Letters from the Lost Generation: Gerald and Sara Murphy and Friends / Edition 1

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"Excellent. This is a fine, and unusual, collection of literary Americana."--Atlantic

"Fine comic moments of truth."--New York Times Book Review

"An invaluable source of literary history."--Publishers Weekly

This is the story of one of the most famous literary "sets" of the twentieth century. Gerald and Sara Murphy were at the center of a group including Ernest Hemingway and his wives, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, Archibald MacLeish, Dorothy Parker, Alexander Woollcott, Robert Benchley, Phillip Barry, and many others.  They personified the jazz age and the lost generation. The Murphys have been viewed primarily as cult/pop figures. In this book Miller shows, through a sequential interweaving of letters from several correspondents, that they actually were the nucleus without which the group as we know it would not have stayed together. Miller allows the individual correspondents to tell their own stories, providing  new insights into their lives and this era.  It is the best sort of eavesdropping. 

Gerald and Sara Murphy married on December 30, 1915.  Both families were moneyed and cosmopolitan.  Their attraction to each other was in part based on their desire to escape the routine and predictable social rounds in which their families were immersed.  Against their families' wishes, they and their three children left for Europe in 1921.  They remained in France for over a decade, and quite naturally socialized with the expatriate set.  They were, in part, models for Dick and Nicole Diver in Tender Is the Night. MacLeish wrote poems about them, their friends paid tribute to them and relied on them day to day and in correspondence, and their own letters are worth reading for their liveliness and because they so well preserve a record of the twenties and thirties.

Miller provides nearly every extant letter between the Murphys and their friends during those decades.  Most of them have not been published previously, and of course, they have never been presented collectively.  Together, they constitute an epistolary "novel" of peculiar power and authenticity about a remarkable era. 

Linda Patterson Miller is associate professor of English at Pennsylvania State University at Ogontz.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The letters collected here, written from 1920 to the mid-'60s, suggest that the Murphys were much more than rich Americans abroad who hosted famous fellow expatriates in France during the '20s and '30s. The couple and their three children, in fact, provided essential support for writer friends who left indelible marks on modern literature, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Archibald MacLeish, John Dos Passos, Ernest Hemingway and Dorothy Parker among them. The literati's letters reveal hitherto unknown sides--witty and sometimes acrimonious, they are always full of love and admiration when addressed to Gerald and Sara. Great depths of feeling are conveyed in messages about the deaths of the Murphys' two young sons, which foreshadowed other heartbreaks endured by the group: Zelda's psychosis, Scott's demise, Hemingway's suicide. A welcome reminder of those promising decades, the collection is an invaluable source of literary history. Miller teaches English at Pennsylvania State University. Photos not seen by PW. (May)
Library Journal
In this collection of the correspondence between Sara and Gerald Murphy, spanning the years 1925 to 1964 shortly after Gerald's death, the names of ``lost generation'' luminaries fairly leap off the pages: Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, Archibald MacLeish, Alexander Woolcott, Robert Benchley. Other letters include intriguing glimpses into other famous figures of the period (e.g., King Vidor). The letters are by turns humorous, sad (as on the deaths of their two young sons), and argumentative but are usually entertaining and illuminating. Recommended for academic libraries with courses supporting an interest in the art, literature, and culture of the period.-- Lynn Randall, Caldwell Coll. Lib., N.J.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813025360
  • Publisher: University Press of Florida
  • Publication date: 6/28/2002
  • Edition description: Enlarged/Expanded
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 1,092,110
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 8.88 (h) x 1.37 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface to the Expanded Edition
Pt. 1 1925-1932: The Riviera in the Summer 1
Pt. 2 1933-1940: The Sunlight of the Winter Streets 67
Pt. 3 1941-1964: Back There Where We Were 263
Addendum to the Expanded Edition 343
Notes 359
Index 365
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