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Summer Blogging: Life and Letters IV

downloadThe late Frank Kermode was perhaps the most influential literary critic of his generation, and in 1995 he edited with Anita Kermode The Oxford Book of Letters.  It is one in the voluminous series of anthologies published by Oxford UP.  There’s an anthology for whatever time period or genre you’re interested in, including letters.  Only someone with Kermode’s taste and confidence could have even thought of compiling an anthology like this, although, because the letters were chosen for reasons of their individual quality–“[we] have tried to leave room for the less illustrious, whose performances as writers may well be confined to epistolary correspondence undertaken for reasons of business, friendship, or love–the reasons, after all, for which the vast majority of us exchange letters–and written quite without regard for qualities that might win the admiration of an uninvited posterity”–there is something of a feeling of jumble here.  There is a lot of fine writing, but there is also the feeling of being in an antique shop where the inventory was acquired without any overriding purpose.  No sense of place, no sense of commonality.  Which is not meant to discourage potential readers, but rather, to wonder a’loud about the role of a correspondence in the composition of letters…

~ by pdoty on .

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