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Sunday, July 16, 2017

(3) FELLOW YACHTSMEN THOUGHT HE HAD GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE

From Ed Brecher, author and friend                                                                                                          
December 17, 1988
West Cornwall
     Here's the last chapter of Draft # 1, still rough but ready for retyping, I think.  
     My next chore, starting tomorrow, will be to read through all your comments and make appropriate revisions on the other chapters.  Then I'll send back the whole thing so that you can make such changes as you please and prepare a clean Draft # 2.  If all goes well, we may agree that it is ready to send off.  But if another go‑round seems called for, I'm game.
     If I had known the full story at the beginning, I'd have been even more eager to take this on.
     I'm having two Brecher Christmas dinners, on the 24th and 25th, so that those with two families can spend the other elsewhere.
     It's 1:30 a.m.  Good night, Merry Christmas, and best wishes for the year ahead.
December 21, 1988
Weymouth
     My heart flipped when I saw the manila envelope in my mailbox.  I said to myself, please, please, please be from Ed!  The extra please must have done it. 
     Your continued faith in Great White Eagle is an additional joy.  What fun it was to read your condensed draft, savoring again your skill as an editor.  With no obligations on my calendar tomorrow, and my answering machine to screen calls, I can spend the whole day working with your emendations.  It will be more like play than work, thanks to the magical powers of my word processor. 
     Your suggested ending has charm and humor.  Since it is fictionalized, however, leaving Ed still a bachelor courting his ex‑wife, wouldn't it be appropriate to change all names and regard GWE as a semi‑autobiographical novel?  In real life, Ed did call on December 9th and left the following message on my answering machine:  "If I'm not able to reach you, I just wanted you to know I'm thinking of you.  It's been fifty years.  All my love."
     Darling Breck, if you go to Yugoslavia, I hope you will have time to see Dubrovnik.  Floyd told me it was the most enchanting  town he had ever visited and urged me to see it.  Jack and I came close in 1974.  His company was sponsoring a trip to Dubrovnik that would have cost a pittance, meals included.  My lawyer told me not to make plans until my divorce decree came through.  (He had chided me for referring to Jack as my lover.  Estranged husbands could openly have a dozen paramours; their wives were supposed to be like Caesar's.)  When at last I called the travel agency, I was too late; the reservations had just been closed and there was already a waiting list.  It was dumb of me not to have signed us up earlier ‑‑ I could have canceled, if necessary.
Dec. 22
     I read Kathie your punch line.  She laughed.  She saw no need for any changes or additions.   "It's short, sweet, and funny," she said.  She is eager to see the rest, which she'll have time to read during the upcoming Christmas vacation.
     Playing with the last chapter was as much fun as I had anticipated.  I printed it late this afternoon, then decided to make copies of all the chapters for Kathie.  Suddenly my printer started throwing kisses again.  I could have killed it.  It behaved with other disks, but not with GWE's early chapters.   Kathie said I must have hit a toggle switch.  Several phone calls later, she had me in business again; I made notes so I wouldn't have to bother her with that problem again.  She is so kind, so patient. 
     It's late, but I never got out of my pajamas today, so I can just tumble into bed.  I hope your two Christmases were merry and bright.  I'm dreaming of an exciting New Year for both of us.
Thank you, dearest Ed, for your unending generosity.
January 5, 1989
Weymouth
Dearest Breck,
     I picked up GWE at Kathie's and began reading it once more, looking for signs of her handwriting in the margins.  She had told me the first chapter made her laugh aloud, since she hadn't read the boating stories in decades.  She had read most of the rest more recently, in unedited versions.
     When I got to Chapter Two I thought of your agent as I read it.  It seemed to me it just wasn't good enough to impress her favorably.  Granted you did everything super-humanly possible to tighten my diaries; granted, they were written by a 17‑year‑old; still, it was clear she lacked sufficient appeal to hold a  reader's attention. 
     I called Kathie to tell her I was worried about Chapter Two.  She agreed that it was weaker than the rest of our sample, but thought shortening it enough to combine with Chapter Three might help.  She wondered if we could then expand what we will send your agent by including part of the flying chapter.
     I have a terrible cold, so when I woke at 4 a.m., unable to breathe normally or go back to sleep, my thoughts turned to the flying experiences Ed and I had shared.  I recalled your saying that they seemed to focus mainly on me -- and suddenly I wondered if I had left out some relevant episodes.  Sure enough, when I looked through my file of flying articles, I found two that did very much did involve Ed.
     I will now call you to tell you I am mailing you photostats  of "Mutiny on the Skyknight" and "Taming a Baby Airliner."  The  date of my solo in the Skyknight may interest you.  It interested  me when I thought about it just now.  After I landed, I threw my arms around Ed and told him I loved him.   August 1970 was four months before I found The Letter.
     Re Chapter Three, Pgs 7 and 8, I wonder if Ed's love letter would make me less uncomfortable if the first paragraph were omitted; also the third one on the next page, beginning, "It has been such  heaven to know you."  Lines like that embarrass me when I picture them being read by strangers or even the most tolerant of friends.  Who do I think I am, Marilyn Munroe?  I'll bet you saw this coming ages ago, Ed, only you were too kind to leave out such passages. 
     My sister is coming over to take this envelope to the post office.  I feel too lousy to go out.  I do hope you are totally well . . . and getting ready to go to Yugoslavia?  If so, have a wonderful trip, darling editor.
January 7, 1989
Weymouth
Memo for Ed Brecher
     I've reread what I hastily sent you and note that Plane & Pilot's editor cut my long article in two, tacking on an ending for "Mutiny" and using the rest for "Taming."  The latter, unfortunately for our purposes, is monopolized by Small White Eagle. 
January 19, 1989
Weymouth                                            
Good morning, dear editor!
     While looking for something else (isn't it always the way?)  I discovered a manila envelope; it was full of pictures I'd sent Plane & Pilot's editor twenty years ago.  I've extracted a few that pertain to "Mutiny."  God knows where the negatives are ‑‑ probably stored at Ted's with all our old photo albums ‑‑ so I'll want these returned eventually.
     Ed called as I was about to take this to the post office.   No special reason; just wanted to tell me he thought about me a lot and still thinks we could have spent a contented old age together.  
January 28, 1989                                       
Weymouth
Dear Breck:
    I have computerized Chapter One, making a few minor changes, subject to your approval.  I've marked them in red to save your time and eyes.
     If GWE is going to have illustrations, maybe a couple of Darrell's would help its cause.  Did you ever see  the ones I've enclosed?   Perhaps they're too rough on Ed.  More than one fellow yachtsman thought he had grounds for divorce.
January 22, 1989
West Cornwall
Dear Barbara,
     I have now cleared my desk of everything except Great White Eagle.  As I see it currently, we have a draft almost good enough to send an agent or publisher with two very big exceptions:
     1)  Chapters Two and Three, from your meeting Ed through your interim divorce and reconciliation, just don't work.  First and foremost, they lack the humor and insights that are the major graces of the rest of the book.  As a flashback following  "Ed Boatguy," they're an interruption, almost an irrelevancy.   What they need is the humor and insight of the mature author.
     I tried solving that problem by boiling them down to the bare minimum, thus throwing away a crucial hunk of your life.  I haven't heard from you about this effort; but my own opinion currently is that it just doesn't work, either.  A wretched way to begin a book.  No one will read further.
     2) The other big hole is the "Flying" chapter.
MOPPET IS NOT A FLYING ENTHUSIAST
     I think we can take care of these problems.  I propose, as you suggested earlier, to change the name of the book to "Ed  Boatguy" and start with the boating chapter.  I think we can then assemble a "Flying" chapter, Chapter Two, that is built around the progression from the nice little Tri‑Pacer you learned to fly and to love, through the monstrous Comanche and then Twin Comanche you learned to fly and to love, all the way to the horrendous Skynight you miraculously learned to fly and to love.      
     Then I propose a new Chapter Three, called "The Letter,"  which starts with your finding of the letter, your hospitalization‑‑and either while you are in the hospital or on your return home from the hospital, your reviewing your first meeting  with Ed and your early life with him, including the old letters  and diary entries.  That part of the story is thus no longer built on the contemporary flakiness of a 17‑ and 18‑year‑old naif, but on the musings of a mature woman with a mature point of view.  You can quote old letters and diary entries as freely as you please, but you can also comment on them, so that they make sense.
     Then the Istanbul episode and your life with Ed after your divorce in much their present form.
     I'll welcome, of course, any alternative approach that may occur to you.  Think it over.
     One advantage to this approach is that it puts you back in control of the potentially embarrassing material.  I'm feeling very negative about changing names and making this a work of  fiction ‑‑ in part because the photographs would have to be eliminated and also because the reader needs to feel that these are real people she is reading about.
     If you will supply a draft of 1938‑40 from the later perspective, however rough, I will edit it as I have the other chapters.  So you need not agonize about what to put in or leave out; if in doubt, put it in and let me cut it later.
     Let me mention in passing a few very minor points.  I now think Ed's marriage to Aliceann, with your full approval, should go in right near the end.  Then the book might end with Ed's 50th  anniversary message revised to say:  "I just want to tell you  that if I weren't so happily married to Aliceann, I'd marry you and double your alimony."
     The scene at the christening which delighted me so much when I first read it, doesn't delight me as much now.  I don't know why.
     Think it over, then write or phone.
January 26, 1989
Weymouth
Dearest Breck,
     Today would have been my younger daughter's 44th birthday.
     I've almost finished the revised draft of Chapter Three, incorporating your suggestions of January 22nd.   I'm afraid I'm short on humor and insight.  And I wasn't sure how much or what I should put back in, even though you told me not to worry about that.
     The paragraph about my children someday reading about "That Crazy Older Generation" had a segue that took me by surprise:  the resumption of my narrative about the psychiatric hospital.  In watercolor painting we call this a happy accident.  But make whatever changes you want.  You're the boss.
     I see no need to keep the christening if it no longer pleases you. I trust your instincts.
     I forgot to tell you on the phone that I'm delighted with the new ending.  I was a bit worried about how Aliceann would take the former punch line.  You came up with a beautiful solution.
     When Ed telephones, it seems that I'm either working on GWE  or writing a letter to you.  He called this afternoon to tell me about his latest dream.  "We were married, but you'd decided you  wanted a divorce.  I was crying and hysterical and trying to dissuade you.  You said Mr. Rinker thought you should.  That didn't help my case.  I don't know where we were, but I was suffering."
     I said I was sorry and would try to behave myself in future dreams.  I told him about the Oprah Winfrey show I'd seen recently featuring couples who were disappointed in sex and the lack of romance after their marriages.  "We never had that problem," I said.
     I confessed that I was in tears when I heard a recent production of "Madame Butterfly." ("Un Bel Di" was our theme song when I went to Florida.)
    Enough reminiscing.  I'll edit this manuscript and send it along tomorrow.
February 7, 1989
West Cornwall
Dear Barbara,
     I don't think the flashback in the middle of the hospital scene works as well as I had hoped.  Hence, the following proposal:
     First, we must keep in mind that we are not preparing a manuscript for publication; we are preparing a partial draft for a literary agent or publisher.  That being the case, I propose that we quit while we are safely ahead, and limit what we submit to the following:
CHAPTER ONE. ED BOATGUY

CHAPTER TWO. GREAT WHITE EAGLE

CHAPTER THREE. THE LETTER, THE LOONY BIN, AND THE ISTANBUL  ADVENTURE

CHAPTER FOUR. MY FAVORITE EX‑HUSBAND.

     Then we add something like this:

                   #            #            #

     NOTE TO EDITORS:  In addition to the four chapters above, Barbara Malley has letters and diary entries in her files to support a variety of additional chapters, including the following:

WOOED, WON, AND TRAPPED

     Barbara met Ed on December 9, 1938, when she was a 17‑year‑old high school senior and he was 23.  They dated until she entered Smith College in September 1939‑‑and discovered in December that she was pregnant.  With few alternatives available, none of them inviting, she resolved to marry Ed, then divorce him as soon as possible after the baby was born.

BITTERSWEET DAYS, AND NIGHTS

     Barbara and Ed were married on New Year's Day 1940; their daughter Kathie was born in August; and Barbara secured an interim divorce degree in November.  Ed, undeterred, promptly wooed her again, and rewon her in February 1941.

KATHIE

     Kathie graduated from Swarthmore in 1962, married Richard White in 1964, and was permanently paralyzed from the chest down following an automobile accident in 1965.  Today, still happily married to Richard, she is a tenured professor of psychology at Boston University (see attached clippings).  Kathie inherited Barbara's propensity for writing letters; her letters as well as Barbara's letters and diary entries are available.  [NOTE TO  BARBARA:  You can do better; but keep it short.]

TIMMIE, VAUGHANIE, AND TEDDY

     See pages _____ through _____ and _____ through _____,  above, for brief samples of how this chapter will be developed.

                   #            #            #

     Barbara, if you agree, we're almost done!  When I get the revised Flying chapter back from you, I'll have a complete draft as outlined above.   You were concerned about the Jack--and--Ed chapter being embarrassing to Jack..  I tried to take out all the references to Jack’s clumsiness, like his "falling through the front door," so that his chief remaining characteristics are sexual naiveté and inhibitions; but since, by the end of the chapter, he has overcome these, I personally see no problem.  If you do or he does, by all means change his name.  You can also change the children's names if you wish, though I hope you won't change Kathie's.  The only names that really must be kept are yours and Ed's; otherwise it's just a novel.
     Having come this far, I'm overflowing with affection for you. . . .

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