Eiichi Yaminishi, January 27, 1965
|NORMAN MAILER’s Letters|
- 142 Columbia Heights
- Brooklyn 1, New York
- January 27, 1965
- 142 Columbia Heights
I thought in answer to your letter of January 18, I would send you a note about the literary style of An American Dream. It’s a complex style with very many difficulties in it but I thought a key might be of use to you in the translation. So now to begin with—and this is not important—the book is written not so much in my style as in Rojack’s and he has an elegant view. He tells the story somewhat elegantly, but there is a subtle tone to this because the elegance is not his naturally by birth or by early family training but is rather an elegance he has acquired in his life and more particularly by being married to Deborah for nine years, and so for that reason there are flaws in the manner, subtle flaws, subtle roughnesses, departures in tone so to speak, which is to say that Rojack tends to talk like the person he is talking to. If you notice carefully he is one way with Deborah, another with the police, still another with Cherry. Oddly enough he is probably most himself when he is with Ruta because while the style of speech then becomes grand and somewhat metaphorical, there is a vast irony in its mood. She after all is a bit of an upstart; Rojack is a complete upstart and so he enjoys himself enormously when he is with her. Now of course I don’t want these notes to bother you too much. I’m all too aware that it is never easy to transpose a subtlety from one language to another, but I thought these few comments might serve as a guide to some of the almost invisible shifts in style in the book.
I’m a little concerned that An American Dream is going to have a piece added to it to make up a suitable length for the book. I think this tends to diminish the respect people might feel for a novel as a complete novel. It is after all a longer book than half the novels which appear here in a year. Is there no possibility that they could use larger type? See if it is possible to discuss this matter with the editors of World Literature.
Yes, the news about the movie is true. Warner Brothers has bought it and we are making a movie of it sometime in the future. At first they almost didn’t buy it because they were unhappy with the title. They wanted me to change the title to “Strong Are the Lonely.” Do you know, Eiichi, they are even more fantastic than what one has written about them. I, of course, refused and subsequently they bought the book. Don’t you know that if I had accepted their title, they would doubtless have decided finally not to buy the book. The secret reason for the dislike of An American Dream turns out to be that the films with the word “American” in them do poorly at the box office, not in Asia, not in Europe, but here, right here. It seems America is tired of hearing about America. What a curious nation we are. Sometimes I think we are coming out of a long illness.
All best to you and to your family,
- Eiichi Yaminishi was Mailer’s Japanese translator.
- Mailer refers to the Japanese edition of the novel.
- Mailer is satisfied with the length of the novel, which he had just finished cutting by almost 2,000 words. The Dial edition contains 96,910 words; the Esquire version has 98,796.
- Warner Brothers paid Mailer $200,000 for the screen rights to the novel.