Edmund Wilson, the Man in Letters

Overview


Among the major writers of the Hemingway and Fitzgerald generation, Edmund Wilson defied categorization. He wrote essays, stories and novels, cultural criticism, and contemporary chronicles, as well as journals and thousands of letters about the literary life and his own private world. Here for the first time in print is Wilson's personal correspondence to his parents, lovers and wives, children, literary comrades, and friends from the different corners of his life. Various writers and thinkers—including Alfred ...
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Overview


Among the major writers of the Hemingway and Fitzgerald generation, Edmund Wilson defied categorization. He wrote essays, stories and novels, cultural criticism, and contemporary chronicles, as well as journals and thousands of letters about the literary life and his own private world. Here for the first time in print is Wilson's personal correspondence to his parents, lovers and wives, children, literary comrades, and friends from the different corners of his life. Various writers and thinkers—including Alfred Kazin, Vladimir Nabokov, and Isaiah Berlin—take their places alongside upstate New York neighbors in this gallery of letters that extends from the teens to the early 1970s. These letters complete the picture of Wilson the man, offering unguarded moments and flinty opinions that enrich our understanding of a complex and troubled personality. Four times married and many times in love; traveling through Depression America, the USSR, postwar Europe, the Middle East, and Haiti; and writing on a Balzacian scale, Wilson as a correspondent reveals the exhilaration and chaos of being himself.

Arranged by correspondent and moving through the phases of his career, Edmund Wilson, the Man in Letters constitutes an exemplary autobiography cum cultural history. The writing itself is vintage Wilson—a blending of classical and conversational styles that stands as part of the modern American canon and is filled with the emotions and tastes of a master.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
These wide-ranging letters, most appearing in print for the first time, reveal Edmund Wilson more sympathetically than his egocentric journals. Culling from 70,000 letters written between 1917 and 1971, Wilson scholars Castronovo and Groth have arranged this edition first by theme such as his WWI experience, his literary friendships, his marriages, his publishing dealings with Charles Scribner, William Shawn and Roger Straus, and his upstate New York life and then by his regular correspondents, including Allen Tate, John Dos Passos, Dawn Powell, Lionell Trilling and Morton Zabel. This structure makes Wilson's life seem even more compartmentalized than it was. Famous as he was for his insatiable intellect, he was also known for periodic enthusiasms: European and Russian literature, Civil War and Iroquois history, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and his own fiction. These enthusiasms spring up unexpectedly throughout; for example, Wilson describes reading to his young son from Uncle Tom's Cabin, which would later catalyze his study Patriotic Gore. Otherwise, there are diverting sprinklings of writing to Isaiah Berlin, Cyril Connolly, John Berryman and even, unexpectedly, Edward Gorey. Conspicuous in their absences, however, are the central figures of fellow Princetonian F. Scott Fitzgerald, his lover Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Vladimir Nabokov (although the complete correspondence between Wilson and the latter was collected in one volume); and in general there are relatively few letters from the 1920s and '30s. Nonetheless, Wilson is on display here not simply as the opinionated literary lion but more familiarly as son, friend, husband and parent, showing more charm and sympathy than he did in the bombastic Letters from Literature and Politics. (Jan.) Forecast: Scholars and students of American literature will certainly want to round out their view of Wilson with these letters. This should sell steadily. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This volume of correspondence emphasizes the personal side of American critic and essayist Wilson (1895-1972). It supplements the 1977 collection, Letters on Literature and Politics, 1912-1972, which was edited by Wilson's widow, Elena, and which focused on his professional concerns. Castronovo (Edmund Wilson Revisited) and Groth (Edmund Wilson: A Critic for Our Time) have divided the text into eight sections: letters to Wilson's parents regarding World War I, letters to friends, correspondence with his last two wives, letters to his three children, an epistolary romance with Clelia Carroll, exchanges with publishers, a "grab bag" on various topics, and letters on his rural home at Talcottville, NY. The editors have written introductions to each section as well as explanatory footnotes for a number of the letters. A portrait emerges of a prolific author who not only cared deeply about literature and social issues but who also was a son, husband, father, colleague, and friend. Not all of the letters make fascinating reading, but for those who admire Wilson this volume is essential. Recommended for upper-level academic libraries, especially those that own the 1977 collection. (Index not seen.) Morris A. Hounion, New York City Technical Coll. Lib., Brooklyn Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780821414200
  • Publisher: Ohio University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2002
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 354
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.52 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction xi
Acknowledgments xiii
A Note about the Editing xv
I. The Young Man and the Great War 1
To Mother / Father 3
II. Friends of Youth and Later Years 31
To Burton Rascoe 35
To Allen Tate 40
To Louise Bogan 43
To John Dos Passos 50
To Morton Dauwen Zabel 57
To Lionel Trilling 66
To Dawn Powell 74
To Betty Huling 81
To Helen Muchnic 89
To Cyril Connolly 91
To Isaiah Berlin 97
III. Marriages 109
To Mary McCarthy 111
To Elena Mumm Thornton 133
IV. Wilson and His Children 193
Rosalind 195
Reuel 205
Helen 223
V. Clelia Carroll: An Epistolary Romance 231
VI. Literary Business 271
To John Hall Wheelock of Charles Scribner's Sons 274
To Charles Scribner of Charles Scribner's Sons 275
To Ken McCormick of Doubleday Co. 276
To Fredric Warburg of Secker and Warburg Co. 277
To William Van O'Connor at American Quarterly 278
To William Shawn at the New Yorker 278
To Roger Straus at Farrar, Straus 280
To Edward Gorey 294
VII. A Wilson Grab Bag 297
To Elmer Rice 300
To John Lester 301
To Norman Gottwald 303
To Jacob Landau 304
To William James Jr. 305
To V. S. Pritchett 306
To Katharine S. White 306
To John Hall Wheelock 307
To John Berryman 308
To Stephen Spender 309
To Robert Cantwell 310
To the New York Times 311
To Henry D. Blumberg 311
VIII. At Talcottville 315
To Dick and Jo Costa 318
To Mary Pcolar 320
(with a letter to S. N. Behrman) 324
To Glyn and Gladys Morris 329
To Margaret Rullman 340
Credits 343
Select Index of Persons and Places and of Works 347
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