Mr. Pemberton Parker P. O. Box #1426 St. Louis, Missouri
My dear Mr. Parker:

I have read "Feet of Clay" several times and I like it, in spite of certain objections that I must raise.

You will understand that there could be no advantage to me in speaking to you without perfect sincerity. and you will not suspect that I feel myself under the least obligation to please you. As a matter of Although I have read a great number of manuscripts that have been thrust upon me, giving my opinions thereon, I have not until now accepted any fee for doing so. When your letter arrived, I had come to feel that I should protect myself by charging for my services, and it happened that you were the first to be affected by my decision. I am really not concerned with making money in this way.

You write extraordinarily well, and you would write better if you did not try so hard. I mean by this that you over stress your emphases. In your letter accompanying the manuscript you state that the opening chapter is given over devoted to "an attempt to create atmosphere by means of place description." This is proper: but you use too much time in creating the atmosphere. It should be done with much greater economy.and I am sure that two paragraphs would be enough for your purpose . The chief difficulty that you must overcome is over-writing. You have not yet thought of words as though you were obliged to buy them at a dollar apiece (or maybe ten dollars, since I do not know what your "purchasing power" may be). The introductory portion of this story is too long, for what you have to tell is not the substance of a novel ette, but of a short story, and with your present method you have too much portico for the house. I mean this in the most kindly way, for it is a fact that you have a genuine gift for writing.

On page four there is an especially striking evidence example of your tendency to over write, when you say "where Quietude held her peaceful dominion". Clearly the adjective was used without careful consideration. You wasted it, and you waste many words. Why do so? They are costly. In attempting to describe anything you should set yourself the problem of presenting a clear picture with the greatest possible verbal economy. The power of writing is more in the clearness of the original conception than in the words, and you should spend so much time on the conception that few words will suffice to make clear what you want to convey.

If you will go through this story, keeping in mind this chief fundamental criticism of your method, I am sure that you will be able to cut the story down considerably in length, and by doing so, you will not detract from the resultant power of it; on the contrary, you will increase that power greatly. Many writers have too little language power for their purposes. Your difficulty is that you have too much--and use it. Don't write up to your capacity. Always try to keep a margin of reserve, for power is in the margin.

I was genuinely interested in your scheme for the story as outlined in your letter. You go at the matter of building a story in the right way, but you do not altogether achieve the end you seek. The ending of your story is cleverly conceived, but the power of your conception does not reach the reader. It is good strategy to leave as much to suggestion as possible, but the author should be careful that the suggestion really suggests to the average reader, and your suggestion does not do this. I get what you mean in your denouement, but I have the advantage of your own explanation and perhaps of a literary experience not common to the general public. I was expecting you to do something clever at the end, and as I read I was helping you to create that ending. I was, in fact, your enthusiastic ally, for I wanted you to making a powerful climax But I am not the average reader I am sure that you will have to re-write that ending, introducing the sort of suggestion that will enable the average reader to know the relationships of the various actors in the tragedy.

You really have an excellent story here; but it is over-told in the main and under-told at the climax end. More economy in the body of the story and more care in the preparation of the denouement will make this story excellent.

I hope you will feel that I am sincerely interested in what you are undertaking to do. I am not trying to earn money. I would have said the same things to you without If you want to ask me any questions about any details of this story, I shall be glad to answer if I know the answer. If you should re-write the story in keeping with the suggestions I have made, I should be very glad to see it again, and if you care to send me another story or two, I shall be glad to read them without charge.

Very truly yours,

John G. Neihardt