Letter from Alistair MacLeod to Lily Miller, 20 September 1974




September 20, 1974
Lily Poritz Miller,
Senior Trade Editor
McClelland and Stewart
25 Hollinger Road, Toronto
Dear Lily:
I am in receipt of your letter and the copy-edited stories. I am returning the stories with my own notations, approvals and some few refusals. Everything seems to be going along nicely.
I think the idea of a "Title Page" separating each story is excellent. There is no relation at all between the people in the various stories and it would be most unfortunate for anyone to think so. I have no definite opinions on the order of the stories other than that "The Boat" should be last and yes, I think "In the Fall," should be first. Any other arrangement or arranging of the four remaining I will leave up to you.
I am not quite so casual about the title. I realize "The Lost Salt Gift of Blood," is awkward but I also think it is striking in its way and original and also indicative of all of the stories. In other words each story deals with various tensions that exist between or among those of similar "blood" or relationships. In the story of that name, the narrator leaves or loses the only blood he seems to have in the person of his son. All of the stories I believe deal with some kind of loss and I like "salt" because of its association with bitterness, with taste and of course the sea. "The Golden Gift of Gray" would not be good because it applies only to the one story where instead of seeing issues in black and white the boy see them somewhere in between, in gray, where things need not be so clearly and perhaps bleakly defined. It is a story about "morality" in a way that the others are not. "The Vastness of the Dark" is better but again I do not feel that it speaks for the collection only for its own story. I realize the problem of "sales value," which is something we all have to think about. Still while "The Lost Deflowered Virgin," might help a book's sale there are other considerations as well. I think of titles sometimes as headlines, that they should indicate to the prospective reader or buyer what he or she might possibly expect. And if they might be somehow poetic without being dishonest all the better. In any case we can think about it. Should it be the title of one of the stories? I somehow think so.
The copy editor I think did a very fine job. There are a few instances of disagreement based, I think, mainly on matters of taste or differences in knowledge possessed.
I am enclosing my responses. Thank you and all best wishes.
Alistair MacLeod
P.S. - After re-reading C.T.'s comments it seems it would be unfortunate to have "The Golden Gift of Gray" and "The Vastness.." next to each other. C.T. obviously thinks they refer to the same central character because he happens to be eighteen in each story. This would be most unfortunate. How would (1) In the Fall, (2)The Vastness of the Dark (3) The Lost Salt Gift of Blood (4) The Return (5) The Golden Gift (6) The Boat be? As I said before it really does not matter and if you are going to separate them distinctively probably no confusion will result. In any case.