Hall to McNair: May 4, 1983

Letter from Hall to McNair, May 4, 1983, Page 1, Colby College Special Collections

[Click image to view]

4 May 1983

Wes McNair
Box 43
North Sutton, NH 03260

Dear Wes,

It will be lovely to see you on Saturday, 7 o’clock
or whenever.

I love the Portuguese Dictionary. Peter Davison sees

Very good news about Jerry. What did he say about
publication of the book? Is he talking dates?

I am writing however about something else, which we
may not be able to talk about Saturday. I am not sure
about the politics of it. (A couple of other C-S sorts will
be here.)

You write “I do not wish to be at Colby more than two
years longer.” Now it may well fold and you will have to get
another job. But please do not think that because you have a
book you will be able to get a job. It is terribly, terribly
hard to get a job these days. I have watched Richard Tillinghast
struggle for three years, with three books from the Wesleyan
University Press. Last year I was down seeing David Bottoms –
winner of the Walt Whitman Award, his book published by
Random House or somebody with an introduction by Robert Penn
Warren…and he had been looking for work for three years with
absolute unsuccess.

It is terribly hard out there. Some of the best teachers
I know, some of them with books, have had to give up college
teaching entirely and go into other kinds of work. Others have
gone into prep school teaching. People with MFAs, many many
people with Ph.D.s, and with books, cannot find jobs.

I would keep a close eye on New Hampshire College, for
that matter… Some people of course put a living together
by teaching one course there and one course there…totally exhausting.
Much worse than your present job at Colby-Sawyer. But it is
better than the alternative.

A book will not help much. I get the impression that you
think it will. Of course it is better than not having one!
But a book does not get you a job. It once did. It no longer
does. There are fewer jobs and more books.

Please understand that I am speaking nothing about quality,
and when I speak nothing about quality, I am realistic. The people
who do the hiring – and I mean not just the Deans but the Professors


of English and the chairman of departments – they know nothing
about quality. It is all “subjective,” you see. They look into
other things – and what they look into is the Prestige Index.
A book will help. The Atlantic and Poetry will help…but
you may well be up against people who have published a book
(far inferior to yours!) which won the Walt Whitman Award
and was published by a big New York publisher and had an
introduction by Robert Penn Warren! Who can’t get the job.

My point is: Start looking now. Stick to the job at
Colby-Sawyer as long as there is a job at Colby-Sawyer. Look
around for other parttime jobs besides New Hampshire College
in case worse comes to worse. Investigate every opportunity
everywhere. And of course, listen to my advice, who speak
as the ultimate oracle!

Love to you,