Friday, July 8, 2011

Adak, June 14 1944



My Darling…

I did not write yesterday but instead sent you a little booklet which the Army gave all of us. It tells about the Aleutian campaign from the bombing of Dutch Harbor until the present. Dashiell Hammett wrote it and some of the local artists drew the illustrations.

On the whole the booklet is an excellent job. And I imagine that it will fill a need. One of the minor gripes around here is that the folks at home do not know anything about the war in this area—its history and current problems. This booklet was designed especially to send home. The Army even furnished the envelope and instructions about postage.

On the other hand a few jaundiced GIs have expressed a fear that the homebodies, receiving these fancy pamphlets, will say “they must not be having much of a war up there to be able to turn out books like this.”
This has been another good day for everything but sleep. I “won” mail call by a mile: two letters, a book, a New Republic, a New York Times, a PM. One of the letters was a bill from Fortune (I hope you have sent them a check for six dollars) but the other was from you. It was the one you wrote in answer to my D-Day letter, which made the round trip in eight days. That is the best time yet and makes me feel very close to you, my plikka.

You mention that Mrs. Usedane is due to spend a night at the house, and that you hope to get a picture of her to send to me to give to Bill. I hope you can do it. But I don’t think she will be coming over. Bill told me some time ago that she had accepted the invitation in theory rather than in practice because, much as she enjoys Jean, she is tired out by long sessions with her. She is hard at work on practices for a recital she is to give at the University this summer: Brahms, Beethoven and Bartok.

Another visitor you are not likely to have is Virginia Green, Bill Green’s wife, whom I told you might come to talk about Mexico. Bill wrote to her about us and suggested the visit. Yesterday he received her answer. He showed it to me. Of you she said, “People like that scare me.” Of me she said, “I don’t believe I would like Murray. Isn’t he rather temperamental? And he sounds sort of smug. I think you had better find out about Mexico from him.”

I think that her opinion of you stems from my once telling Bill that I had convinced you that we should only entertain people who interest us. From something Bill said while he was writing a let6ter one night, I think he attributed the idea to you. As for her opinion of me, I think that it shows that Bill must write a rather good letter. His reporting of personalities, if not of direct quotes, seems to be accurate.

My smugness amazes even me. I am so superbly satisfied with the way we live. To be more accurate, with the way we lived and will live. I like our friends, I like our dwellings—not even excepting a certain cockroach cubbyhole in mid-Manhattan, I like our books, I like our records. For that matter, I sort of like you. I am even smug about my smugness, verdad?

But one thing which I object to very strongly in myself is my theoretic liking for “the people” and my actual dislike of a very large number of individual people. My attitude toward them is, I fear, supercilious. I have formed several deep dislikes for men simply because they represent attitudes to which I object. On the other hand, I believe I have managed to conceal my dislikes. And I have not mentioned them to anyone except you.
You are right in your estimates of Bill Usedane. He is reserved, intelligent and gentle. Only once, in fact, has he really let down the bars in talking to me. That was the night of the invasion. We sat up in the personnel hut and talked the sun into the sky. He has written a short story on anti-Semitism, somewhat like my “Smart Boy” piece. It is based on an experience he and his wife had on their honeymoon.

They stayed at a rather fancy and very empty beach resort. Everything about their stay was pleasant, in fact, idyllic. On the last day, just as they were about to leave, the complimented the proprietress on the appointments of the rooms and the overall d├ęcor of the establishment. She said, “Oh yes, we cater to a very god clientele, people who respect quality. And we keep the Jews out.” It was Mrs. Usedane’s first contact with overt anti-Semitism.

My other good friend here, Vern Jackson, is due to be transferred soon to another post. I will miss him. But in a way his move may work out to my advantage. In the first place, I may stay on the graveyard censor detail. I have grown to like it better than any other work I have done here. Considering my negative reaction to the first days on the censor desk this constitutes quite a change. But the days go pretty fast on graveyard and censoring seems more interesting than crypto. Jackson has had a long run on the graveyard detail and since I am filling in for him now I can hope to have an equally long tenure.

This would have another advantage. Vern has been going over to the supply warehouse, about half a mile from here, every night and practicing the violin from 6 until 10 or 11. I am going to see if I can’t “borrow” the warehouse for that period now to do my writing. It would be a real chance to work in complete solitude—and I can think of nothing more appealing. I have tried to write for the last three days in the hut, but there is always the radio and a very noisy card game and occasional roughhouse interruptions. Also there is the temptation to spend all day playing chess with Ray Howe, who is now leading me eight games to six. The warehouse would be the perfect solution. I will see the officer in charge tomorrow and let you know how it comes out.

I am editing the first six chapters of the novel, and have made a few changes. For one thing I lengthened the shooting scene at the end of the first chapter in an attempt to heighten the suspense. I have brought a bit more political interpretation into chapter three where Angel meets the Indian. And I have lengthened the fifth chapter somewhat t raise doubts as to whether the killer really caught the train and also to point up the inefficiency and political duplicity of the local police. I intend to retype the whole forty pages in a day or two and will send you a carbon of the new business.

About the sinarquistas. You mention an article in the May 29 PM. I don’t get the Sunday edition up here, so if you could commandeer the article—or get another at the stand in front of the downtown post office—it would be helpful. The delivery of papers up here is perplexing. I still get an occasional PM or Time for April. Today’s pair were the Times for the 18th of May and PM for the 22nd. The PM had the second of two articles the first of which has not arrived yet. Confusin but amusin, to quote the sage of Dogpatch.

Deliveries of packages seem to be even farther off schedule. So far I have received the slippers and the bed lamp and one of the books, Sunburst, which came today. I think the things you send yourself come faster than those Bill [James] handles. By the way, what give with Bill? And I have another request. It will probably make you laugh. I’d like some vitamin pills. Either the shotgun variety or those with lots of sunshine. The yellow stuff is rather a minus quality here, and so far green vegetables. 

You asked in today’s letter for a copy of the answer to Woody’s ends and means [Woody Wirsig]. I’ll remember the carbon paper. He is logically correct of course. To deny yourself support from demagogues you dislike is to deny yourself power. On the other hand, as Jacqueline [Ford] once pointed out, there are no such things as ends and means. Each act is an end in itself. The links in the chain are of equal value and brass means do not alternate with golden ends. A bad act remains a bad act. I still shy away from the unfavorable act regardless of its consequences. Woody looks at the consequences and weighs between them and the desired second act. His view is the only workable one. It is pragmatically correct. Granted power, I suppose I should have to accept it. But while the discussion remains theoretical, I can quibble. And while quibbling, I can justify myself on the grounds that, as Koestler quotes, a change in the means automatically changes the ends. “Show us not the goal without the trail.” I’ll be writing Woody in a day or two. I wrote Pete, and Carmen, and Bill yesterday.
All my love, darling. More tomorrow,
M