Nearly 50 years ago, a sixteen-year-old high school student named Bruce McAllister sent out a thoughtful questionnaire about symbolism to 150 famous authors, and the replies he received offer a handy way to compare the writers' personalities. The Paris Review published a handful of the responses on Monday, pasting scanned images of the aging pages between a little bit of what-it-means commentary from archivist (and winner of the New York Times wedding announcement lottery) Sarah Funke Butler.
All the Sixties-era literary legends are in there. Jack Kerouac thinks "symbolism is alright in 'fiction.'" Norman Mailer is "awfully sorry, but [he simply doesn't have time] to answer your questions on symbolism." John Updike's handwriting is pretty much illegible so we're not sure what he wrote. Ayn Rand makes herself and her attitude about this silly questionnaire very clear in her reply:
However, our favorite reply comes from Fahrenheit 451 author Ray Bradbury who, in the most comprehensive of all replies, actually seems to show his solidarity with the Occupy movement—48 years before its founding—when he signed his letter as follows:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.