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The Book of Love: Writers and Their Love Letters

Overview

The late John Cheever once insisted that "saving a letter is like trying to preserve a kiss." Luckily for us, the loved ones of great writers ranging from Sappho to Anne Sexton, from Anton Chekhov to Mr. Cheever himself have ignored that clever dictum. In more than one hundred of the most powerful, witty, wicked and whimsical letters ever written, we chronicle passion's erratic progress. Why should Marcus Aurelius's amorous words sit side by side with John Steinbeck's letter to the woman who inspired much of his ...
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Overview

The late John Cheever once insisted that "saving a letter is like trying to preserve a kiss." Luckily for us, the loved ones of great writers ranging from Sappho to Anne Sexton, from Anton Chekhov to Mr. Cheever himself have ignored that clever dictum. In more than one hundred of the most powerful, witty, wicked and whimsical letters ever written, we chronicle passion's erratic progress. Why should Marcus Aurelius's amorous words sit side by side with John Steinbeck's letter to the woman who inspired much of his late work? Distinguished scholar Cathy Davidson argues that the love letter is a form of literature all its own, a genre whose language may have changed from ancient Rome to twentieth-century America but whose basic form and content remain the same. For if all literature is a kind of seduction, then the love letter becomes the perfect vehicle for writers to hone their seductive skills. With novelistic flair, Ms. Davidson has arranged these letters as though they were all part of one romance - a romance in which any of us may have played a part. From the joy of "Falling in Love" to the pain of "Unrequited Love," we chart the evolution of that most hard-to-define emotion. These pages are filled with glorious examples of writers being just like the rest of humanity, to wit: willing to stake so much on what at times seems like nothing more than a promise and an act of faith. How delightful to discover the master of light verse Ogden Nash writing tenderly to a woman he first saw across a crowded room nine months earlier: "This is a particularly gifted and intelligent pen. Look what it's writing now: I love you. That's a phrase I can't get out of my head - but I don't want to. I've wanted to try it out for a long time; I like the look of it and the sound of it and the meaning of it." Of course what writers do better than anyone else is to write about love. Through Ms. Davidson's deft touch, The Book of Love becomes a treasure trove of literary discovery. She
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Delightful and insightful, this collection explores the many varietes of love letters. Divided into six parts--from ``Falling in Love'' to ``Absence'' to ``The End of Love''--as well as several subsections, the book includes writers from Sappho to Stendhal, Walt Whitman to Vaclav Havel. While some missives illuminate famous romances, less expected letters also intrigue: Emma Goldman's plea to a married man (``You have opened up the prison gates of my womanhood''), Civil War soldier Sullivan Ballou's pre-battle message to his wife (``Sarah, my love for you is deathless''), nurse Agnes von Kurowsky's rejection of 19-year-old Ernest Hemingway (``Ernie, dear boy'') and the imprisoned Nelson Mandela's advice for his distant daughter (``never . . . allow anybody . . . to bully you''). Davidson, a professor of English literature at Duke University, prefaces each letter with informative biographical comments that are often as engrossing as the letters themselves. (Nov.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452275942
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 2/1/1996
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

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