• In 1975, publishing company Alfred A. Knopf rejected A River Runs Through It and Other Storiesby Norman Maclean, although it had previously said that it would publish the book. University of Chicago Press published the book, which met with considerable critical praise and popular success. Much later, an Alfred A Knopf editor wrote Mr. Maclean to express interest in seeing the manuscript of his next book. However, Mr. Maclean was still sore — very sore — over being rejected by Alfred A Knopf in the past, and he still dreamed of telling off the publishing company, so for his reply letter he wrote a masterpiece of invective that ended with “if the situation ever arose when Alfred A. Knopf was the only publishing house remaining in the world and I was the sole remaining author, that would mark the end of the world of books.” Mr. Maclean called his letter “one of the best things I ever wrote […] I really told those bastards off. What a pleasure! What a pleasure! Right into my hands! Probably the only dream I ever had in life that came completely true.”
• How nice it is that people sometimes write letters of appreciation. After Audrey Hepburn first heard the score for Breakfast at Tiffany’s, in which she starred, she wrote Henry Mancini, who would later win an Oscar for his soundtrack, a very nice letter of appreciation: “Dear Henry, I have just seen our picture — BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S — this time with your score. A movie without music is a little bit like an aeroplane without fuel. However beautifully the job is done, we are still on the ground and in a world of reality. Your music has lifted us all up and sent us soaring. Everything we cannot say with words or show with action you have expressed for us. You have done this with so much imagination, fun and beauty. You are the hippest of cats — and the most sensitive of composers! Thank you, dear Hank. Lots of love Audrey”
• Some celebrities write compassionate letters to fans. For example, Paul Banks, lead singer of Interpol, wrote the following letter in 2010 to a downcast young woman following a concert in Boston: “Dear Hailey, No matter how sad you may get, it’s always passing. You may wake up blue, and by the afternoon, everything will be rosey. Sadness is a strange companion. And a nuisance. So try not to pay it too much mind. And be present in your happy moments — and weigh them against the sad. It’s all worth it. And you will arrive somewhere wonderful with peace in your heart. All my love and hope to you, young lady. PB”
• A person who posts online as Revstephmc tells about not living close to her only niece, Brooke, but sending her a letter each week, beginning when Brooke was two. The letters are known as “Thursday letters” because that is the day she writes them. When Brooke was two years old, she talked with Revstephmc’s mother: “Auntie Steph writes me a letter every week.” Revstephmc’s mother asked, “That’s a lot of letters. What does she write about?” Brooke replied, “She tells me that she loves me! Sometimes she says it long and sometimes she says it short!” Revstephmc says, “She was absolutely right!”
• Some cartoon characters such as Bugs Bunny have such strong personalities that they take on a life of their own and sometimes people forget they are fictional. For example, children sometimes object to anyone saying that illustrators draw Bugs Bunny. The children say that the illustrators draw pictures ofBugs Bunny — an important distinction. Bill Scott, who later became the voice of Bullwinkle of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame, once wrote his grandmother a letter in which he said that he wrote scripts for Bugs Bunny. His grandmother wrote back, “I don’t see why you have to write scripts for Bugs Bunny. He’s funny enough just the way he is.”
• Science fiction author Ray Bradbury has written and mailed many letters in his long life. After seeing the classic movie version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carolthat starred Alistair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge, Mr. Bradbury wrote the actor a fan letter: “Dear Mr. Sim, thank you for your Scrooge. You are the greatest. God bless you.” For a long time, Mr. Bradbury did not hear from Mr. Sim, but eventually this letter arrived: “Dear Mr. Bradbury, Your letter reached me in hospital and made me well.” Mr. Bradbury says, “Isn’t that beautiful!”
• In 1936, novelist William Saroyan wrote H.L. Mencken, editor of The American Mercury, a polite letter asking for advice about starting a magazine. Mr. Mencken wrote back with this reply: “Dear Saroyan, I note what you say about your aspiration to edit a magazine. I am sending you by this mail a six-chambered revolver. Load it and fire every one into your head. You will thank me after you get to hell and learn from other editors there how dreadful their job was on earth.”
• Jane Austen, author of Pride and Prejudice, could be outspoken in her letters. She wrote a letter about “another stupid party last night,” and in a letter she wrote, “I was as civil to them as their bad breath would allow.” By the way, one of her nieces picked up a copy of Sense and Sensibilitywithout knowing that Ms. Austen had written it. The niece immediately threw it down again. Why? She said that just by reading the title she knew that it was trash.
• M.E. Kerr, author of books for young adults, received many rejection letters when she was trying to be published. In fact, she once attended a sorority costume party dressed as a rejection slip. She wore a black slip on which she had attached many of the rejection letters she had received.
• Before Emmylou Harris became a famous country singer, she wrote Pete Seeger and said that she wanted to be a folk singer but she was afraid that she had not suffered enough. Ms. Harris said, “It’s true. He wrote back to say life would come back and hit me hard soon enough.”
• “Always write angry letters to your enemies. Never mail them.” — James Fallows.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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