McNair to Hall: September 25, 1983

Letter from McNair to Hall, September 25, 1983, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire

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Sept 25, 1983

Dear Don,

When you can find a minute, will you please
look these over?

(Maybe) they will be part of the fall
submission. Will that submission include
“The Minister’s Death”, “When Paul Flew Away”,
“My Brother in the Revolving Doors”, “The Before
People”–too [+ Portuguese Dictionary]? And if so, do you need
new copies of any or all?

Have just sent proofed, pre-galleys
manuscript to U/MO–am told sketches for
the book cover will arrive this week, and
galleys in 3 weeks. They say they will set
a record with this one for the fastest book
they’ve ever done!



Editorial note about this letter: The poems McNair refers to in the first paragraph of this letter are “The Faith Healer,” “Remembering Aprons,” Ghosts,” and “The Last Time Shorty Towers Fetched the Cows.” Though the texts of the first two poems have appeared in earlier letters, this is the first mention of the latter two poems, each sent in a finished and publishable draft, except for an editor’s change in “The Last Time…” (see 2/16/1984), replacing the numerical designation for the hour in “5:00,” with the words “five o’clock.” Here are the texts of each poem as McNair sent them:

The Last Time Shorty Towers Fetched the Cows

In the only story we have
of Shorty Towers, it is 5:00,
and he is dead drunk on his roof
deciding to fetch the cows. How
he got in this condition, shingling
all afternoon, is what the son-in-law,
the one who made the back pasture
into a golf course, can’t figure out. So,
with an expression somewhere between shock
and recognition, he just watches Shorty
pull himself up to his not-so-
full height, square his shoulders,
and sigh that small sigh as if caught
once again in an invisible swarm
of bees. Let us imagine, in that moment
just before he turns to the roof’s edge
and the abrupt end of the joke
which is all anyone thought to remember
of his life, Shorty is listening
to what seems to be the voice
of a lost heifer, just breaking
upward. And let us think that when he walks
with such odd purpose down that hill
jagged with shingles, he suddenly feels it
open into the wide, incredibly green
meadow where all the cows are.

See also a selection of McNair’s manuscript notes and drafts for “Shorty Towers.”

Read Ghosts (published version)