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C. Wright Mills Letters and Autobiographical Writings

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From a letter to Mills's parents, December 18, 1946:

"The book on white collar workers is coming along slow but sure. I'm not wanting to rush it. After all, the translation Gerth and I did was a book for specialists (incidently it is selling well; I expect by next 18 months or so to make a couple of thousand from it) but this white collar book: ah, there's a book for the people, it is everybody's book. So I am trying to make it damn good all over. Simple and clean cut in style, but with a lot of implications and subtleties woven into it. It is my little work of art: it will have to stand for the operations I never will do, not being a surgeon, and for the houses I never built, not being an architect. So, you see, it has to be a thing of craftsmanship and art as well as science. That is why it takes so long. There is no hurry. It will stand a long time, when it is finally done. It is all about the new little man in the big world of the 20th century. It is about that little man and how he lives and what he suffers and what his chances are going to be; and it is also about the world he lives in, has to live, doesn't want to live in. It is, as I said, going to be everybody's book. For, in truth, who is not a little man?"
From a letter to William Miller, 1952:

"You ask for what one should be keyed up? My god, for long weekends in the country, and snow and the feel of an idea and New York streets early in the morning and late at night and the camera eye always working whether you want or not and yes by god how the earth feels when it's been plowed deep and the new chartreuse wall in the study and wine before dinner and if you can afford it Irish whiskey afterwards and sawdust in your pants cuff and sometimes at evening the dusky pink sky to the north west, and the books to read never touched and all that stuff the Greeks wrote and have you ever read Macaulay's speeches to hear the English language? And to revise your mode of talk and what you talk about and yes by god the world of music which we just now discover and there's still hot jazz and getting a car out of the mud when nobody else can. That's what the hell to get keyed up about. The trouble with you and what used to be the trouble with me is that you don't use your goddamned senses; too much society crap and too much mentality and not enough tactile and color and sound stuff going on. So now if you're like I was a year ago, you've got to coax the sight and sound back, carefully tease it to life again and it will fill you up."
From a letter to Tovarich, 1957 (an imaginary Russian friend):

"Tovarich, of course, you realize that these letters to you are also letters to myself. That can't be helped if only because we are so separated; we are so ignorant of each other. That's why I am going to become very personal indeed in this letter and tell you something about who I might be and how I think I got that way. Yesterday afternoon when I was thinking about how I'd write to you about this, I thought: how can I tell him who I am when I'm not yet sure myself what I wish to become? And as for the past, like almost everyone, I've got several different pasts that I find variously useful, and comforting; and all of them are equally convincing.... Let me tell you first about my grandfather and why I am not an oil millionaire.

I grew up in Texas, curiously enough on no ranch but in Waco, Wichita Falls, Fort Worth, Sherman, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio -- in that order. My family moved around a bit. The reason I was not stabilized on a ranch is that my grandfather had lost my ranch. He was shot in the back with a 30-30 rifle.... "

From a letter to Tovarich, 1959:

"You and I, Tovarich, we are students, writers, and readers; we belong to something that's bigger than any government; we owe loyalty, if you want, to something higher than any one state. Political loyalties are conditional upon our reasoning, and such loyalties are not circumscribed by national boundaries.... The internationalism of the mind and sensibilities is not an abstract internationalism. Nor is it inaccessible. It is available in the bookstore on the corner, and the library downtown; it is as solid as the feeling set up by the look of a steel beam, as specific as the grace of a bamboo shoot, as general as the idea of nature or humanity.... "To write is to reason; it is to fight against chaos and murk. There's an enthusiasm that "takes you over" when you feel -- it doesn't matter now whether it is so or not -- when you feel you're conquering a little more of it for and by understanding. "