Home » Books & Literature » Bruce McAllister, a 16 year-old student, in 1963 wrote to 150 authors to settle a dispute with his English teacher about textual symbolism. More than 75 replied, including Ray Bradbury, John Updike, and Saul Bellow. McAllister later became an acclaimed author and literature professor.

Bruce McAllister, a 16 year-old student, in 1963 wrote to 150 authors to settle a dispute with his English teacher about textual symbolism. More than 75 replied, including Ray Bradbury, John Updike, and Saul Bellow. McAllister later became an acclaimed author and literature professor.

Document: The Symbolism Survey

In 1963, a sixteen-year-old San Diego high school student named Bruce McAllister sent a four-question mimeographed survey to 150 well-known authors of literary, commercial, and science fiction. Did they consciously plant symbols in their work? he asked. Who noticed symbols appearing from their subconscious, and who saw them arrive in their text, unbidden, created in the minds of their readers? When this happened, did the authors mind?

McAllister had just published his first story, “The Faces Outside,” in both IF magazine and Simon and Schuster’s 1964 roundup of the best science fiction of the year. Confident, if not downright cocky, he thought the surveys could settle a conflict with his English teacher by proving that symbols weren’t l… Continue Reading (5 minute read)

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