This ia a letter Ray wrote my Dad when in Ireland writing Moby Dick… He was Disappointed that
Fahrenheit 451 didn’t’ “make the splash,” or perhaps set the world afire, like he hoped.. Little did he know!
(Note: In 2010 a friend of mine would visit from Sarajevo for the launching of my first book, “Dirk Quigby’s Guide to the Afterlife” and tell Ray how much that book had meant to them during the war. The first to the fire there was as is often the case, the library. and as my friend said, “We tried to keep the books in our heads, but a head was not an easy thing to keep on the neck either in those days.”
Here is one of the dozens of letters from Ray from Ireland during the writing of Moby Dick.
ROYAL HIBERNIAN HOTEL
October 23, 1953
It is quite extraordinary to find how often I’ve thought of you in the past month. Traveling is the surest way to find whish friends you love best, and when you discover* late at night, in bed, that you have been thinking of certain people with much fondness and warmth, then you know where your fund of friendship is invested. Your letter, two weeks ago, was one of the finest spots in our day; beautifully written and delightfully analytical of yourself and all the others in our swell group. Mag and I read it over many times and said, “Dear Dolph”. I often wonder how many others have said that. I’m sure that many many people have. Often, in our conversations,-we have tried to isolate the quality that makes “Dear Dolph” dear to us, and we’ve half-decided, but are never quite sure, that it is the quality of youngness and youth in you that will last long after we have all grown crumbly and seamed. You have somehow preserved an innocence, or an appearance of innocence, of calm acceptance of the world, and yet a delight in the toys of mankind, his motorboats and phonographs, his breast-reducers and builder-uppers, his ant-hills and his Valentinos. God knows, underneath you are probably in as much a torment, are probably as full of Thoreau’s ‘quiet desperation”‘ as the rest of us, but it doesn’t show through. You’re all menthol and a yard wide on the exterior* I suppose much of this is because you’ve already been through all the concrete mixers that most of us have avoided and have developed a philosophy, or were forced to develop a philosophy of such a kind that the Writing Group, minus Sharp, would fly apart, I’m positive. As much as I love all the rest, and believe me, I do, the group just wouldn’t be the group without that quiet pillar of dry humor perched in the middle of it.
Dublin is fascinating. In many ways it is like going back to the twenties. You’d love it, I think. TV hasn’t touched here. They are.still in the midst of a great hunger for films and radio. Queues form, blocks long, for movies. Two nights in a row we tried to get in to see THE RAZORS EDGE here and found it impossible. All the theatres are packed all of the time, to the rafters. It would do Darryl Zanuck’s heart good to see the lines that form and wait for hours, some of them knowing it is useless, but waiting anyway, while accordion and banjo players wander up and down the queus entertaining the chilly people. (over)
I’ve been to the show three times now and never have seen one empty seat. They sell STANDING ROOM, believe it or not, at most housesl An incredible situation!
Also, the employment situation here is much like the early thirties in America. There, are quite a few children and men and women begging in the streets, and this is a terrible thing. No matter how much you give, it isn’t enough. The entire country of Ireland needs ten thousand dollars in the next year to take care of its Cerebral Palsy cases, just ten thousand dollars, mind you, and they’re finding it hard to raise. When I think of some of the s.o.b’s in the world who lose over ten thousand dollars a year at gambling or horse-racing, I boil. So much could be done here for so little. If the U.S. could take one one hundredth of its,military budget and give some of it to Ireland, miracles could be wraught. The main problem , of course, is that Ireland has very little industry. Their main products seem to be dairy in one form or another, or tweeds and woollens of exquisite textures. They are a polite and convivial people here; living in this hotel is much like living in a large family; everyone knows and makes over the girls and we feel wonderfully at home. Saturday nights very late, you hear dozens of people walking through the streets singing Irish ballads, a fine sound, some of them drunk, some not, and there are thousands of horses going by at all hours, big jolting animals with heavy bones and thick backs, regular giants. Every third shop is a sweetshop and the chocolate is delicious. . Every second shop is a pub. And between you find tweed and woollen shops and antique shops. The country beyond town is a long soft green endless Emerald Country, the country around Oz, hills, rivers, thousand miles of blackberry bushes, great autumn-fired trees (my first autumn in twenty years!) and landscapes of such beauty as to give you chills. It is indeed a haunted land, the forests, I am convinced, contain all the leprechauns that are claimed for them, and you come suddenly upon burnt out castles like Rebecca’s Manderlay upon green hills, even the race-track out at Curragh is green green and soft, the horses are like autumn chestnuts gliding by on the green turf, and the peat bogs are the result of a million years, crops of grass that have sprung up in green mattresses in oh, the nine hundred centuries and battened down, one upon another, to make the porous stuff you chunk
into your fireplace and which burns with a real autumn smell.
All in all, you can see, I’m enjoying this, and really, with
all my heart, wish you were here. If you can, you can show
this letter to all the others, and pass on my love. Not a
Tuesday night pomes up on the calendar but I don’t wonder if
you’re all meeting. More from me later. Love to Roz and the
kids, What’s cooking with Ballantine? Yours as ever,