mad in pursuit: letters from james & orpha, summer of '26

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Here are these two mad-for-each other intellectuals touching each other through novels. It seems to be James  who has all these literary thinkers under his belt and Orpha who is determined to keep up with him -- if only to argue with his somewhat pessimistic world view.

Interesting that (after The Chimes' "stern realities") he picks Arrowsmith for her to read. James sees himself as "a rather ordinary fellow" who has fallen in love with someone so full of vitality and love that he can contemplate answering his true calling. We'll see in the next letter he sent that day how he struggles with the dilemmas life poses for him.

Postmarked Tuesday 6.29.26, from James in Lynbrook NY

Under separate cover is a book "Chimes."  It is somewhat like, though hardly up to, Sinclair Lewis; it presents some things to think about, and is worth the reading.

You might follow it with Sinclair Lewis' "Arrowsmith."

Mail "Chimes" back when you have no further use for it; as it does not belong to me. No, keep it until I see you; there is no hurry for it.

When you said you would write to me every day, I did not know you were playing upon words; hence my disappointment. I have written to you every day, as I did last summer, in the way you mean; I thought you meant send a letter every day.

My nerves seem about to snap unless I can have you.

You might tell me how your experiment with the "Forsyte Saga" progresses; tell me about other things you read; your progress in tennis, anything.

For your letters make this situation both easier and harder to bear; easier in that they bring some of the myriad subtle joys of even indirect contact with your thoughts and feelings; harder to bear as every thought of you makes it seem necessary to endure separation from you by living on sheer will.

All the time I feel the drawing of you you inseparable from me; at times it seems too intense to bear my nerves seem about to snap unless I can have you.

 

James

 

NOTES

"The Chimes" by Charles Dickens. The second of Dickens' Christmas Books, "The Chimes" recounts the tale of a poor day laborer, Toby Veck. Like Scrooge, Toby is guided by a specter through the scenes that refocus his views of Victorian London with all its "stern realities."

"Arrowsmith" by Sinclair Lewis (1925). From Amazon: The book follows the life of Martin Arrowsmith, a rather ordinary fellow who gets his first taste of medicine at 14 as an assistant to the drunken physician in his home town. It is Leora Tozer who makes Martin's life extraordinary. With vitality and love, she urges him beyond the confines of the mundane to risk answering his true calling as a scientist and researcher. Not even her tragic death can extinguish her spirit or her impact on Martin's life... Written at the height of his powers in the 1920s, this volume continues the vigorous unmasking of American middle-class life begun by Sinclair Lewis in "Main Street" and "Babbitt." In "Arrowsmith," Martin Arrowsmith, finds his commitment to the ideals of his profession tested by the cynicism and opportunism he encounters in private practice, public health work, and scientific research.

 

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