Eiichi Yaminishi, December 15, 1963

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NORMAN MAILER’s Letters
142 Columbia Heights
Brooklyn 1, New York
December 15, 1963

Dear Eiichi,

Just a quick note to answer your questions in your letter of December 9. The man who arranged The Presidential Papers and the new novel, An American Dream, is an agent named Scott Meredith, and the annoyance with Tuttle[1] occurred only because in the general pressure of other work I forgot to recognize that this would affect your situation in Japan. It is all and entirely my fault. I should have had the wit to remember when I gave them the foreign rights that this could cause you embarrassment. I’m afraid I can offer no excuses. I have a bad head for business and this complication slipped my mind entirely. However, on Monday I’m going to call them up and get this straightened out, and in fact I’ll delay mailing this letter until after I’ve spoken to them. So look for a continuation to this in the P.S. at the end of this letter.

As for Kennedy, I’ve been very depressed, too depressed to write more than a paragraph[2] which I’ve already sent to you. It was, incidentally, printed in The New York Review of Books, which is the one good review in America and has issues appear every two weeks. And in fact, it will be sent to you, for I took out a subscription for you. At any rate, I have no desire to write more now because the event is not only deeply depressing but enormous in its ramifications. Kennedy had personal charm—one misses him certainly that way—he was also nothing exceptional as a politician, rather a conventional middle-of-the-road leader of the Democratic Party. What was lost is an intangible good. There was a particular magic or let us say liberty surrounding Kennedy which enabled one to be critical of him in a way that had been impossible in America since the War, and all sorts of subtle but exciting changes were occurring in America’s culture. In Marxist terms, while Kennedy did nothing to shift the nature of productive relations, he opened the way, whether he wished to or not, for dramatic, even radical, changes in the superstructure. To use myself personally as an example, my function shifted in these few years from some sort of mysterious half-notorious leader of the Beat Generation, a sort of psychic guerilla leader, in fact, to something quite other, a respected if somewhat feared leader of the literary Establishment. And that change was terribly important, because in America one can accomplish very little change from outside the Establishment, whereas inside one’s words can even have a curious influence upon the leaders. And I fear that that, possibly for a good many of us, is now smashed altogether.

My best for now,
Norman


December 16

P.S. Just now I spoke to Henry Morisson of Scott Meredith Literary Agency, Inc., (580 Fifth Avenue, New York 36, N.Y.; cable address: Scottmere), and told him that you were to have complete and final say-so on all Japanese matters, and that he would please instruct Tuttle to that effect. Morrison promised to send a telegram today to Tuttle clarifying the matter and passing on my instructions that in all matters Tuttle is to obtain your final approval. This gives you complete power over Tuttle, Eiichi, and I think it would be best to have as little to do with Tuttle as possible, because I have found that when I have the power to make decisions but continue to work with other people that I tend to give away some of my power in embarrassment, forcing myself to accept suggestions I don’t really like in order to save the feelings of the other person. At any rate, what happens next is up to you, but I would prefer that you go on making arrangements for me by yourself as you have in the past. I think the most Tuttle would be useful for is to give us some idea of the market and of what can be gotten for a novel.

Norm
This page is part of
An American Dream Expanded.

Notes

  1. Tuttle was an employee of a Japanese publishing firm that published Mailer’s works.
  2. The “paragraph” Mailer refers to is a 175-word tribute to Kennedy, part of a symposium in the 26 December 1963 New York Review of Books titled “The Fate of the Union: Kennedy and After.” Mailer revamped it for the “Special Preface” to the Bantam soft cover edition of The Presidential Papers that appeared in May 1964.