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long weekend

This was Spring Break week, but employees get Monday and Tuesday off instead of the whole week that students get. I didn't use my long weekend very wisely. I slumped in a chair and read a couple of books. I poked at my sore toe. I visited my parents. I ran a form up to Rockville to keep the babysitter legal--she submitted her cat's rabies certificate instead of the shot record and got a letter back giving her two working days to correct the error or lose her license. She is having a grand shindig in honor of her sister's birthday on Saturday and I am sorry that I can't go. That family can really throw a party. I have to go to PA that evening but I might check in on my way back, especially if the weather is nice.

Yesterday was the book lunch and I think my show-and-tell books were ok, but two people brought very impressive presentation copies of stuff with exquisite stories. A "Song of Bolivar" from Neruda to Mercedes de Acosta and an All the Sad Young Men from Fitzgerald to a previously undocumented friend, a nurse who tried to keep him out of the gin while he recuperated from injuries sustained during a swimming pool incident. Another very cool book & story was a copy of Norman Maclean's first book. It precedes A River Runs Through It by about thirty years--a manual on interpreting aerial photographs and military maps. Later he showed us a great letter Maclean wrote when a well-known publisher offered to print Young Men and Fire after having rejected his first--I mean second--book.

Dear Mr. Elliott:

I have discovered that I have been writing you under false pretenses,
although stealing from myself more than from you. I have stolen from myself
the opportunity of seeing the dream of every rejected author come true. The
dream of every rejected author must be to see, like sugar plums dancing in
his head, please-can't-we-see-your-next-manuscript letters standing in piles
on his desk, all coming from publishing companies that rejected his previous
manuscript, especially from the more pompous of the fatted cows grazing
contentedly in the publishing field. I am sure that, under the influence of
those dreams, some of the finest fuck-you prose in the English language has
been composed but, alas, never published. And to think that the rare moment
in history came to me when I could in actuality have written the prose
masterpiece for all rejected authors--and I didn't even see that history had
swung wide its doors to me.

You must have known that Alfred A. Knopf turned down my first collection of
stories after playing games with it, or at least the game of cat's-paw, now
rolling it over and saying they were going to publish it and then rolling it
on its back when the president of the company announced it wouldn't sell. So
I can't understand how you could ask if I'd submit my second manuscript to
Alfred A. Knopf, unless you don't know my race of people. And I can't
understand how it didn't register on me--"Alfred A. Knopf" is clear enough
on your stationery.

But, although I let the big moment elude me, it has given rise to little
pleasures. For instance, whenever I receive a statement of the sales of A
River Runs Through It from the University of Chicago Press, I see that
someone at the press has written across the bottom of it, "Hurrah for Alfred
A. Knopf." However, having let the great moment slip by unrecognized and
unadorned, I can now only weakly say this: if the situation ever arose when
Alfred A. Knopf was the only publishing house remaining in the world and I
was the sole surviving author, that would mark the end of the world of

Very sincerely,
Norman Maclean



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