May Sarton: Selected Letters,1955-1995

Overview

Forty years of correspondence from one of America's most beloved authors, chronicling her life with compelling candor.
The engrossing drama begun in May Sarton: Selected Letters 1916?1954 culminates in this gathering of 200 quintessential letters, culled from thousands. Copiously annotated, they propel the reader with passionate immediacy through the rich years of this beloved author's maturity and world-wide fame, to her death. "Sarton is one of the great letter writers of our ...

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Overview

Forty years of correspondence from one of America's most beloved authors, chronicling her life with compelling candor.
The engrossing drama begun in May Sarton: Selected Letters 1916–1954 culminates in this gathering of 200 quintessential letters, culled from thousands. Copiously annotated, they propel the reader with passionate immediacy through the rich years of this beloved author's maturity and world-wide fame, to her death. "Sarton is one of the great letter writers of our time," Library Journal affirmed of the first volume. And here once again we see her in every aspect: the hard-pressed writer, the tormented lover, at her fiercest and most fond; the friend, confidante and passionate traveler, intensely engaged by public issues, ceaselessly searching for the elusive muse which made poetry and the creative transformation of life possible. In addition to longtime friends and intimates familiar from Volume One—Louise Bogan, Eva Le Gallienne, Bill Brown, Muriel Rukeyser and the Huxleys—the more than 150 recipients in this volume include Robert Frost and Elizabeth Bowen, Carolyn Heilbrun and Doris Grumbach, Madeleine L'Engle, Pat Carroll, and Marianne Moore.
"No topic escapes her," Susan Kenney wrote of the first volume, and in the breadth and amplitude of these vibrant missives to friends and strangers, poets and scientists, actors and scholars, teachers and editors from every corner of the States and throughout Europe, the reader will partake of her joys, and learn well her griefs; it is no coincidence she always capitalized Hell. Particularly rich are her letters to members of the religious community who were drawn to the spiritual center in her work; her magnificent letters of condolence; her fiery replies to critics; her trenchant, generous responses to the many young writers who touched her; and her life-enhancing responses to hordes of admirers. Here, too, we are privy to several intense love relationships, and live beside her through the landmark publications of Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing and her revolutionary Journal of a Solitude. We accompany her as she writes the celebrated lyric poems which, with missionary fervor, she brought alive in dynamic readings to standing-room-only audiences across America, as long as she could do so. And finally we are witness to the gradual diminishments of age as, with characteristic courage, she charges into her ninth decade, "ardent and alone." Selected Letters 1955–1995 offers new insights and throws fascinating sidelights on Sarton's multi-faceted character, presenting an awesome self-portrait—more revealing than anything yet published—of this truly singular woman who, faithful to her "vision of life"—and like the legendary phoenix which marks her grave —never ceased to be reborn over and over again. As critic William Drake put it, "May Sarton always seems to be speaking to each one of us personally, as if we were a friend." In this richly moving and nourishing collection—the capstone of her literary legacy—this unforgettable woman speaks to each of us, as to each correspondent, once again in her timeless voice.
"Readers will find this volume a valuable companion to Sarton's other work; reading it put me back in touch with her keen intelligence, her restless but rich spirit, and I enjoyed it tremendously." —Eleanor Dwight, author of Edith Wharton: An Extraordinary Life "In a century of cruel inhumanity, 'life-enhancing' poet, novelist and journal-keeper May Sarton showed us, most of all, how to be human. . . . That is why we find in her a friend, and will keep rereading these thoughtful letters and her books for clues about the journey ahead." —Father John Dear, author of Living Peace "Those who know her journals will find here a Sarton willing to examine the underside of creativity, a Sarton who refuses to stay stuck in life or work. This book passes on that courage to readers." —Alexandra Johnson, author of Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal "A searingly honest self-portrait of a complex and many-sided woman. . . . What a feast!" —Dr. Claire Douglas, author of Translate This Darkness: The Life of Christiana Morgan, the Veiled Woman in Jung's Circle

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"[W]ho do I write for? Certainly not only for women... I guess I write for sensitive human beings wherever they are, however young or old, and of whatever sex. But I do not write for academic critics, that's sure. Nor do they like what I write. It is a mutual lack of interest." Her regret over the lateness of critical acclaim for her work is among the revelations about the prolific (with more than 50 books to her credit) and beloved Sarton, poet, novelist and diarist. In a note of appreciation, her friend William Drake says Sarton the letter writer was always swift, candid, blustery, boisterous and even defensive, but, he sums up, "the most difficult people can be the most worth knowing and treasuring." Sherman (who also edited May Sarton: Selected Letters, 1916-1954) presents 200 of the thousands of letters Sarton wrote in the latter part of her life to a wide range of friends, relatives and readers. These letters are best read in conjunction with each of Sarton's published works as they were written and released; Sherman hopes fans and newcomers alike will be left with a clearly delineated self-portrait of the writer and the woman: while writing, both her own and others', is the primary focus of Sarton's correspondence, readers also witness her difficulty in accepting criticism, as well as her generosity and humanity toward friends, strangers and the world at large. Nothing, including her own inner workings, escapes Sarton's scrutiny and consideration. Entertaining, insightful and not the least bit sentimental, Sarton's letters provide a complex yet clear composite of a singularly bright mind. 16 pages of photos not seen by PW. Agent, Timothy Seldes, Russell & Volkening. (Apr.) Forecast: The price of this seems steep, but that may not deter Sarton's devoted readers, of whom there are many. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Like Henry James, Sarton was a prolific writer whose passion for words and relationships emerged in the scores of letters she wrote to her friends, family, and critics. As she did for the first volume of Sarton's selected letters, editor Sherman (May Sarton: Selected Letters, 1916-1954) performs the loving, and herculean, task of sorting through Sarton's voluminous correspondence. In the over 200 letters contained here, Sarton matures into her writing as she corresponds with friends about her most critically acclaimed novel, Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing. In her letters to an array of correspondents including Julian Huxley, Anne Sexton, and Louise Bogan, Sarton discusses topics as wide-ranging as civil rights, Vietnam, and the theory of poetry. Her letters reveal her remarkable self-awareness and lucid insights, even after her stroke in 1986. Sherman annotates each letter, and an appendix includes 13 unpublished poems and the text of letters in French. Together with the first volume of letters, this collection provides a splendid biographical portrait of one of our most neglected artists. Highly recommended for libraries that own the earlier volume; otherwise, recommended for large libraries. (Photographs not seen.) Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Lancaster, PA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393051117
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/20/2002
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.60 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

May Sarton (1912-1995) was an acclaimed poet, novelist, and memoirist.

Susan Sherman lived with May Sarton during her weekends, academic breaks, and summers, and assisted with Sarton's writing and correspondence during her life. She currently lives in New York City.

William Drake was a professor emeritus of English at State University of New York, Oswego. He now lives in San Francisco.

Warren Keith Wright was a poet and editor. He worked at Library of America in New York as editor and proofreader.

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