I believe I have almost all of this correspondence, but a couple of the letters such as this one indicate they are in response to one that I have not found. There is also a peculiar gap between August ’81 letters and the following December when the exchanges picked up again and continue with a steady flow. I am not sure, now forty years later, why this seems to be the case. Perhaps there are letters still hiding in the vast amount of unsorted stuff in this house. Or it is more likely that circumstances provided difficulties, obliging us to rely more on phone calls and occasional personal interactions. One possibility in that direction is that Carol and housemate had moved to Brooklyn, and since housemate was still a presence in the new apartment it would not have been a good idea for me to send mail to that address.
A couple of other observations. First, Carol seems to have been the more energetic correspondent both in volume and frequency. Second, not surprisingly, she gave voice to her emotions more than I did. I don’t know if we are talking about gender or personality differences, perhaps a little of both.
Finally, I will offer dates from postmarks. I adopted Carol’s habit of indicating dates as in “early Monday,” followed by “Later.” I did the same. For almost all of the letters, I have the envelope in which they came. For a couple of others, I can rely on context for approximate dating.
August 3rd, ’81.
[This letter offers an exception to the dating stated above because Carol inscribed an exact date.
The letter describes in some detail Carol’s participation in the cherry harvest that summer. She routinely did get back home to help the family with this vital chore I suspect she also wanted me to more fully understand this element in her life In the second half of the letter, she offers her critique, from an admitted feminist perspective of my novel in progress, which was published about ten years later by Walker as The Monkey Rope.
I apologize for taking so long to write back. We just finished an outstandingly chaotic cherry seasons. Frustrations & disputes among the two 9-member crews raged every day from dawn to dusk. And there’s always a scapegoat–usually one of the loudest talkers on the crew. Seems like every one gets to be a scapegoat for the others sooner or later–except for family members. We somehow–perhaps because we’ve been through the heat & the monotony & the physically long hours–find other things to do & excuse ourselves from the bickering….
I read, Doris Lessing & The Golden Notebooks. It rained so often during the last three weeks that the whole book swelled up & broke into 5 parts, 2 of which fell off the shaker & were smoothed irretrievably into dusty nothings by a 200 lb. tire. So now I have no idea what happens between p. 182 & 319 & p. 321 & 411. It was interesting–she thinks, or suspects, that many people’s political interests & choices are actually a result of, or at least deeply tied up w/ their emotional & personal lives. I don’t see how it could all be separated anyway (one’s life divided into neat, concise compartments? ha)
I read Ch. 3 & your plans for Lois. I’m still disappointed w/ her character. She’s a strong character (w/out that sharp edge) & I can’t exactly figure out what it is that makes me think that there’s just as strong & mysterious bond between she & Seymour as there is between she & Junior. Of course, you can go so much further w/ Seymour. Not that it’s bad between Seymour & Lois, but it’s always a complex issue–Am I vague? I think so. I think it would be more difficult to establish a mysterious link between them because I think it’s easy (I’m being harsh, no apologies) for people writing about men & women to leave the link between them at a sexual level. Whether Lois is the victim of a father-rapist, or a prostitute by choice you’ve still left her at that sexual level. She has potential for more personhood. There’s something revealing in her character when she comes to see Seymour at his office–there’s desire, but there’s other things. What? Her concern for Junior saves her a little bit, but what about her concern for herself?
I know you’re not writing it from Lois’ point of view. I also know it’s very easy for me to be extremely one-sided about women in defense of them
[At this point in the margin appears “rampant loss of control over pen” next to words scratched out. The idea that her pen is an autonomous force within her appears regularly in her letters.]
However, I’d best get some sleep. I haven’t written anything in a while & I can get a trifle long-winded in letters when pen & heart have had restrained contact.
Two more weeks here helping my brothers manage the farm back into shape & I should be rolling east again May be a while before I see Suffolk County–2 weeks when back in NYC to find an apt. before school begins. Horrors. And in August too.
Click on the Covers for Steve and Carol’s Books