McNair to Hall: February 16, 1981


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February 16, 1981

Dear Don,

It was good to be with you and Jane last week.
Diane and I were sorry not to have seen Jane this week,
but I am sending her the book I would have given her,
so all is not lost.

I write to you out of the frustration of having, as my
poem says, “no fun, no dough”—and out of the need
to do something about that, in the long range. I’ve been
considering writing a textbook, one that might bring
at least some extra money in from year to year.
I have two possibilities in mind. The first is a book
about interdisciplinary themes in American culture.
It would involve students in the study of relationships
between and among history, literature and art in
various periods of the national culture, and would
be used in American studies and cross-disciplinary
“humanities” courses.

Perhaps the book is too specialized. My other
idea is an introduction to poetry, which would
include poems, critical notes and questions for

I feel I would have time to work on a textbook


during my long sabbatical in those hours when I am
not writing poems. What do you think? Am I
crazy? I just can’t get the words of a Fullbrighter
I met in Argentina (from Southern Cal.) out of my
mind. “Do a textbook and you’ll always have
extra money coming in.” I guess I feel that if
he can write one, knowing (as our conversation showed)
no more about literature than I, I can do it, too.

As one of the most successful authors
of textbooks around, you will no doubt have advice
for me. I would very much like to hear it—