being.
Dash it all, now that I’ve really sat down–after three days of trying to–there doesn’t seem to be anything more to say than there was last time or the time before, and one shouldn’t repeat oneself.… Read more
All congratulations on your latest entries in the unofficial log. It arrived this morning, and so you see I am SETTING YOU AN EXAMPLE. In fact, I wrote you a letter before this one, but tore it up. It contains too much really Tough Language, and all That Sort of Thing! I suppose I picked it up form the Unmentionable Movie Trash which I Read For a Living–anyhow, where-ever I picked it up, it certainly is NOT the proper thing to send in a letter to one who is writing Healthy Young Men for a Living.
My dear, don’t you ever yearn to spit in their faces, and to create for a change some perfectly Horrible and Gritty young men who would hammer and mash and batter and whang up all the healthy-minded maidens? I suppose, were a list of detailed rules for healthy stories written out, they would look something like this: “No kisses of more than two second’s duration,” and that sort of thing. Wouldn’t they?
Well, anyhow! Dang it all, I’d like to see all you Russells together. It’s not right for people to have half-continents and such trash shoved whang into their faces, between them and those they love, is it?… Read more
620 West 122nd Street New York City August 1, 1930
Well! Here we am, as you might say. It really has become a rather usual occurrence, all this moving around, yet still, it has not lost a certain spice. This is really a grand little apartment of three rooms, and we have our own old furniture, and a whole bookcase full of books (the pick of the flock) and a little kitchen which is concealed behind two vast doors; and I can’t imagine a better place for us to live in———-that is, all things considered, and seeing things as they are, my boy, as Chester used to say to Marlow.
You mustn’t feel sorry for me at all, though. I really am quite happy, because I am so busy from morning till night that I haven’t time for anything else. I’m good in school–in fact, one of the best in the shorthand class, now–and Fox Film likes my work for them, and they hand me out a bit of praise almost every time I come into the office, which is about three times a week, and they pay me in cash in sealed pay-envelopes (can you imagine anything more pleasant?)… Read more
CUBS HAMMER MOSS, SCORING ON ROBINS. How’s that, my dear?
Well, ‘ere I ham, as one might say. Your letter arrived a rather shocking long time ago (it’s make my heart beating like a earth shocking), and I would be ‘shamed if I weren’t so almighty damn-fired hell-bent busy. You see, I am no longer begging for work, I am in work up to my ears, and over them at times. Yes, I have bearded New York in its lair. I find it not so appalling, in fact I rather like it, as one likes some colossal piece of machinery; and struggling into the sardine-packed express “L” at quarter to nine in the morning is almost exhilarating. It thrills me to see all those millions of faces, all going to their respective puny jobs, and all so tense and rushed. I don’t know, but New York has so far done me much more good than harm. I feel more of a sympathy and understanding for People In General than ever in my life before, because I am One Of Them, which I never was in my life before. I find myself buying my chewing-gum from a cripple in the street, rather than in a drug-store.… Read more
Mine somewhat materialized last Monday–that is, the puny coined, earthly little dream somewhat materialized–when I got a sort of a job. I was in Pelham until Sunday noon, then I suddenly became very tired of sitting like a fisherman at his lines, with nothing biting at any one of them. And I decided I’d have to change and be like a Tahitian fisherman who taked spear in hand and dives after his prey, instead of waiting for it.
No sooner thought than accomplished. The tears of horror stood silverly in my een as I left the house, and increased with nearness to the City, but I turned not back, Skipper, I turned not back. That was Sunday night. I stayed at the Y. W. C. A. (Ugh!) and Monday morning I—–went to work! Who can boast of such a thing as that?
It happened when I was on the roof garden Sunday night, gazing o’er the colossal brow of the etc., etc., etc., and there was also on the roof garden an old lady. It transpired, after friendly conversation, that she ran an employment agency for domestic service, and that she needed some typewriting done, and could use me for “an hour or two in the morning.”… Read more
You know, I really am a wonderful person. Three different makes of typewriter in three days. This is Mr. Bryan’s Remington Portable–my own is in dry-dock at present, as one might say, if one were nautically inclined.
It is glorious, in more ways than one, to have this really private address. I wish Anderson were here–correspondence would be very enjoyable–no restrictions, as one might say. Well, we’ll make the most of this opportunity, won’t we.
There’s so much to say, my dear, that, to put it very tritely and very truly, “I don’t know where to begin.” About the Farents. I know nothing about them, and I really don’t care a damn now. I only care in so much as I sympathize deeply with the situation confronting you and E. when they came trooping up to the desert. It was—-well, it was one of those Grand Accidents that Occur Occasionally. I don’t particularly want to think about them. I tried sincerely to get myself to write, but failed of course. They don’t seem quite of my world at present. I am truly very happy now, and I want to keep to this particular circle, for the time being at least.… Read more
The MS is nearly FINISHED!!!!! The heart’s blood has all been shed, and nothing is left now to do but to add a few finishing touches. We’ve been here two months now, and our rent expires, so we are going out into one of those delightful little one-horse villages in the Virginia backwoods, to spend a week of sheer rest, walks, and finishing touches, before we sail for New York. We’ve earned it, don’t you think? At least, Helen has.
My job goes out to the back-woods with me. You see, I am now a full-fledged Editor. I edit, and suggest, and copy for that certain medical and scientific gentleman whom you have heard of. This, incidentally, is the typewriter I use for him–I use it myself to keep in practice with it! And that certain gentleman rewards my distinguished efforts at frequent intervals with one of those succulent tid-bits knows as Wages. In fact, I get paid fifteen whole cents for every single page; and since this type is large, the pages count up mighty fast.
Well, what I mainly wanted to say is already said–about going off into the back-woods.… Read more
Alice Dyar Russell, born in 1881, was an author from Pasadena, California and an old friend of the Follett family. She was married to Bert Russell (1874-1933), a patent lawyer, and they had two daughters: Elisabeth and Phoebe. (A third daughter, Mary, died the year Barbara was born, having lived only two years.) Barbara wrote regularly to A.D.R. between her return east in March 1930 and her disappearance in 1939. They are simply wonderful letters, and I’ll be posting all the ones I have, in chronological order, starting with this on, describing work on Helen’s “Magic Portholes.”
Washington, D. C. April 28, 1930
Dear A. D. R.:
Still here, and working like fiends. The writing becomes more magnificent every second; it really is grand, and it really must “go,” I think. There is no longer the faintest trace of a “narrative style” about it; the whole thing has split itself into little episodes, each one a complete little entity, with a definite climax and a definite “point.” Some of them are screamingly funny, others quite sad and wistful. These episodes are split from each other by little section-marks consisting of a triangle of dots. There isn’t even any attempt at strict chronological truth any more.… Read more