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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

(1) IF WE HAVE A SOUL, MINE IS REACHING OUT TO HIS AND SAYING, "BLESS YOU, DEAR BEST OF FRIENDS. . . ."

April 13, 1989
West Cornwall
From Ed Brecher
To All of the people I love,
           I had planned to spend today writing letters to each of you; but after breakfast, when I ran through my address list and found more than a hundred of you, I reluctantly decided to settle for just this one letter to you all.
           I also considered writing individually to a smaller group of you who have done so much to make my life worth living since my third heart attack last summer.  But I’m sure you know who you are, and that you know my special feelings toward you.
          As most of you also know, I decided following Ruth Brecher’s terminal illness and death in 1966 that I would die in my own way and at a time of my own choosing.  That time came following my third heart attack.  To my amazement, however, life has continued to be rewarding despite gradually and relentlessly deteriorating health and vigor.  This was due entirely to the warmth of the people around me, the people who came visiting and whom I visited, and those who wrote and phoned.  Bless each of you for these nine last bittersweet months; and bless those who loved me and whom I loved during all the prior decades.  Letting loose of you isn’t easy; but I decided this morning that the time had come.    Yours,  Edward                        
February 17, 1990                                
Weymouth                                                                               
To Jeremy Brecher
      I thought the following account might be of interest to you.   It concerns the manuscript your father so generously agreed to edit for me.  Exchanging letters, drafts, and memos with Ed was an ongoing delight.  Thanks to his patient editing, way too much material was reduced to five chapters.  These 100 pages, he wrote, were enough to present to a publisher‑‑and he gave me the name of his editor at Little Brown in New York.
      Later, he decided a better approach would be to send the first chapter to several women agents.  He sent me a list with six names circled at random.  The only positive answer I received was from an agent who said, "Amusing, but not for us."
      Three months ago, reading through my correspondence with your father, I picked up on a reference to his publisher at Little, Brown, Roger Donald.  Why not shoot the works and send him the five chapters?  Two months elapsed with no word.  I called his office, was told by a secretary that my manuscript was being reviewed at that very moment.  I could expect to hear from them in a week.
      Three weeks went by.  I called again and this time got connected to Mr. Donald himself.  The gentleman had never heard of me or my submission.  This sort of thing has happened to me so often, I didn't expire with disappointment.  Mr. D. promised to follow up on my call and get back to me.
       He got back to me, said he'd found my manuscript and he loved it. To which I replied, as who wouldn't, "My Gawd!"  He said to give him a few weeks, as he wasn’t sure how to go about publishing a book with such an unusual format.  A week later he called and said flatly, "I'm going to publish your book."  
      At sixty-eight years of age, I hung up the phone and leaped around my condominium like a garrulous gazelle, crying oh wow, oh gosh, I can't believe this!  I called my daughter at BU, but she was at a meeting, so I raved some more to the pictures on the wall and executed a few more dance steps.  When I finally reached Kathie at home, we rejoiced together.  I thought of my mother's poem about sadness hiding behind a wall, while joy is happily shared. 

                        Sorrow lives behind a wall.
                        Alone, the heart can bear it;
                        But gladness cannot live at all
                        Unless there's one to share it.

     Oh Jeremy, how I wish your father's health could have held up for one more year.  It would have been so exciting to call him with this incredible news and thank him a thousand times for his faith and his help.  I'm doubtful about the existence of a soul, but if we have one, mine is reaching out to his and saying, "Bless you, dear best of friends, dear best of editors. . . ." 

July 12, 1990
     So many good things are happening in connection with my book, I'd be jumpin' and jivin' 24 hours a day if I couldn't resort to my sleeping medication.  Going to bed without thinking about the book would be like playing golf without thinking about breaking 100. "Just don't think about it," everyone advises.  But when you're playing better than usual, how do you NOT think MAYBE TODAY WILL BE THE DAY?
    The current title is Reconcilable Differences, but my agent Don Congden told me there'd be many more changes before the publisher settled on one for good.  Sure enough, when the art director was given the book, he said, "Too bad the title is so flat." 
     Colleen, my Little,Brown editor, quoted it to half a dozen people and asked what they thought it was about. They figured it was one of those how‑to‑handle‑relationships sort of book.  She called and said she'd been sitting up late, going through my manuscript and trying to come up with a zippier title.  She asked me to make a list and call her with suggestions.
     I called her back in five minutes and said, "How about A Good Ex‑Husband is Hard to Find?"  She liked it.  The next day I gave her a dozen other possibilities, one of which she also liked.  
     Take My Ex‑Husband, Please‑‑ But Not Too Far is the one Little, Brown is currently leaning toward.  
     Another exciting development is the designer for the book's jacket.  Colleen says Paul Bacon is the most sought‑after cover artist in the book world, and Little, Brown is thrilled to have nabbed him. 
     I've been busy trying to write an introduction that will satisfy Colleen.  My first four attempts didn't succeed, but when I called her a couple of days ago with a new first paragraph, she said, "I like it!"  And I said great, can we leave it at that?   Do I have to write more?  Yes, I have to write more. 

March 12, 1991
Dear Paul Bacon:
  .  My editor at Little, Brown told me several months ago that the art director was elated to have signed up "the most sought‑after jacket designer in the country."  I went to my local bookstore to look for examples of your work.  The manager was sorry, but his computer listed only authors and titles.
     Half an hour later I found a number of Paul Bacon jackets gracing my own bookshelves, including works by Ernest Gann, who has autographed several of his books for the "Flying Malleys." 
     When I saw a preview of what my book’s jacket would look like, I would have turned a few cartwheels if I hadn't been sitting in Little, Brown's staid waiting room.  I marveled at how ingeniously you conveyed the somewhat mischievous nature of the memoir with those enchanting tipsy letters.   
     Yesterday I received the finished version of your design.  It is so elegant, so provocative, I don't see how readers will be able to resist it.  Thank you, dear Mr. Bacon, for allowing the art director to capture you.  I'm not only grateful, I'm also honored.
     Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go turn those cartwheels in the hall outside my condo.
                                                                                                  Exuberantly yours. . . .                                 
                                                                

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