Tuesday March 17th, 2009

Before E-Mail

habit-of-being1I’m a fan of author’s letters, with some of my favorites including those by Raymond Chandler (not always easy to find, but well worth the search), Philip Larkin, William James, and Flannery O’Connor. (A review of Brad Gooch’s new O’Connor biography will go up in Circulating a little later today.) But because so many epistolary collections are out of print — and because few stores have a discrete section for those that are in print — it can be hard to know what’s out there. In a smart review of the first volume of Samuel Beckett’s correspondence, Gabriel Josipovici offers the beginning of a list of must-haves:

The letters of some of the greatest artists of their day, of Wordsworth and Cézanne, Proust and Eliot, for example, though occasionally moving and of interest because of who they were, would never figure in anyone’s list of the ten or twenty greatest books of their time. The letters of Keats and van Gogh, Kafka and Wallace Stevens certainly would. And so, on the evidence of this volume, would those of Samuel Beckett.