The Letters of Sylvia Beach

The Letters of Sylvia Beach

by Sylvia Beach
     
 

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Founder of the Left Bank bookstore Shakespeare and Company and the first publisher of James Joyce's Ulysses, Sylvia Beach was a legendary nurturer of literary talent. In this first collection of her letters, we witness Beach's day-to-day dealings as bookseller and publisher to expatriate Paris. Her friends and patrons included Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude

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Overview

Founder of the Left Bank bookstore Shakespeare and Company and the first publisher of James Joyce's Ulysses, Sylvia Beach was a legendary nurturer of literary talent. In this first collection of her letters, we witness Beach's day-to-day dealings as bookseller and publisher to expatriate Paris. Her friends and patrons included Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, H. D., Ezra Pound, Janet Flanner, William Carlos Williams, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, and Richard Wright. As a librarian, publicist, publisher, and translator, Beach carved out a unique space for herself in English and French letters. She negotiated with Marianne Moore to place Joyce's work in The Dial, she battled the piracy of Ulysses in the United States, and she struggled to keep Shakespeare and Company afloat during the Depression. These letters shed new light on Beach's childhood in New Jersey; her work in Serbia with the American Red Cross; her internment in a German prison camp; her relationship with French bookstore owner Adrienne Monnier; and her friendship with a new generation of expatriates in the 1950s and 1960s. A consummate American in Paris and a tireless champion of the avant-garde, Beach's warmth and wit made the Rue de l'Odéon the heart of modernist Paris.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Dwight Garner
Beach's story has been told before…But the missives in The Letters of Sylvia Beach, edited by Keri Walsh, have an unvarnished charm all their own. Written to friends, writers, customers and family members, they depict a witty and resourceful woman struggling to keep her business, her writers and her precarious existence afloat…This lovely book, scholarly and well annotated, is a pleasure to hold. It documents what Beach once called "my missionary endeavor" and also what she called, correctly, her "interesting life."
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
A respectable and resourceful young American woman christened Nancy Woodbridge Beach (1887-1962) would become famous as the revolutionary publisher of Ulysses. and proprietor of Shakespeare and Company, the bohemian Left Bank lending-library and bookstore to the literary stars. Sylvia Beach left behind a trail of correspondence with major figures: Joyce, of course,and his ever-patient benefactor, Harriet Weaver; Gertrude Stein; Marianne Moore; Hemingway;the Fitzgeralds; Ezra Pound; William Carlos Williams; Richard Wright; and Alfred Knopf among them. Beach’s most historically significant letter appears as an appendix—a protest againstthe pirating of Ulysses by one Samuel Roth, signed by dozens of noted literati, from T.S. Eliot to Jose Ortega y Gasset, which created an international sensation and serves as a reminder of the centrality of intellectual proprietorship long before the Internet age. Letters about her falling out with the Joyce camp will be of interest to today’s scholars. While overall, many of these letters are slight, others reveal the difficulties faced head on by this patron saint of independent booksellers who altered the course of expression in print. The footnotes and editing by Walsh, an assistant professor of literature at Claremont McKenna College, are top-drawer. 30 photos. (Apr.)
Library Journal
"I have always loved books and their authors…," Beach writes in a letter to her longtime friend Marion Peter. This preference for "art" rather than "business or sport" inspired Beach to pursue a career as the proprietor of a "bookshop-lending library" in Paris, France, in the 1920s and 1930s. The bookshop she established, Shakespeare and Company, became famous as a "resort of writers" owing largely to Beach's charm, generosity, and intelligence. Ernest Hemingway, Thornton Wilder, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, as well as Gertrude Stein, T.S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound, were friends and patrons of Beach and her shop. Undoubtedly, the event that elevated Beach most dramatically among the literary intelligentsia of the period was her publication of Ulysses by James Joyce in 1922. As editor Walsh suggests in her helpful introduction, "…her role in bringing modernism's master work to the public meant that after 1922 her opinions commanded respect and her circle of influence grew." Walsh organizes the letters chronologically beginning in 1901 and ending in 1962, just months before Beach's death. Brief footnotes identify people mentioned in each letter with an occasional explanation of an event or situation. The letters reveal Beach's positive nature and her clever, witty persona. Her accounts of working for the Red Cross in Serbia during World War I, arranging to smuggle the banned Ulysses into the United States, and selling her beloved Joyce collection to the University of Buffalo provide details that allow readers to appreciate this interesting woman and her life. VERDICT Academics and students interested in literary culture, especially of writers of the Lost Generation, will find thisbook valuable.—Kathryn R. Bartelt, Univ. of Evansville Libs., IN
New York Times - Dwight Garner

This lovely book, scholarly and well annotated, is a pleasure to hold. It documents what Beach once called 'my missionary endeavor' and also what she called, correctly, her 'interesting life.'

The Vancouver Sun - Robert J. Wiersema

The consummate portrait of an incredible woman.

Pop Matters - Diane Leach

Keri Walsh has produced a commendable work.

The Nation - John Palattella

With The Letters of Sylvia Beach... we now have an unvarnished view of life from the bookshop floor.

Publishing Research Quarterly - David Emblidge

Beach's letters are crisp, detailed, patient, and articulate. Editor Walsh's meticulously orchestrated scholarly apparatus--footnotes, appendices, glossary, and index--all work well to enhance the material.

Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada

Beach is an entertaining companion, a wonderful person to spend time with... readers...will be quick to celebrate this editorial achievement.

New York Times
This lovely book, scholarly and well annotated, is a pleasure to hold. It documents what Beach once called 'my missionary endeavor' and also what she called, correctly, her 'interesting life.'

— Dwight Garner

The Vancouver Sun
The consummate portrait of an incredible woman.

— Robert J. Wiersema

Pop Matters
Keri Walsh has produced a commendable work.

— Diane Leach

The Nation
With The Letters of Sylvia Beach... we now have an unvarnished view of life from the bookshop floor.

— John Palattella

New Criterion

Keri Walsh's compact and revealing volume introduces Beach as a character's character

Bookforum - Matthew Price

The patron saint of independent booksellers everywhere and the spunky proprietress of Shakespeare and Company, the famed Left Bank bookshop, Beach was a one-woman clearinghouse for literary modernism, 'a culture hero of the avant-garde,' as Keri Walsh writes in her fine introduction to this collection.... Beach was an animated correspondent.

Bookforum
The patron saint of independent booksellers everywhere and the spunky proprietress of Shakespeare and Company, the famed Left Bank bookshop, Beach was a one-woman clearinghouse for literary modernism, 'a culture hero of the avant-garde,' as Keri Walsh writes in her fine introduction to this collection.... Beach was an animated correspondent.

— Matthew Price

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231517843
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
06/01/2010
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
376
File size:
3 MB

What People are saying about this

Bonnie Kime Scott

This finely wrought collection of The Letters of Sylvia Beach makes one grateful that those who fashioned modernism also took time to write letters. In the case of Sylvia Beach, hers document not just the expected-her role in bringing forth and defending James Joyce's Ulysses and her creation of an extraordinary lending library where expatriates converged. Here too is the everyday, recorded for 'Dearest Little Mother,' or shared with her love, Adrienne Monnier. We experience the advice of a well-grounded common reader and the strange encounters of an intrepid new woman, who found her way to Serbia in the wake of World War I and through occupied Paris during World War II. Keri Walsh has expertly tapped into this archive, lending accessibility with concise notes and identifications of correspondents. In this volume, both the times and the woman take on new life.

Bonnie Kime Scott, San Diego State University, editor of Selected Letters of Rebecca West

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