A Whole World: Letters from James Merrill by Merrill, James

James Merrill

A Whole World: Letters from James Merrill

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A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR - The selected correspondence of the brilliant poet, one of the twentieth century's last great letter...

A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR - The selected correspondence of the brilliant poet, one of the twentieth century's last great letter writers.

I don't keep a journal, not after the first week, James Merrill asserted in a letter while on a trip around the world. Letters have got to bear all the burden. A vivacious correspondent, whether abroad, where avid curiosity and fond memory frequently took him, or at home, he wrote eagerly and often, to family and lifelong friends, American and Greek lovers, confidants in literature and art about everything that mattered--aesthetics, opera and painting, housekeeping and cooking, the comedy of social life, the mysteries of the Ouija board and the spirit world, and psychological and moral dilemmas--in funny, dashing, unrevised missives, composed to entertain himself as well as his recipients.

On a personal nemesis: the ambivalence I live with. It worries me less and less. It becomes the very stuff of my art; on a lunch for Wallace Stevens given by Blanche Knopf: It had been decided by one and all that nothing but small talk would be allowed; on romance in his late fifties: I must stop acting like an orphan gobbling cookies in fear of the plate's being taken away; on great books: they burn us like radium, with their decisiveness, their terrible understanding of what happens.

Merrill's daily chronicle of love and loss is unfettered, self-critical, full of good gossip, and attuned to the wicked irony, the poignant detail--a natural extension of the great poet's voice.

JAMES MERRILL (1926-1995), one of the foremost American poets of the later twentieth century, was the winner of two National Book Awards, the Bollingen Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, and the first Bobbit Prize from the Library of Congress. He published eleven volumes of poems, in addition to the trilogy that makes up The Changing Light at Sandover, as well as two plays, two novels, a collection of essays and interviews, and a memoir. He was a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. LANGDON HAMMER is the Niel Gray Jr. Professor of English at Yale University. His books include James Merrill: Life and Art and Hart Crane and Allen Tate: Janus-Faced Modernism, and he edited the Library of America volumes of Hart Crane and May Swenson's poems. He writes about poetry for The New York Review of Books, The Yale Review, and The American Scholar, where he serves as poetry editor. STEPHEN YENSER's volumes of poems are The Fire in All Things, awarded the Walt Whitman Award by the Academy of American Poets, Blue Guide, and Stone Fruit. Distinguished Research Professor at UCLA, he has written three critical books including The Consuming Myth: The Work of James Merrill, coedited with J. D. McClatchy five volumes of Merrill's work, and annotated a stand-alone edition of Merrill's The Book of Ephraim.

Knopf Publishing Group
Publication Date
April 6, 2021