Post 3: First Stop, Harvard (Edward Millman, Nathanael West Project)

Just finished my work in the archives at the Houghton Library at Harvard. There were lots of papers regarding New Directions and West’s work, mostly between West’s estate and other people involved with West’s more sucessful posthumous publications. Additionally, I saw F. Scott Fitzgerald’s recomendation for West’s Guggenheim Fellowship application (West did not receive a fellowship, however.) I saw a few reviews from William Carlos Williams, but no letters involving him and West (most of these letters are held at the Beinecke and a few are at SUNY Buffalo.)

During this trip I took numerous scans and pictures of the materials I thought were most relevant at this library, if you’d like to see some feel free to reach out! Here are some of my notes from this excursion:
  1. Letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald in reply to Nathanael West’s desire for a recommendation for a Guggenheim Fellowship.
  2. Drama between James Laughlin and Roger Strauss regarding contracts and publishing rights to West’s works and the Complete Works of Nathanael West volume (mostly in regard to royalties.)
  3. Laura Perelman managing West’s estate (mostly replies to Laughlin confirming royalties, etc.)
  4. A short note regarding an adopted son of Ruth McKenney who alleges rights to West’s works, claiming in some regard to be West’s long lost son(?!) This claim is dismissed quickly by Laughlin and Strauss in letters.
  5. Lots of letters from Laughlin to various people connected with publishing West’s works; Little interest in publishing The Dream Life of Balso Snell as a seperate volume independent from the Complete Works of Nathanael West.
  6. Misc: A plagiarist who published a story which had changed a few details from one of the letters in Miss Lonelyhearts and attempted to pass it off as his own. He was caught by Robert MacGregor of New Directions. The tiny story, clipped out of the publication, is nearly word-for-word a copy from Miss Lonelyhearts.
  7. Correspondence from Jay Martin to request materials from Laughlin, who replies that the primary materials (letters from West) are not in his possession but some business files are.

Many papers relating to West are at the University of Texas at Austin as a result of Jay Martin’s work on West. I will be requesting photocopies from them later this summer, along with SUNY Buffalo’s letters. This was the first stop of three in this week-long trip. The next two stops are Brown University and Yale University (for the famed Beinecke Library.) Later in the summer, I plan to travel to Columbia University in New York City and contact several other universities for photocopies of materials I will be unable to travel to see in person.

Stay tuned for more travel updates!