Sunday, July 16, 2017


December 21, 1988   Weymouth
To Breck
     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.  Christmas will be doubly joyous now that I know you've recovered.  I feared you might have the kind of flu that flattens people for a month.
      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.  
      I get a big charge out of discovering which portions of my manuscript you deem sufficiently readable to include.  I could never make those selections; being too poor a judge of my own scribbles.
     Your suggested ending has charm and humor.  I love the twist on Ed's earlier offer, "I'll even keep paying your alimony."  Since it is fictionalized, however, wouldn't it be appropriate to change all names and regard GWE as a semi‑autobiographical novel?  Dear Lily:  A Love Story, was written by a friend of Kathie and  Dick's, Malcolm Greenough, Jr.  He admits to inventing a romantic ending for his Great‑aunt Lily.  As the enclosed article points out, Greenough's book falls somewhere between fiction and non‑fiction. 
      In real life, Ed did call on December 9th and left this 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."
Dec. 22, 1988
      I read your punch line to Kathie.  She laughed.  She sees no need for any changes or additions.   "It's short, sweet, and funny."  She doesn't think it matters that it isn't literally true.  She is eager to see the rest, which she'll have time to read during the upcoming Christmas vacation.
     Playing with "My Beloved Ex‑Husband" 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. Kathie said I must have hit a toggle switch.  It took several phone calls for her to come up with a solution; 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 Breck, for your unending generosity.
January 5, 1989   Weymouth
 To 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 superhumanly 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 very much focused on Ed.
     I will now call you to tell you I am mailing 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 successfully, 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 billet-doux would make me less uncomfortable if the first paragraph were omitted; also the third on the next page, beginning, "It has been such heaven to know you."  Lines like that mortify 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 were aware of this ages ago, Breck, 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 wretched to go out.  I do hope you are totally well . . . and getting ready to go to Yugoslavia?  If so, have a wonderful trip, dear editor.
January 28, 1989   Weymouth
To Breck
     My reaction to your revised introduction to Chapter One was a panic attack.  What?  Come right out and expose myself to the world like a bally flasher?  I did what any overwrought but intelligent person should do:  I called Kathie.  "Help!  Breck has switched me into the first person, and I'm not sure I can handle it.  Do you have a couple of minutes?"
    Kathie always has a couple of minutes.  I read her a portion of the manuscript, then whimpered, "Do you see what I mean?   Don't you think this approach is a mistake?"
     "No, I think it's nice.  It solves the problem of those two weak chapters."
     "Then why am I feeling these qualms?"
     "Because it's something new.  You'll like it, once you get used to the idea."  I remember telling her the same thing about oysters on the half shell.
     On the strength of Kathie's opinion 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.    

                           ED MADE A WILD GRAB FOR THE LINE.

January 22, 1989  West Cornwall
From Ed Brecher
     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) The old 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 are an interruption, almost an irrelevancy. What they need is the humor and insight of the mature you.
     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.
     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 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 Skyknight 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 stay in the psychiatric hospital‑‑and either while you are there or on your return home, 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
To Breck
     I've almost finished the revised draft of Chapter Three, incorporating your suggestions of January 22nd.  I can't figure out how to italicize, as you suggested on the phone, so I've resorted to bold at times, with no certainty that I've put it in appropriate places.  I'm also 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 aspect.
     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'll edit this manuscript and send it along tomorrow.
February 7, 1989   West Cornwall
From Ed Brecher
     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:
     Then we add something like this: 
     NOTE TO EDITORS:  In addition to the four chapters above, the author has letters and diary entries in her files to support a variety of additional chapters, including the following: WOOED, WON, AND TRAPPED
     The couple met 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.
     They 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 she capitulated in February 1941.
     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 her mother's propensity for writing letters; so her letters are available. TIMMY, VAUGHANIE, AND TEDDY
     See pages _____ through _____ and _____ through _____,  above, for brief samples of how this chapter will be developed.
                   #            #            #
     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.
February 10, 1989  Weymouth
Adored Editor!
     You are the keenest, most sensitive, most perceptive, funniest (on and on I could go, but I'll spare you) person I have ever known.  The way you have telescoped paragraphs so that punch lines are closer to their lead‑ins is a delight.   Some of the slightest changes intensify the humor, even something as simple as substituting "Great White Eagle" for "Ed" here and there.  I've had an absolute ball typing up this chapter.
     A couple of thoughts on the cover letter for our partial draft.  First, is there a reason why I should be the one to submit it?  Wouldn't your name win us faster and closer attention? 
     Re Chapter Three:  I suggest THE ISTANBUL EPISODE instead of "ADVENTURE"; the latter noun seems too pleasant a term for that disastrous night.  I could be wrong, Boss.
     Jack is unhappy in California and will be moving back here, unless his application to the Peace Corps is accepted.  I'm looking into housing options for him, just in case.  When Ed called a couple of nights ago, I told him this news. 
     "I wonder how long it will be before he gets you into bed."
     Without thinking (a terrible lifelong flaw), I said, "Pretty promptly, I expect."
     I heard a moan.  "Ohhh," he said.  "I'm jealous."
     I apologized and reminded him that not many men are loved both by their wives and their ex‑wives.
     A million thanks for your invaluable contribution to my project.  I can hardly believe we've come so far.  Am I going to wake up any minute, smiling over the pleasant dream I had?
 February 12, 1989  Weymouth
To Breck,
      I'll be sending more boating pictures when they're ready.   Black‑and‑white prints take longer than color-‑too bad my kitchen darkroom was long ago dismantled. 
     It was fun going through the old albums Ted retrieved from his loft in the barn.  I noticed, though, that five of the early ones were missing.  (We had a total of seventeen, covering 1940‑-1970.)  Since Ted had left his ladder in front of the loft's entrance, I decided to look for them myself rather than trouble him.  I climbed as far as I could, but the top step was missing, leaving a sizeable stretch to my goal.  Could I do it?  It was a long way to fall without those six firemen and a net I needed to board the Skyknight.  Ted was thankful when I told him prudence had prevailed.  He promised to search for the missing albums in a day or two.
Memo #1:
     Enclosed is the revised diary entry about taking my mother for a ride in the Twin Comanche.  I called Ed to make sure the technical details I remembered about our single‑engine Comanche would apply as well to the twin.  Yes, it did have a gear warning, he said.  My heart would indeed have been bumping when the gadget suddenly blared.  Ed laughed at my "tad of throttle."         
     "You'd have pushed those throttles through to the wall!"  Hence, these emendations for Page 5:  "I quieted the blare by thrusting the throttles forward and lowering the Comanche's nose to build up airspeed."   A few lines below:  "I hadn't meant to pull the throttles back quite that far, you see. . . . "
Memo #2:
     If we were to include a chapter of marriage anecdotes, I have a folder full of them.  Ed was a very funny man, sometimes even on purpose.  Various titles have occurred to me.  "The Care and Management of a Husband" ?  Or a pun on the word husbandry?  All I dare suggest is "Efficient Husbandry," not wanting to make you ill with "Barbarous Husbandry."  I'm just daydreaming, of course, hoping some editor will love our sample and beg for more.  There is one group of readers who will appreciate my recollections, even if no one else does:  my descendants.
September 28, 1963
     "Be careful of my Comanche," Ed said sternly as I set out  for the airport with my mother.
     "Our Comanche," I said.
     My passenger didn't seem to be uneasy, which is more than I can say for me.  I felt as nervous as I did the day I gave my first piano recital at age six.  Flying over Cohasset, I pointed out familiar landmarks‑‑the golf club, the yacht club, Minot's light, Sandy Cove, our house.  Descending a few hundred feet and  going into slow flight so Mom could see better, I jumped when the  "gear warning" suddenly blared.  This bird‑brained gadget is obsessed with the idea that every time a plane slows down, it  must be coming in for a landing.  Its hysterical shriek  (translation: "For God's sake, don't forget to put your gear down or we'll all be killed!") is enough to shock anyone into a  tailspin.  But not my mother.
     "What was that?" she asked interestedly.  "Some sort of  signal?"
     My heart bumping, I quieted the blare by lowering the  Comanche's nose and shoving the throttles forward.  Meanwhile I was explaining somewhat incoherently that the sound was a warning ‑‑ "Well, not a warning, exactly, nothing to get excited about,  it's just a‑‑uh‑‑reminder so if we happened to be coming in for a landing instead of just slowing down‑‑I hadn't meant to  pull the throttle out quite that far, you see‑‑well, the horn  goes off to remind you that your gear is still up."
     "I see, dear," Mom said.  "Someone pushes a button and the sound comes over the radio."
     "No, it has nothing to do with the radio, Mom.  It goes on automatically."
     "Automatically!" she repeated, more impressed than she would have been had someone merely pushed a button.  "Isn't that amazing!"
     As I sweated out my approach to the airport, my passenger continued to chat and ask questions.  I was too busy to tell her I was too busy to talk.  "Gas, undercarriage, mixture, prop," I was saying to myself, rehearsing my "gump" check as I slowed the  plane.  "Gas on full main tank, fuel pump on; undercarriage‑‑ light, handle; mixture, full rich; prop, full low pitch.  Watch your altitude."
     "How long does it take you and Ed to get to Martha's Vineyard?" Mom was inquiring.
     "Gump," I muttered.  "Unhhh‑‑about half an hour."
     "And then does someone meet you or do you take the scooter?"
     "Someone meets us," I said, trying to spot the plane ahead of me; it had become invisible against a background of housetops.  My turn from base to final was hairpin‑shaped, but I still wasn't lined up with the runway.  Moreover, I was on the high side. I considered going around again and making a more respectable looking pattern, but I was afraid a sudden burst of power might startle my mother.
     "What time is Ed going to meet you, Babs?"
     Giving the rudder a kick, I jockeyed the plane to the left  as if it were a balky horse and got myself lined up in the  general direction of the stable.  Runway.  Bruce was down there  somewhere watching my every move and probably disowning me.
     "Mercy!" I could hear him saying.  "That can't be one of my  boys!"
     "I think he said 4:30," I told Mom.
     Still too high.  Well, I had plenty of runway; what did it  matter if we landed in the middle?  Save taxiing.
     "It's only 3:30 now," Mother said.  "I'll wait with you until he gets here.  I enjoy watching the planes taking off and  it's so lovely and cool here.  Gracious, wasn't it hot in Cohasset!"
     I raised my hand to the lever over my head and gave it a twist.  Ah, that was better, we were slowing to 90 miles an hour.
     "Are you waving to someone, dear?"
    "No, Mom, I was adjusting the trim. I'm afraid my approach was pretty terrible."      
     "Why, I think you're doing beautifully, darling!"
     Zip‑zip, left wheel, right wheel‑‑a perfect crosswind landing. 
     "Thank you, dear, that was just lovely!" Mother said.
     "I'd give you about a seventy‑five on that one," Bruce drawled.

February 16, 1989  West Cornwall
From Ed Brecher
     Here is the first complete draft.  Some comments:
    1) I think the !!! are not yet under control.  See how many exclamation points you can do without but save those that follow genuine exclamations.
     2) Check for uniformity of name spellings (Cathy vs. Kathie, Timmie vs. Timmy, etc) and decide what to call those damned boats.
    I have had a photocopy made, so if this gets lost, all is not lost.  I'll write again when I've rested up.
February 22, 1989   Weymouth
To Breck
     I've read the latest draft and think it's good.  Re our phone conversation, I have a couple of ideas for what Aliceann might say near the end.  They'll have jelled by the time I get to that point.  You can add the whipped cream and cherry.
     I was out for a couple of hours today.  When I got home, a message from Ed was on my machine:  "Call me collect."  He sounded so abrupt, I was afraid something was wrong, but to the contrary, his news was serendipitously applicable to our ending.
     He and Aliceann‑‑mostly Aliceann, he says‑‑are insisting that I must visit them this spring.  Aliceann made some calls and found a motel nearby that is half as expensive as any place else.   The owner is a friend of one of their neighbors.  Ed and Aliceann will pay my airfare and all other expenses for four days.  He says Aliceann won't listen to any arguments on that score.
     This is the first time Aliceann has so emphatically urged me to come.  It may be because of something I said in the anniversary card I sent them on February 14th.  I quoted Ed as telling me, when I called him with a question about the flying chapter, what a sweet‑natured dear she was.  I thought this was a grand thing for a husband to say behind his wife's back.  (She was at an art class.) 
     Aliceann's invitation adds to the truth of notes I made last night.  When I admit to her on the day they married that I'm going to miss Ed, I figured we could have her say something like:  "Nonsense!  Whenever he flies north to see his family, while I stay here with the menagerie, I'll be counting on you to chaperone him.  And if you don't visit us, we're gonna divorce you."
     Incredibly, that last sentence was almost an exact quote of what she said today, when I was hesitant about their invitation.  "I guess you don't love us if you can't even come down for four days.  You're hurting my feelings, you know.  Why can't you bring your computer with you?  That's what Kathie does when she visits us."
     So maybe I can steal away for a few days without the world abruptly halting.  Maybe we can get some good pictures of the three of us.
     Now back to your new draft.  I like the whole works except, like you, I have reservations about the christening.  The background details you suggested aren't as accurate as I'd like them to be‑‑if indeed we include the episode.  The christening took place in the Unitarian Church.  Ed and I were originally attracted to it because of its lack of pomp, its informality, and its non‑judgmental attitude toward other religions.  Everyone was welcome, including a couple of agnostics like Ed and me.  Ed rarely attended.  I did so occasionally.  We sent the kids to Sunday School so they'd have some standard of comparison when they made a future choice about religion.  The Unitarian Church was a comfortable place to start.
     I will retain a couple of twinkles you inserted, while omitting details that wouldn't ring true‑‑at least not for us Unitarians.
     I'm wild about the effect created by the omission of exclamation points.  The jokes become dryer and funnier when you just let them lie there.  I've made a resolution: No more bopping people on the head with !!!
     In the travel section, I didn't understand why I would shift my traveler's checks from purse to pocket, instead of clutching my purse more tightly.  Isn't a pocket the first place a piratical pick-pocket would plunder?  If you don't object, I'll keep clutching.
     Lastly, I'm curious as to why you didn't believe my suicide attempt diverted rage from Ed to me.  What do you believe?  It is a fact that I often fantasized, during those horrible pain‑filled weeks after The Letter, about accidentally killing Ed.  In one scenario, I took our rifle and shot at a starling  (unprotected by Audubon sanctions because they are non‑indigenous birds) sitting on our bird‑feeder line.  Alas, I hadn't noticed that Ed was walking across the yard as I took aim.  Oops, I'd say.
     I truly was half‑convinced I could persuade the authorities that I was trying to get the starling, not Ed.  Why would a guilty person invent that non‑indigenous detail?  Talk about loony!  In my obsessed state, it seemed there was only one way I could stop the pain: one of us had to go.
February 23, 1989  West Cornwall
From Ed Brecher
     In my opinion, we are very close to submission time.  I've been thinking about marketing strategy, and I'd like to share some thoughts with you.
     First, read the enclosed article, "Call My Agent!" from last Sunday's New York Times Magazine.  Then dream a little about two-million dollar advances from publishers.  Then stop dreaming and face some grim facts.
     Little, Brown has been my only trade publisher since 1966. I propose to send a copy of your MS to my editor there, Roger Donald.  McIntosh & Otis were my literary agents until about 1968.  I propose to send a copy to Julie Fallowfield.  Those are the only remaining contacts I have worth exploiting; and I doubt that they are worth much.
    Accordingly, I propose that in addition, you send copies to half a dozen literary agents, all or most of them women.  This strategy is based in part on the following passage from the enclosed article, "Call My Agent!": 
     "Many publishers won't even read unsolicited manuscripts. Independent agents usually are the ones who now seek to develop young writers by turning their vague yearnings into fully conceived book proposals." 
     An agent with that attitude obviously doesn't want an Ed Brecher mucking up the scene.  She wants to feel that it is she who has discovered an unknown and groomed her for publication.   That's fine with me.
     The main advantage is obvious.  The agent you select is going to be taking over the role I've played so far.  It must therefore be someone you can trust and work with, one who understands what the book is all about and who proposes revisions and additions acceptable to you.  If you submit to only one agent and she says OK, you're hooked because you can't risk letting her get away.  If you submit to half a dozen and get two or three yesses or maybes, you can explore with each of them before deciding.
     One more thought on marketing strategy.  I propose to send out initially only the title page, table of contents, and Chapter One, offering to send the remainder to those interested.  However, I propose to decorate that chapter with a few teasers.  For example, in the middle of some boating crisis, you might think and record in your diary, "Thank Heaven Ed is into boats instead of airplanes."  Then attach a footnote: "Note to Editors: See, however, Chapter Two."  Darrell's illustrations will be another eye‑catcher.
February 26, 1989  Weymouth 
To Breck
     My sister read the five chapters over the weekend and rewarded me with bursts of laughter.   She approved of almost all your emendations.  Janeth is a writer, too, as well as a female reader, so I attach weight to her reactions.  You'll find a few places where she suggests that lines should be omitted or left as they were before. For instance, when Ed chortles, "I'm a marvelous person!" she thinks the line about my almost divorcing him again was unneeded.  I told her you liked it as a punch line for a discarded episode and thus looked for a spot to use it.  I have condensed the unused material, wondering if it might be inserted a few days before Ed goes off on his disastrous blind date in Florida.  If not, don't hesitate to X it out.  (You'll find it when you get to our Florida stay in Feb. 1983.) 
     There are other places where I had questioned minor changes, but Jan thoroughly agreed with you . . . like, Teddy's proclaiming to one and all in church, "Now I need a golf ball!"    
     Jan still likes the Managing Your Husband title or sub‑title.  She says so many women are divorced these days that they would instantly relate to it, while a book that appeared to be about boating and flying might not attract them.  I've explained that the various titles are all tentative‑‑ we can offer several possibilities to whoever shows an interest.
March 1, 1989  West Cornwall
From Breck
     Your suggestion that we send the whole MS to agents instead of Chapter One really shook me up.  I've been pondering it ever since we talked.  It is a very close call.  There are arguments on both sides.   My gut feeling is to send the first chapter only, but I've learned to distrust my gut feelings.       
     What ultimately decided me was the enclosed list of roughly 100 literary agents, all of whom represent members of the American Society of Journalists and Authors.   I selected six on the attached list quite at random (excluding all males, however).  If you don't find an agent first time round, you can send the full manuscript to an additional half‑dozen.
March 2, 1989  Weymouth
To Breck
     Ed was sure his friend's parents would be shocked by the "bounding naked" description, even if she wasn't.  While I was at it, I changed the names of other ladies who might be unhappy about public recognition.  It was hard to part with Winnie the Pooh, but I thought "Patty" in place of "Winnie" could be saucily amended by Aliceann to "Pattycakes," especially if I made the latter several years younger than the former. If you can think of something better, fire away.  Ellen is another tough one to give up because of the Ellen‑of‑Troy bit.  For now I've left her unchanged, but she could be called Cleo, allowing for a Cleopatra‑of‑the‑Nile substitution when Stanley leaps to his feet at her arrival. 
     Jan read Chapter One last.  These are the emendations she suggested.  I have gone ahead and inserted them, subject to your agreement: [Jan has contracted Alzheimer’s and is living at Advantage House in Hingham.  I called her and read to her the helpful suggestions she made for the last chapter and this one.  BBM 7-12-09]  
      Pg. 11, line 46‑‑she prefers to retain "retire and let this genius support me.”
      Pg. 22, line 2‑‑"Must be a leak somewhere," said Marion.  [instead of  "I guess you have a little leak."]
     Pg. 22, line 8‑‑leave as before but omit the word "whole"; "there's a lot of water down here."       
     Pg. 24, line 14‑‑Jan noticed three "eer" sounds in a row:  neared, pier, and cheered.  I changed pier back to dock.
     Those are Jan's thoughts.  Here are mine, as yet not changed in the text, pending your approval:
     Pg. 15, line 25‑‑I've often wondered how Dottie copes with the strain of being married to an airline pilot.  Boating provides more than enough excitement for the Malleys, thank you. 
     Pg. 16, line 34‑‑Darrell's cartoon of "chart‑happy Ed" could follow this page.
     Pg. 22, line 46‑‑It's obvious that we can't use "loony" again, but would you like "I had the goofy impression he was thinking of going down with his ship"?  Or do you prefer to leave "impression" adjective‑less?
    Re Chapter Five's title:  Are we settling on Beloved Ex‑ Husband or Favorite?  Jan suggests "Cherished."
     I'm enclosing a copy of revised Chapter Five so you can see how the new names sound and decide whether you like my changing Winnie's naked bounding into Patty's.
    Your bombardment with 5 X 7 photos is thanks to Clark's Color Labs, who charge only $1.50 for two, whether in color or black-and- white.  Their colors are sometimes too intense, but for $1.50 . . . .  Re the christening and the reverend's observation that our bodies are merely bags of water, Kathie thought it was all right to leave in my whispered wisecrack about "bag of wind," referring to Ed's mother.  She's dead and gone, God rest if he can.  (See enclosure about a typical visit.) 

August 24, 1961  Cohasset
     Mimi has been visiting us for the last two days and has talked herself into a virtual Coventry.  The boys avoid her like the plague. Vonnie, whose room she is sharing, replies to her gabble with mono-syllables and flees from her presence.  Mother, bless her heart, listens graciously whenever she is cornered, but I am less patient.  The weather has been too rainy for tennis, so I have to think up other excuses to take me out of the house and away from that tireless tongue.
     Ed and I took his mother to the Red Coach for dinner Tuesday night.  On the way home her conversation revolved around one subject: her conviction that Ed was going to die before I did.   I jokingly asked him if he would please double his life insurance, then tried in vain to switch to another topic.
     "Really, I'm convinced of it, he can't live the way he does drinking and all that and live to an old age, you wait and see, he'll die before you do, I even told all my friends the same thing.  I said my son will die before my daughter‑in‑law, I said that right out to them."
     Later Ed said with a snort of amusement, "She was dying to say she'd outlive me, too, but she didn't quite dare go that far."   
     Yesterday Mimi accosted me when I got home from marketing and said, "There's something wrong with the goat, she's  making a funny noise, I think she needs milking, I would have  tried to milk her myself, I'm a person who will try anything you know, only I was afraid of the horse, I thought he might nip me where he doesn't know me."
     I tried to reach Angie, the girl who's been milking Pokey every few days, but there was no answer.  I decided to give the job a whirl myself.  First you have to catch your goat and tie her tightly to a tree.  If she tries to get away when you start milking, you grab one of her legs and yell at her, or you just hang on to her handles until she catches on that she can't go  anywhere without them.
     I sat there in the rain, pumping away on Pokey's faucets for  over an hour.  She was jumpy and hard to manage at first, but as we began to make progress, she quieted down.  At one point I had the eerie feeling that someone was standing behind me, watching me.  I turned around and bumped noses with Heidi, who was breathing moistly down my neck and observing my labors with a curious eye.     
     When I returned to the house I told Mimi I'd milked the goat.
     "Why didn't you tell me?  I'd have come out and kept you company." 
     Dear me, what a shame, I thought.
     Poor Vaughan wasn't as fortunate.  Trapped in her bed, she shut her eyes and pretended she was asleep when Mimi came up to the third floor to "keep her company."  Far from taking the hint, her visitor remained and talked without stopping "for an hour by the clock," Vaughan reported wearily.
     "It wouldn't be so bad if I could understand what she was saying, but if I were to be hung tomorrow, I couldn't tell you what she was talking about."
     Mimi herself admitted with a giggle that she had "talked Vaughan's ear off."
     "I guess she was trying to take a nap, but she'll sleep better tonight if she doesn't sleep in the daytime," she added complacently.
     Last night Ed and I planned to go out to dinner.  He had made cocktails and was reading the paper when his mother strolled in with a book in her hand.  She sat down next to us and began to chatter.  Ed pointed to a chair with a lamp behind it and said, "Take your book, sit down, read, and be quiet."
     "It so happens that I want to sit here," she bristled.  "I won't say a word."
     "Good, be sure you don't."
     "He's awfully tired tonight," I said, trying to soothe Mimi's ruffled feelings.
     "He's a mess!" she snapped but then recovered herself and said "Oh yes, I know how tired he gets, I understand perfectly, he works hard so of course he gets tired, my Bob's the same way, he doesn't feel like talking when he's‑‑"
     "Be quiet!" Ed barked.
     The silence, to borrow a cliché, was deafening.
     Hoping to show Mimi she wasn't being discriminated against, I murmured, "He was so tired he didn't even feel like listening to some records my mother got for Kathie."
     "You, too‑‑quiet!" Ed said.
     I ignored him.  "We've got to make allowances," I said, patting her hand.  "He has a lot of worries and responsibilities."
     "I notice he doesn't have any trouble talking with his friends," Mimi said.
     "Well," I floundered, "he has a lot in common with them‑‑"
     "And I'm only his mother!"
     "Are the women in your apartment building friendly?" I asked.  "Do they like to‑‑uh‑‑talk?"
     My question offended the poor old ruin.  She drew herself up and informed me that many was the time when she didn't feel like talking herself.
     From behind Ed's newspaper came a sound of muffled disbelief.
     "When those women want to talk and I don't feel like it I just go to my room and shut the door," Mimi said, her jaw working indignantly.  "I don't like to talk all the time any more than anyone else.  Sometimes I feel like it, sometimes I don't."
     Ed dropped his paper on the floor and said, "Come on, let's go."
     I made a lame attempt to conciliate my mother‑in‑law before we left, but it was a lost cause.
      Coincidentally, the following is from Tuesday night's Patriot Ledger:
     "The woman utterly lacking in charm is the one who talks constantly.  No matter what her sterling qualities may be, one tends to forget them in the flood of talk.  Such chatter, of course, demonstrates fully to the listener that the woman talking has no interest in anyone beyond finding an audience for her nonsense. Usually she is a woman who is unaware that she lacks charm.   And somehow, one suspects that she really wouldn't care if she knew, just as long as she managed to retain her audience."
March 3, 1989  Weymouth 
To Breck:
    The "Marriage Anecdotes" I mentioned are in the long, long manuscript I sent you a long, long time ago.  It wouldn't surprise me if you have no idea where it is. In what I called Part 2, there's a 55‑page chapter titled, "For Better, For Worse, or Whatever,"  dating from Feb. 12, 1958 to Mar. 15, 1962.  Many of the episodes include our children, so we would be covering two subjects in one condensation.  Among the episodes are:
     Ed's eagerness to adopt the crow our neighbor called us about.  ("Ed chased him all over the porch, swooping down and coming up with one handful of air after another.")
     Ed's repair job on the bathroom light and his accusation that I had thrown away "that little nut I left in the globe . . . you women and your urge to clean!"
     Ed stuck in Quincy with the Marshes because of a blizzard.
     Ed's saying the next night, "Of course not!  Upstairs in bed was what I had in mind" when I whispered, "Shh, not in front of Mother!"
     Ed's campaign to clean our refrigerator, "withdrawing various mysterious (to him) odds and ends and making throwing‑away motions."
     Ed's interest in a Ladies' Home Journal article, "Should You Remarry a Man You've Divorced?"  (Feb. 20, 1961)
     Ed's dream that I'd found out he was having an affair. "What kind of annoyed me was the fact that I'd been having this torrid affair and I couldn't remember any of the details‑‑"   ("I'll bet," I sniffed.)  "There wasn't any talk of divorce or any nice, clean- cut `Get the hell out, we're through'; all I knew was you were trying your darndest to make my life as miserable as possible." (July 24, 1961)
     Our weekend away from home and Ed's panic when he found he hadn't packed his pajamas.  He decided to wear my red tights and ended up looking like "a cross between a demented Romeo and a Giant Two‑legged Red Spider."
     If you think any of this material has potential but are unable to find it in the paper mountain, I'll send you a copy.  I'd love to see you accomplish another one of your editing miracles.  But of course this chapter can wait until we start getting positive reactions to Chapter One.
March 5, 1989   Weymouth
To Breck:     
     After our discussion, I gave myself a good shaking for shaking you up.  Don't listen to me, for God's sake; you and He are the experts.  I have faith not only in your gut feelings but also in Chapter One as it now stands.  Kathie loved your "slightly pregnant" and "wished she didn't have to" phrases.  She laughed out loud, in fact.  The new insertions in your preface provide a dash of spice and intrigue. 
     I talked to Ed about Ellen‑of‑Troy.  He thinks it's a good idea to change her name.  Ellen was a paradox.  She was discreet to the point of paranoia about her relationship with Ed; she didn't even confide in her daughters.  Indeed, she especially didn't confide in her daughters, whom she had raised with puritanical strictness.  She wasn't keen to face recriminations like, "Look who isn't practicing what she preached all those years."  She was horrified at the thought that Ed's family might know.  And yet, as a sexual partner she was as uninhibited as any woman with a healthy libido.
     I want to elaborate as to why I'm uncomfortable about the "fast track" designation.  I picture fast‑trackers as being much wealthier than Ed and I; as being jet setters who park their one or two offspring in boarding school so they'll be free to ski in Switzerland, swim on the Riviera with other socialites and indulge openly in affairs.  The F. Scott Fitzgeralds would typify this lifestyle, I believe.  Ed and I did more partying than I liked, and I worried about his tendency to drink too much on weekends.  But we also did things that aren't consistent with fast‑trackers.  We took frequent walks with children and pets.  We did a lot of reading together.  We made a point of getting away for a weekend alone every few weeks.  "Sundial Village" on the Cape was a favorite romantic retreat. 
     Tracks do come into the picture early on.  Ed lived on the wrong side of them.  A poor Irish boy whose father and uncles emigrated from Ireland, he never had a prayer of being invited to the dancing classes at the Newton Center Women's Club.  I would describe Ed as an impecunious suitor turned upper-middle‑class provider, with a fondness for the good things in life, the ambition to work for them, the optimism to buy them on the installment plan, and the faith that somehow bills would eventually get paid.  And somehow, they eventually were.
     As per our phone conversation, I will go through the photo albums tomorrow.  I'm sure I've seen many good pictures of our Matthews, currently known as "Happy Days."
March 9, 1989   Weymouth
To Breck,
     Enclosed is the condensation of our first four months of correspondence; I telescoped thirty‑three pages into six and a half.  Am I not an apt pupil, O Magnificent Condenser?  I shifted sentences and paragraphs around, sweetened one word ("match‑making" instead of "pimping"), and came up with an orderly summary to show my sister.
     A secondary reason prompted me to play with this material during yesterday's spring blizzard:  Though I love the preface as it is, if you were asked to write a longer one, you might find in the condensed correspondence some ideas you had long forgotten.
     The enclosed snapshots were taken with one of the early Polaroid cameras.  Poor results, as you see.  When the picture surfaced, the photographer was supposed to swab it with a sealant.  Many, many of our Polaroid images disappeared due to insufficient swabbing.  Those protected by album covers faded gradually through the years.  Now we have page after page of witty captions under pictures of nothingness.  Alas, poor photographer, she did enjoy dreaming up those captions.
     Re the picture of the McClures and me,, he was probably about fifty‑four to my thirty‑four.


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