John A. Meixner, June 12, 1965

From Project Mailer
142 Columbia Heights
Brooklyn 1, New York
June 12, 1965

Dear John,[1]

Thank you for your letter, I read it over several times with interest, and I’m afraid I agree with much of what you said, maybe most of it. This is a dreadful thing to say, and I know that I should never compare myself with other swords, but if I had known last year that the best thing in Bellow’s,[2] next novel was going to be that his professor was really and truly a professor in the details of his mind, then maybe I would have taken a little more trouble with mine, or had the sense to make him a Life photographer. The main fault with the goddamn book I think is that I was saying to the reader, “Look, you know I can create a professor and I can give him intimate insides of his mind, I just don’t want to be bothered with that. I’m too busy to go through the three or four or five months of reading, and you’re all too lazy, now admit it, to have your heads stuffed. So let’s just accept the fact that the man’s a professor, call it a convention, and let it go at that.” But of course no one did. And now I have to wonder myself. Perhaps it was a mistake to do it the way I did it. Perhaps I should have reworked the book, but then if I had, the pace would have been lost. And I am guilty of having liked the pace of the book. Maybe all of this is what happens when you write in installments.

Anyway, I’m off now for the summer to start work on a new novel. Let us see if this is the big objective one. You are, by the way, so far as I know, the first one to point out this alternation. I thought I was the only one who was on to that.

A good summer to you,
This page is part of
An American Dream Expanded.


  1. Meixner was a writer friend of Mailer’s.
  2. Mailer is referring to Herzog.