January 1, 1931
Dear Roland -
Thank you for your letter. I am sorry I must answer it from memory.
Tillie Eulenspiegel, the Airedale, has puppies, as sinful a crew as ever ruined rugs.
Four of them found your letter and ate all of it but the address. I should imagine they were awed by the address if I had not learned that they hold nothing in reverence.
At present they are out eating each other, and I must try to remember the things I should answer.
I am daily expecting to receive both of my novels back. That will be a blow but I don’t see how I can escape it.
My work is improving, I think— and eventually I shall be able to dispose of all of it, but this is rather a long period of waiting, don’t you think?
Yesterday we bought two mallard ducks for the garden. The drake has an irridescent green head. They are beautiful. They swim in the pond and eat the bugs in the garden.
We are pretty excited. They cost our amusement quota for this month but are worth it. Named Aqua and Vita. Carol hated to go to work this morning and leave them because they are so interesting.
They do not ever step on the plants— just edge between on their big clumsy feet. They very promptly caught and ate the goldfish, but we don't care.
The other day I asked a young friend to read a story, and he felt that he should criticise because that was what one did to a ms.
So he tore a pretty nice story to pieces and showed me how to do it.
It was funny because he hit all the places which are simply matters of opinion and tore up some of the nicest writing I have ever done.
Such things reassure one in the matter of believing critics.
Has that ever happened to you? How do you deal with criticism of your work, Roland?
Do you ever feel guilt for putting those you love and who love you under such strain from the clinging to your dream?
That is all I can think of. If there was more to be answered it is in the stomachs of those khaki-colored devils in the garden.
They are eating the fence now. The appetite of a puppy ranks with the Grand Canyon for pure stupendousness. I am very grateful to you for your interest.
Has Man grown kinder by 2014? Or is the human heart withered by all it has endured?
How would you advise Steinbeck to deal with criticism?
Do you feel guilt over spending so much of your time on your writing?
Has a friend ever tore up your ms. in ways you thought unfair?