Diana Athill, August 21, 1964

From Project Mailer
597 Commercial Street
Provincetown, Massachusetts
August 21, 1964

Dear Diana,

Just the briefest of notes—I’m racing through the mail today, but wanted to tell you that I was delighted you liked the book, and will go through your criticisms along with the ones I received from Dial in the next few weeks, for I plan to have the book in final shape by—at the latest—the middle of September, and hope actually to be ready to go by September 1. In fact the only thing I don’t agree with you about is glens and dells. I thought somehow it was right for Kelly[1]—at least I could hear his voice.

I’m working very hard this month on a long piece about the Republican Convention.[2] I was out in San Francisco for the week and since coming back have done just about nothing else. The result is a long piece, 21,000 words, which were very different from the piece on Kennedy and the Democrats, and may have turned out about as well—at least I hope so. My agent wants to try selling it to a British newspaper or magazine as well as Esquire. How about The Observer? They’ve approached me in the past.

Incidentally, my folks were delighted with the good care you took of them, and I know appreciated it more than a bit. I don’t think the hotel bothered them too much. At a certain point I turned to my mother and said, “Well, after all, you certainly were the youngest girl there,” and she gave her full laugh, and her eyes turned very merry for a moment.

All else is well, except for the photograph in The Observer. Were you able to obtain prints of it? I really think I’d like to use it for the book, at least for the American edition. If it proves to be one of those little things which are enormously complicated, then I wouldn’t want time to be taken on it. After all, one can always get a good photograph if one takes a haircut.


P.S. Dictating this to Anne, A.B. remarked, “But perhaps the letter was lost in the mail stroke.” Is that possible?

This page is part of
An American Dream Expanded.


  1. Kelly is Barney Oswald Kelly, Deborah’s father and Rojack’s nemesis in the novel. Mailer had chosen Kelly’s name, which eerily echoes that of Lee Harvey Oswald, at least two months before Oswald was killed by Jack Ruby. Mailer continues to believe that the similarity in the names may be more than a coincidence.
  2. Mailer did not revise the serial version of AAD as quickly as he had hoped. He worked on it through the summer and early fall of 1964 in Provincetown, putting it aside for the “long piece” he wrote about the August Republican Convention. Titled “In the Red Light: A History of the Republican Convention in 1964,” it appeared in the November issue of Esquire.