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The Library of America The official page of Library of America, a nonprofit publisher of authoritative editions of America's best and most significant writing.

Our mission is to foster greater appreciation for our nation’s literary heritage. The nonprofit Library of America was founded in 1979 to undertake a historic endeavor: to help preserve the nation's cultural heritage by publishing America's best and most significant writing in durable and authoritative editions. The first volumes were published in 1982. The idea for The Library of America was firs

Our mission is to foster greater appreciation for our nation’s literary heritage. The nonprofit Library of America was founded in 1979 to undertake a historic endeavor: to help preserve the nation's cultural heritage by publishing America's best and most significant writing in durable and authoritative editions. The first volumes were published in 1982. The idea for The Library of America was firs

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Thornton Wilder was born 125 years ago, in Madison, Wisconsin, on April 17, 1897.Wilder won three Pulitzer Prizes, one f...
04/14/2022
Eddy Greater

Thornton Wilder was born 125 years ago, in Madison, Wisconsin, on April 17, 1897.

Wilder won three Pulitzer Prizes, one for “The Bridge of San Luis Rey” (published in 1927), one for the play “Our Town” (first performed in 1938), and one for the play “The Skin of Our Teeth” (1942). He remains the only author to win Pulitzers for both drama and fiction. In addition, his novel “The Eighth Day” (1967) won the National Book Award.

He is, of course, largely remembered for “Our Town,” one of the most frequently performed plays in America. But Wilder’s novels deserve attention as well. When asked to choose between his plays and his novels, J. D. McClatchy (who wrote the libretto for the operatic adaptation of “Our Town”) answered, “I realize that, for someone who has worked both sides of the street, declaring a preference for one side isn’t fair. In part, I prefer the novels because they are undervalued. Wilder’s celebrity has always derived mainly from his plays, yet his novels have more amplitude and variety, more cunning and power, and certainly more style than his other work. But I also prefer them for this reason: I am moved by them—I mean entranced, puzzled, laughing, or close to tears—after reading them again and again. I am moved when I see ‘Our Town,’ but more on the stage than on the page. Wilder brings all his gifts as a playwright to the writing of novels.”

Wilder began writing fiction during his college years, and his early stories appeared in the literary magazines at Oberlin and Yale, where he was an undergraduate. (He transferred after his sophomore year.) Two other Yale students at the time would also go on to win multiple Pulitzer Prizes: fellow undergraduate Stephen Vincent Benét (two Pulitzers in poetry), who edited the college magazine that published several of Wilder’s plays and stories, and law student Archibald MacLeish (three Pulitzers, two in poetry and one in drama). Henry Luce, who would establish the Time-Life empire of magazines, was also a fellow student; remarkably, he and Wilder had been classmates at a missionary school in Chefoo, China.

McClatchy acknowledges that Wilder’s undergraduate publications are “apprentice work”—but they are very good apprentice work, displaying Wilder’s experiments with “ironic situations and sophisticated dialogue” that he would perfect in his later fiction and drama. We present as our Story of the Week selection one of the stories, “Eddy Greater,” about a scholar who coincidentally encounters a former opera singer who apparently has possession of the journals of the poet whose biography he has just written.

Read the story “Eddy Greater”: https://storyoftheweek.loa.org/2022/04/eddy-greater.html

Image: Detail from “Soubrette,” 1883, oil on canvas by British artist Alexander Mann (1853–1908).

In Thornton Wilder's early story, a former opera singer seems to have the journals of a eminent poet who died years earlier.

New on our blog — Jarred McGinnis, whose debut novel THE COWARD is published today in the U.S., shares what he learned a...
04/12/2022
Jarred McGinnis: The boundary-pushing American authors who taught this emigrant how to write | Library of America

New on our blog — Jarred McGinnis, whose debut novel THE COWARD is published today in the U.S., shares what he learned about writing from Herman Melville, Percival Everett, and the brothers Geoffrey and Tobias Wolff.

Influences April 12, 2022 Jarred McGinnis: The boundary-pushing American authors who taught this emigrant how to write The Coward (Canongate Books, 2022) by Jarred McGinnis. (Author photo: Sarah McGinnis.) Our “Influences” series of guest posts by contemporary writers returns with the following ...

Donald Barthelme was born 91 years ago, on April 7, 1931. During a three-decade career cut short by his death at the age...
04/07/2022
The School

Donald Barthelme was born 91 years ago, on April 7, 1931.

During a three-decade career cut short by his death at the age of 58, he published four novels, seven story collections, a popular children's book, and two retrospective anthologies of his short fiction. Almost immediately after his arrival in Manhattan from Texas in the early 1960s, he became a regular contributor to The New Yorker and went on to publish 129 stories in the magazine, as well as dozens of “Notes and Comment” pieces. He even filled in briefly for Pauline Kael, writing movie reviews during her sabbatical.

Splitting his time between New York and Texas, he also became a beloved teacher at the University of Houston, where he cofounded the school’s creative writing program. Tracy Daugherty, a former student, opens the biography "Hiding Man" with a memory salvaged from one of Barthelme’s classes: “The assignment was simple: Find a copy of John Ashbery’s 'Three Poems,' read it, buy a bottle of wine, go home, sit in front of the typewriter, drink the wine, don’t sleep, and produce, by dawn, twelve pages of Ashbery imitation.” Barthelme’s goal, Daugherty realized much later, was to disrupt the inclination in student writing to be “so overdetermined” and to foster the “irruption of accident.”

One of Barthelme’s most popular and most-anthologized stories is “The School,” which was included in his 1976 collection “Amateurs.” Like all his stories, “The School” is short—just over 1,200 words. Writers as varied as George Saunders, Joyce Carol Oates, T. Coraghessan Boyle, and Lorrie Moore have singled it out for inclusion in anthologies and have used it in their classrooms, and it is often the first exposure for students to what has become known as “postmodernism.” Saunders wrote a well-known essay called “The Perfect Gerbil” explaining why the story succeeds and why readers react to it and interpret it so differently. To begin to understand Saunders’s seemingly bizarre title, you’d really have to read the story—which you can do, for free, at our Story of the Week website.

Read the selection here: https://storyoftheweek.loa.org/2022/04/the-school.html

Image: Donald Barthelme at his home in New York, 1964 (Ben Martin/Getty Images). Book jacket for Amateurs (1976).

In one of Donald Barthelme's most famous stories, a school is beset by a series of unfortunate events.

Last month, on March 13, Maureen Howard died at the age of 91. In addition to writing nine novels and her award-winning ...
04/04/2022
Mrs. Manstey’s View

Last month, on March 13, Maureen Howard died at the age of 91. In addition to writing nine novels and her award-winning memoir (“Facts of Life”), Howard edited the two-volume Library of America collection of Edith Wharton’s stories, widely regarded as the most authoritative edition in print. When the books were published in 2001, Howard delivered an address at a New York City Barnes & Noble on Wharton’s birthday, January 24, in the Chelsea neighborhood where Wharton was born.

“At the outset,” Howard noted, “Wharton was as uncertain of acceptance as most fledgling writers. When we read her earliest stories, we see that she was trying out material, searching out forms. Two early works are set in a somewhat gritty New York: ‘Mrs. Manstey’s View’ and ‘Bunner Sisters,’ a novella that was rejected and published much later. Mrs. Manstey is a lonely widow in a boarding house, her view about to be obliterated by Trumpian progress. The Bunners are two impoverished women who keep a small shop with sewing supplies and decorate hats, seemingly not Wharton territory. But Wharton’s landscape in her stories and her novels was vast and various.”

Wharton’s early stories—and her ghost stories—still surprise and puzzle readers who know her only through the Gilded Age settings of “The House of Mirth” and “The Age of Innocence.” Many, perhaps most, of her works have been reintroduced to readers as “not your typical Edith Wharton story”—as if there were such a thing. Howard attributed this variety to Wharton’s “ability, not available to many of her heroines, to cross to other worlds.” She added, “In these earliest stories, we see that secondary gift of observation in the worn seams of poor Miss Bunner’s best dress and in Edith Wharton’s accounting of their poverty to the penny. This attention to detail of place is evident in every story, whether it is the fashionable drawing rooms of New York and Paris, or Kerfol, the spectral 16th-century domain in Brittany from which one of her most chilling ghost stories takes its title, or the gaming tables of Cannes.”

For our Story of the Week selection, then, we present Edith Wharton’s first published story, “Mrs. Manstey’s View,” along with an introduction explaining how—and why—her writing career, after a promising start in her teens, didn’t really begin until she was almost forty years old.

Read the story: https://storyoftheweek.loa.org/2022/03/mrs-mansteys-view.html

Image: Backyard (1888), oil on board by American artist Jerome Myers (1867–1940).

Edith Wharton's first published story, about a widow who lives in a gritty New York City tenement building.

The #NationalBlackWritersConference of the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College, CUNY is on now through S...
03/31/2022
Lighting the way: 2022 National Black Writers Conference documents resilience and resistance | Library of America

The #NationalBlackWritersConference of the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College, CUNY is on now through Saturday. We spoke to its director, Dr. Brenda M. Greene, about this year’s events—and the challenges the conference has had to overcome lately:

Interviews March 30, 2022 Lighting the way: 2022 National Black Writers Conference documents resilience and resistance Opening today, and extending through Saturday, April 2, the 16th National Black Writers Conference (NBWC) is a virtual public gathering of writers, readers, scholars, literary profe...

It's here! Our long-awaited second volume of F. Scott Fitzgerald, which includes THE GREAT GATSBY, is now available for ...
03/29/2022
Why The Great Gatsby is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s finest hour—and why an authoritative text matters | Library of America

It's here! Our long-awaited second volume of F. Scott Fitzgerald, which includes THE GREAT GATSBY, is now available for pre-order.

We talked with the book's editor about why GATSBY, now nearly 100 years old, endures as Fitzgerald's masterpiece, and why, amid all the recent public domain editions, a reliable edition of what Fitzgerald actually wrote is so important.

Interviews March 29, 2022 Why The Great Gatsby is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s finest hour—and why an authoritative text matters The long-awaited second volume of Library of America’s Fitzgerald edition is here! At the center of F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby, All the Sad Young Men is the auth...

Sixty-five years ago, in the spring of 1957, Ray Bradbury finally had the proofs for the book that he had been working o...
03/21/2022
The Tarot Witch

Sixty-five years ago, in the spring of 1957, Ray Bradbury finally had the proofs for the book that he had been working on for over a decade and that he had been contracted to write in 1951—before the appearance of such best sellers as “The Illustrated Man,” “Fahrenheit 451,” or “The October Country.” The new book, “Dandelion Wine,” would finally appear later that year—but it was not really much like the idea for the novel he had originally sold to his editor at Doubleday.

He had toiled away at the book, a nostalgic evocation of his childhood in Waukegan, Illinois (“Green Town”), but the novel “had wrestled him to a draw,” writes Bradbury expert Jonathan Eller. Instead, at his editor’s urging, Bradbury extracted some of the episodes and added interstitial material to create a story cycle.

In spite of (or perhaps because of) the change in plans, “Dandelion Wine” became one of his most successful books. Years later, Bradbury would call it his celebration “of death as well as life, dark as well as light, old as well as young, smart and dumb combined, sheer joy as well as complete terror written by a boy who once hung upside down in trees, dressed in his bat costume with candy fangs in his mouth, who finally fell out of the trees when he was twelve and went and found a toy-dial typewriter and wrote his first ‘novel.’” Nearly fifty years after the appearance of “Dandelion Wine,” Bradbury finally completed his original novel, publishing it in 2006 as “Farewell Summer,” the last book before his death in 2012.

As he was fine-tuning the final draft of “Dandelion Wine,” Bradbury added two new stories that hadn’t been published elsewhere. One of them, “The Tarot Witch,” is notable because it anticipates the menacing carnivalesque atmosphere of his next book, “Something Wicked This Way Comes”—which is also set in Green Town. We present it here as our Story of the Week selection, which includes an introduction explaining how Sherwood Anderson helped inspire the creation of “Dandelion Wine.”

Read the selection: https://storyoftheweek.loa.org/2022/03/the-tarot-witch.html

Image: Close-up of a vintage fortune-teller automaton. From Pinterest/@areagallery.

Ray Bradbury's tale from Dandelion Wine about two boys, a penny arcade, and a fortune teller automaton.

Today we're thrilled to announce that our 2021 title THE MAN WHO LIVED UNDERGROUND by Richard Wright has been selected b...
03/15/2022
Stephen Curry's Book Club | Literati

Today we're thrilled to announce that our 2021 title THE MAN WHO LIVED UNDERGROUND by Richard Wright has been selected by Stephen Curry as the April selection for his Literati book club. Join the reading and discussion here:

Join Stephen Curry in reading an inspiring mix of books that feature underrated characters and game-changing authors. Explore Literati!

The long-awaited LOA edition of “The Great Gatsby” arrived from the printer today. The volume also includes F. Scott Fit...
03/11/2022
Winter Dreams

The long-awaited LOA edition of “The Great Gatsby” arrived from the printer today. The volume also includes F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story collection “All the Sad Young Men,” as well as sixteen other stories that were never published in book form during his lifetime.

Many readers may know that the character of Daisy Buchanan in “The Great Gatsby” was based on Chicago socialite Ginevra King, with whom Fitzgerald fell madly in love when he was 18 and she was 16—although their relationship was conducted mostly via correspondence over a two-year period, during which they saw each other only a few times. Fitzgerald never shed his resentment for the break-up with Ginevra King—and he even used his memory of her as a warning to his daughter.

In 1937, when Frances (or “Scottie,” as she was affectionately known) was 16, her father sent her a letter about proper behavior for a teenage girl. “I don’t want you to do anything inappropriate to your age,” he wrote. “For premature adventure one pays an atrocious price.” He warned against getting a reputation as a flirt: “the girls who were what we called ‘speeds’ (in our stone-age slang)” ended up marrying “anything they could get.” And then he mentioned an incident he must have discussed before with his daughter as an example of King’s perfidy: “It was in the cards that Ginevra King should get fired from Westover,” a reference to King’s expulsion from the famous prep school for the infraction of leaning out of her dorm window and talking to several boys on their way to the senior dance, which—according to the headmistress—labeled Ginevra as an “adventuress” whose “honor was stained.”

Daisy Buchanan wasn’t the only character inspired by Fitzgerald’s memory of his lost love. “Winter Dreams,” an early story published four years before the appearance of “The Great Gatsby,” features Judy Jones, a “speed” whose new boyfriend soon learns he is only “one of a varying dozen who circulated about her.” It should be said that, twenty years ago, King’s half of the correspondence was made public by her family, and they paint a far more nuanced and winsome portrait of her than the idealized character portrayed repeatedly (and sometimes bitterly) in Fitzgerald’s fiction. We present the story, with an introduction describing those letters and their “discovery,” as our Story of the Week selection.

Read the selection here: https://storyoftheweek.loa.org/2022/03/winter-dreams.html

The earliest story of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Gatsby cluster"

Calling all New Yorkers! The good people Unnameable Books in Brooklyn are hosting a birthday party for Joe Brainard this...
03/09/2022

Calling all New Yorkers! The good people Unnameable Books in Brooklyn are hosting a birthday party for Joe Brainard this Friday at 7:30 pm. Details below:

Constance Fenimore Woolson was born 182 years ago, on March 5, 1840.During her lifetime, Woolson’s novels and stories en...
03/04/2022
In Sloane Street

Constance Fenimore Woolson was born 182 years ago, on March 5, 1840.

During her lifetime, Woolson’s novels and stories enjoyed that rare combination envied by every author—critical acclaim and commercial success—and she was often compared to George Eliot and Henry James. For most of the twentieth century, however, Woolson was remembered mostly for her close relationship with James, including the lurid details of her death (a probable suicide) in Venice and the devastating effect the news had on him.

There’s no denying that the 14-year friendship between Woolson and James was exceptional. “At some point,” writes Woolson’s recent biographer Anne Boyd Rioux, “their intimacy deepened to the extent that they agreed to destroy their letters to each other. Only four have survived. He made no such agreement with anyone else, and she only with her sister. While James’s and Woolson’s careful sabotage may forever hide the true nature of their relationship, it is clear that the immensely private Woolson and James trusted each other with parts of themselves that they may have shown to no one else.” Their closeness only intensified after the suicide of Woolson’s brother and the death from cancer of James’s sister.

Their relationship also gave us two of Woolson’s greatest stories, which bookend the years they knew each other. In both tales she portrays a male author who bears a marked resemblance to her friend. “Miss Grief,” which has become the story through which many modern readers first encounter Woolson’s fiction, was written before she even met James, whom she admired from afar; many aspects of the protagonist seem to be inspired by what she had heard about James through their mutual friends. The later story, “In Sloane Street,” published eighteen months before she died, conjures a writer of “analytical novels” similar to the books published by James. At the center of both stories are unmarried “literary” women: one an author, the other a reader, and both thinly disguised reflections of Woolson herself.

We present “In Sloane Street” as our Story of the Week selection:
https://storyoftheweek.loa.org/2022/02/in-sloane-street.html

Photos: Sloane Street, London, c. 1900. (Photo by LL/Roger Viollet via Getty Images)

Constance Fenimore Woolson's story examines acclaimed author's fraught relationships with his wife and with his best female friend.

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#wilder125 Alfred Hitchcock invited Thornton Wilder to Hollywood during the spring of 1942 to write the screenplay for Shadow of A Doubt. Wilder headed to California, renting a “Drive-U-Self-Chevrolet” to get between his apartment and the studio. He loved working with Hitchcock despite the grueling pace and was pleased with the film’s end result. He wrote to his friend Ruth Gordon, “Honest, Ruth, the picture is good.” Pictured here is Wilder on set with Hitchcock. The Library of America Thornton Wilder Society #thorntonwilder
GRAZING IN THE STACKS AT The Library of America My new article up now at CultureCatch.com https://bit.ly/3JJOjaL
A joy to be celebrating #Wilder125 with The Library of America! Check out their Story of the Week, "Eddy Greater,” written by a 23 year old Thornton Wilder! The Yale Literary Magazine Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
More goodness / gracious from The Library of America Pauline Kael of course needs no introduction, I devoured her first anthology “I Lost It At the Movies” while in junior high b/w “The Cool School”—in which my late friend and collaborator (yep) Glenn O’Brien collects various hipster scribblings, heavy on the Beats and assorted mavericks—including old buddy Richard Meltzer and (to quote Charlie Parker on Dizzy Gillespie) “his worthy constituent” Lester Bangs (another long gone friend). The best here imho is an excerpt from legendary post-war Left Bank ex-pat Iris Owens, who ran with George Plimpton and the Paris Review crowd back in the day, with an excerpt from her (relatively straight) novel “After Claude”. Iris also btw wrote possibly the most filthy, daring and provocative hard-core p***o for Maurice Girodias’s celebrated Olympia Press Traveler's Companion Series under the pseudonym Harriet Daimler. (True confession: Iris was a dear friend of mine). Check out "Sin for Breafast", "The Woman Thing", and "Darling" if you can find them. This anthology’s main sin of omission in my book though is that it’s fairly light on inclusion of the old principia feminina. I mean—no Eve Babitz? Emily Prager? Virginie Despentes? Kathy Acker?? Glenn? GLENN?? Glenn has left the building.
Nice lunch today at the Century Club here in Manhattan with my old friend Max Rudin, publisher of The Library of America. Max was kind enough to a) pick up the tab, and b) to let me graze freely in his offices afterwards, where I lay hands on these two beauties: a double volume boxed set of Norman Mailer’s 60’s novels plus a book of his essays…and an unpublished novel by Richard White. Plus a couple more tomes I’m saving for a future post. My cup runneth over…thanks Max!
Good reading
On this day in 1959, Wilder received the Goethe Plaquette from the City of Frankfurt. This award is given to writers, artists, scientists, and other personalities of the cultural life considered important. Wilder, pictured here in Frankfurt during his 1957 publishing tour, spoke fluent German and his plays and novels were popular in Germany from the start. The Library of America Harper Perennial #wilder125 #thorntonwilder
Thrilled to see the AP feature Thornton Wilder's 125th Birthday! The Library of America Harper Perennial HarperAcademic MacDowell Thornton Wilder Society Concord Theatricals American Theatre magazine Lincoln Center Theater The Skin of Our Teeth on Broadway #wilder125 Alley Theatre
TONIGHT! Join our friends The Library of America for Branden Jacobs-Jenkins on Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred Thursday, February 24th 6:00 – 7:00 pm EST Get a fascinating close-up look at Octavia E. Butler’s visionary SF masterwork—a time-travel thriller that plunges its 1970s New York heroine into the antebellum slave South—with Obie-winning playwright and screenwriter Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (An Octoroon, HBO’s Watchmen), who is adapting the novel for a limited series on FX. INFO & RSVP: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/octavia-e-butlers-kindred-with-branden-jacobs-jenkins-registration-266378544397?aff=ny
Want to know what it’s like adapting Octavia Butler’s KINDRED as a TV series? The Library of America is hosting showrunner Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s talk this Thursday. Registration is free!
This Thursday, join The Library of America for a fascinating close-up look at Octavia E. Butler’s visionary SF masterwork—a time-travel thriller that plunges its 1970s New York heroine into the antebellum slave South—with Obie-winning playwright and screenwriter Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (An Octoroon, HBO’s Watchmen), who is adapting the novel for a limited series on FX. Register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/filming-octavia-e-butlers-kindred-with-branden-jacobs-jenkins-registration-266378544397?aff=hutchins
"If you are a parent who feels he has little little nature lore at his disposal there is still much you can do for your child." Read on with these words from Rachel Carson. (from the new The Library of America volume, "Silent Spring & Other Writings on the Environment")