Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Six top letter collections

R. Blakeslee Gilpin is the author of John Brown Still Lives! America’s Long Reckoning with Violence, Equality, and Change, winner of the C. Vann Woodward Prize for the best dissertation in Southern history. His writing has appeared in The Boston Globe, The American Scholar, and the New York Times. An assistant professor at the University of South Carolina, Gilpin specializes in the history, literature, and culture of the American South

With Rose Styron, he edited the Selected Letters of William Styron.

One of Gilpin's favorite collections of correspondences, as told to The Daily Beast:
Letters to Olga
By Vaclav Havel

Letters, inevitably, alternate between the sublime and the superficial, the moving and the meaningless. When Rose Styron and I started work on her late husband William Styron’s letters, she turned me on to Havel during the many, many mornings we waded through my daily transcriptions and notations of Bill’s work. Havel was allowed by Czechoslovakian prison authorities to write one heavily censored letter a week to his wife, Olga. This correspondence blends the maddeningly mundane and the philosophically insightful. Havel’s letters, a source of hope and structure for him, also show how the form itself is always at once spontaneous and personal as well as composed and packaged.
Read about another entry on the list.

Also see: Frederic Raphael's five best books of notable correspondence by eminent men.

--Marshal Zeringue