3 April (1930): Theodore Dreiser to Yvette Szekely

Here, Theodore Dreiser writes to Yvette Szekely, a younger Hungarian-American woman and one of his many correspondents and romantic interests. He describes his surroundings in Tucson, Arizona, where he was vacationing in hopes of recovering from poor physical and mental health.

April 3rd

Yesterday afternoon I walked miles out in the mesa here. All beyond the city is a mesa—hundreds of thousands of acres perhaps, surrounded by mountains, peopled with cacti, mesquite, chapparal—and except for the cacti, low bushes all. But with such smooth, dry, firm, warm brown earth in between so that you may walk as among the very young trees of a young orchard. And the sky over head with now & then a single while sailing cloud! And the changing colors of the mountains! And the cool pure wind! No taint of any city—which you smell as you return, as though it were a hot odorous animal. And the lone birds seeking lone prey,—here an owl, there a sand shrike. Perhaps in places cattle browsing, the rough shaggy herds of mesas, that must make their own way as best they can—find food & water or die. And here & there in a hummock of brown earth in the sun I lay & thought and thought and baked. What is life? What man? Life is so unmindful of him. He is built with a few powers & then pitted, as in an arena, against so many others. But here the drama is so simple. Search for food. Guard yourself or be food for something else. A few ants. A few flies. I lie where there is no single fly but presently, should I throw a crumb of food of any kind on the ground here is one and there two and there ten and twenty. And from where? Over what distance? By what marvelous sense of smell? Or what? Among many things I thought of you, meditating on life—dreaming of what to do about it, how to process? What the end—for you?—and loved you for what you are. I wished you were lying with me. That we could look & dream over all these things together. At dusk—under a new moon I walked back—miles. In one lone cabin a half mile distant a radio was singing “Sighing for the Carolines.” It was as clear at half a mile as in a room. Our great land! Our far flung people! And all seeing & hearing if not knowing the same things at once.



From Letters to Women: New Letters, Volume 2. Dreiser, Theodore, and Thomas P. Riggio. University of Illinois Press, 2009.