Monday, January 30, 2012

from Howard Daniel, Brooklyn, New York, 29 November 1940



Dear Murray and Rosa, 

We were very happy to get your letter(s). We thought we had offended you and that we had been sent to Coventry (old style). By the way, when you write don't mention a certain political party of the Left. The atmosphere is getting like Central Europe. I know from good sources that the F.B.I. is investigating all aliens (of which we are two) and that in-coming mail is controlled. Sounds incredible but it's only horsing around to what comes later.
...
Gee, we saw a news reel of the stinking Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Have the engineers and contractors left town? Did you get a chance to see it, rarin up and down like it was an old man billy goat. Hope you miss the draft. You never can tell next year you might find yourself out in Australia, Sumatra or points east defending American womanhood and "civilization as we know it." Our chances of getting away before next Spring are finished. And does that give us guts ache. Judy and I have sworn on the Bible (of the Jews and Gentiles) that we are moving West next year if we have to give this place away and put my mother-in-law on the street, hookin'. Thanks once more for the invitation. Next Spring we are going to move in on you like Mr. Keitzel's Panzerdivisionen.
...
After a lot of time we've started to make some friends and they are a strange assortment of races. We have two Austrians (the man a graduate of Dachau and Buchenwald) a Serbian, a Dalmatian, a Russian, an Australian. New York is a wonderful mix-up. So you've been reading the Russians. I've been reading Anderson Nexo's Pelle the Conqueror for the last few weeks. It's good, in fact it's one of the greatest autobiographical novels I have read. Have put my novel on ice for a while. Am trying to make some money again with articles. Have got a lot of dope from my Austrian friend on the Concentration Camps and we are going to try and sell a book. In the meantime I have made up articles on several subjects and I think something is coming up in the Protestant Digest on the treatment of Christians. The middle of December another is coming up in Oral Hygiene which I understand is the best known dental journal. We are supposed to get about $60 for it and God how we need it. It's about dentistry in the Camps. If that comes off we may be able to sell two or three to medical journals and the like. To-day I finish a short story about the Catholics in the Camps which I will try and palm off onto a Catholic magazine called America.

[Howard and Judith needed affidavits from American friends to renew their visas]

You're going to curse the day you came to pension Iritz. You have to fill in the three forms enclosed and swear them before a Notary Public. Then you have a get a letter from your employer (also in triplicate) witnessed by a Notary indicating your occupation, salary, length of time employed, permanency of position and general responsibility. Finally you have to make out a statement also in triplicate and sworn by a Notary setting out that "we are very close friends, our friendship going back to 1936 when we met at the Olympic Games and that although we did not meet again until July last year we corresponded frequently. Since the summer of 1939 we have been in very close contact. While I have no doubt that H.D. will quickly establish himself as a writer in the United States, I am prepared to give him a home, if necessary." Sorry about all this and I know it sounds like Bullo but it seems to be what is wanted. ...

I feel like a real heel putting the touch on you like this, especially as you have so much work of your own to worry about. 

[Although Howard and Murray had both been in Germany in the summer of 1936, they had not in fact met for another three years, so it was important to get their stories matched up.]

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

from Howard Daniel, 17 June 1940



Dear Rosa and Murray,

Post cards have been coming in fast of late. One minute you were off to Spokane to a job and then to-day I read that you are going to Hoquiam and won't be coming to New York this year after all. We are sorry to hear that. Re your repeated invitation to come on out to the west, we may take you up on that so hope you aint been foolin'....

By the way if you can lay hands on any chamber of commerce stuff about your state which has got illustrations could you send it along. I want Judy to get an idea of the kind of scenery they grow your way. Incidentally Judy goes out slaving every morning for the cats in 79th and 57th and I do all the poxy work around this apartment. Judy wants to know what chances there are for slaveys out your way? ... You all know we'll take a chance at any old thing from scrubbing out cathouses to chisselling off the Joads. Don't look at my spelling. The work I have to do here around the house leaves me so tired I can't do much writing. I never thought how much strength you really need for writing. The destruction of Europe also makes it hard to write. Gives everything an atmosphere of futility. Since the beginning of the year I had an article on Unity Mitford (the one who tried to sling her girdle under Hitler's bed) published in a fine little magazine called EQUALITY. Then this month I have an article on the Balkans in a la-de-da, intellectual mag called Common Sense. If you read this latter don't burn with shame for me. I went and told a couple of lies. Not serious ones but I had to make some publicity for myself so I travelled and saw things in the article that my friends and acquaintances saw for me. I guess you know how it is for a poor working girl. By the way the notes say I was in Poland. Gee, I guess that trip from Buda Pest to Berlin which passed across Polish territory for about half an hour in the middle of the night makes me one big authority on Poland. My, my, how this does get along. ...

A new weekly called FRIDAY asked me to write an article on the German Underground movement. I sent it off last night and hope something happens about it. They have also asked me to submit an outline of an article on one of the brains behind the Gestapo. Trouble is to illustrate these articles. I have some interesting pamphlets printed by the comrades in Germany and maybe they would photograph well. 

"Friday, The Weekly Magazine That Dares to Tell the Truth" began in March 1940, as a liberal counter to Life. Dan Gillmor was publisher. Contributors included Erskine Caldwell and Upton Sinclair,photographer Louis Hines, and Howard.

This new evening newspaper P.M. which starts tomorrow is going to be interesting. An old pal of mine has a really big job aboard it and I'm hoping he can do something for me in the way of placing material. It's got some remarkable people on its staff. Ingersoll (late publisher of Time) seems to be the brain. All my larger writing projects have been put on ice. Several publishers told me it was a waste of time to plan anything at this moment because they are so uncertain of the future. As a matter of fact I may finish my detective novel as I think there's going to be quite a demand for escape literature. ...

Boy are we see seeing history in the making. Last few days I have been reading the programme and last congress doings of the C.I. [Communist International] and so help me god if they didn't forsee all and I think that was back in 1935. To me there seems to be little doubt in the validity of their approach to world politics. They are always right before the event with their prognostications. I have been so stunned at the writings of the C.I. congress that I am now reading right through that Marxist handbook edited by Emile Burns. Most of the stuff I read when I was a student but I guess I never gave enough thought to it. Guess I'd better lay off that subject before the Department of Justice gets to jumping on me. Jes, what do you think of that special act of Congress to get rid of Bridges. My former knowledge of constitutional law tells me that it is ultra vires. Something about acts of attainder.

In the light of the Landis report this is pretty barefaced and points the trend in the civil liberties field. It's the old trick, destroy liberty at home to defend yourself against something outside. Of course as the greatest living economist in apartment 62 I am aware of the general trends in capitalism, that it can only stabilize itself by imposing a system which amounts to fascism. Also about the war industries which are being built up. With all the American markets disappearing in Europe, American heavy industry has no alternative than to embark on an armaments scheme. Christ why am I boring you with all this stuff? I'll go take some bromides and spit in the Hudson. Guess I'm worried about the French and British working classes and what they are going to do and if they do then what will the Roosians do....

I wrote a beautifully learned article on Hieronymous Bosch the Flemish painter of diableries, for Art Quarterly of Detroit and am waiting to hear what they say. Had some nice photos to illustrate it and hope they are impressed. Nothing on Bosch has ever been published in English and I wouldn't mind being the first. I got this Bosch just where I want him. In fact I have a new way of going to town on Art History so that it makes sense.  ...


 I wrote a volume of poetry earlier in the year but some bastard lost it and I haven't the guts to type it out again. Read The People, Yes. by Sandburg. That's my meat. I have been keen on Sandburg for eleven years. Read some books of Macleish. Not bad but what a son of a bugger he turned out to be. On this, there was an excellent cartoon in New Masses this week. "By Gad, Colonel, have you resigned from the New Republic yet?" Frank, Mumford, Macleish etc. are making the changeover to fascism early. Aldington wrote a biting letter to the NYTimes and I'll bet it stung Macleish in the left testicle. How does the bastard spell his name, anyhow? Did you read Native Son? What do you say? Saw Grapes of Wrath. Wonderful. When Casey rared up over that bush I was rarin with him. Granma spitting, now wasn't that a beautiful piece of work on the sound track. One of the dopes at this here hostellry nearly brought on a prolapse of my large bowel by remarking about this picture that it must have been bad out there in the old days. Met a young guy who researches for the American Youth Congress and he told me an interesting thing. Said there were plenty of negro Joads who were much worse off. That guy Steinbeck must be alright. Saw he gave his Pulitzer check to some poor writing bastard out your way.