I've read a bit more of the letters. Still in Volume One (squeezing this between school and other stuff) but it's fascinating to watch Howard mature as I read on. Keeping in mind that the letters begin when he's 17 years old, it's actually quite humorous to see some of the broad misconceptions the know-it-all kid had. At one point he sent a letter to Adventure Stories magazine asking for information on Mongolia: the letter is a numbered list of questions, one of which being along the lines of, "am I correct in believing that the sword is still the weapon of choice amongst their armored cavalry?"
The kid was entirely unaware that by 1923, there were no hordes of mongols riding horses across the steppes and terrorizing innocent villagers.
Later, he writes a similar letter to the same magazine about a different country (I forget which one, but it's full of equally outdated misconceptions), but this time respectfully requests that his name and address be withheld upon publication. That bit had me laughing aloud at the realization of how badly his first letter must've gotten him ridiculed. Of course, I then found myself feeling a bit guilty over laughing at his capricious youth; weren't we all teen-aged know-it-alls at one point? Heck, some of us just turned into adult know-it-alls when we got older! And anyone who knows about Howard knows he never really got over being a know-it-all; however, as he got older at least he upped his own education, and he was rather self-depreciating amongst his friends.
I'm still enjoying the letters immensely--I find myself fascinated with the personality of this writer whose work I've admired for a very long time, and as I go on I find it increasingly hard to swallow the fact that this guy killed himself. He's so full of life and vigor, and so lighthearted and eager to joke and laugh, it's not going to be easy to see the downward spiral that (I am guessing) accompanies his mother's illness years later.