On December 5, 2011, on the Paris Review Daily, we wrote about the survey on symbolism high school student and budding science fiction writer Bruce McAllister sent to 150 writers in 1963. PRD posted a number of replies from Kerouac, Mailer, Rand, Bellow, Updike, Ellison, and Bradbury.
The San Diego Union Tribune picked up the story a few days later and contacted not only McAllister himself, as had we, but also current teachers and students at his high school.
During the past week we have enjoyed following many of the discussions these surveys have engendered. Many readers have remarked on Ayn Rand’s less than generous response (the Atlantic Wire headlined, “Ayn Rand Was Meaner Than You Think"). As an antidote to that, we are happy to post today Joseph Heller’s thoughtful survey and cover letter.
Others have expressed an interest in the handwriting of individual authors, to which we respond with the survey of Richard Hughes. Hughes breaks each question down into its parts, signs and dates his survey, and offers a postscript turning the question of symbolism in literature, tidily, back onto McAllister: “Have you considered the extent to which subconscious symbol-making is part of the process of reading, quite distinct from its part in writing?”