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The Long Voyage: Selected Letters of Malcolm Cowley, 1915-1987 (Lives and Letters) [Hardcover]

Malcolm Cowley , Hans Bak

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Book Description

7 Jan 2014 Lives and Letters
Critic, poet, editor, chronicler of the "lost generation," and elder statesman of the Republic of Letters, Malcolm Cowley (1898-1989) was an eloquent witness to much of twentieth-century American literary and political life. These letters, the vast majority previously unpublished, provide an indelible self-portrait of Cowley and his time, and make possible a full appreciation of his long and varied career. Perhaps no other writer aided the careers of so many poets and novelists. Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Kerouac, Tillie Olsen, and John Cheever are among the many authors Cowley knew and whose work he supported. A poet himself, Cowley enjoyed the company of writers and knew how to encourage, entertain, and when necessary scold them. At the center of his epistolary life were his friendships with Kenneth Burke, Allen Tate, Conrad Aiken, and Edmund Wilson. By turns serious and thoughtful, humorous and gossipy, Cowley's letters to these and other correspondents display his keen literary judgment and ability to navigate the world of publishing. The letters also illuminate Cowley's reluctance to speak out against Stalin and the Moscow Trials when he was on staff at "The New Republic--"and the consequences of his agonized evasions. His radical past would continue to haunt him into the Cold War era, as he became caught up in the notorious "Lowell Affair" and was summoned to testify in the Alger Hiss trials. Hans Bak supplies helpful notes and a preface that assesses Cowley's career, and Robert Cowley contributes a moving foreword about his father.

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Boswell of the lost generation, literary editor of "The New Republic", and champion of authors from Fitzgerald and Faulkner--whose career he resuscitated--to Kerouac and Kesey, Malcolm Cowley lived a long life and wrote a ton of letters debating, critiquing and defending the state of American literature. (Kenneth Burke, Allen Tate, Conrad Aiken and Edmund Wilson were among his closest interlocutors.) The majority of the letters in this collection have never before been published His collected letters amount to a heady portrait of American literary and intellectual life in the twentieth century. --Rachel Arons"New Yorker blog" (12/01/2013)

"Hans Bak's selection of Cowley's letters will interest anyone with specialised knowledge of American literature during its 20th century apogee" --Richard Davenport-Hines, Spectator, 11 January 2014

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's Time to Again Recognize The Importance of Cowley 9 Mar 2014
By Jack Straw - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A forceful argument can be made that Malcolm Cowley was one of the few 20th century critics, editors, poets, and witers who worked at the writers trade and defined the canon of American Literature. It is virtually impossible to imagine Faulkner being awarded the Noble Prize if Cowley had not resurrected out of print Faulkner into the Viking Press', "The Portable Faulkner." His chronicle of the Lost Generation, "Exiles Return," to this day is the primary reference volume of the period. The importance of his work with Kerouac and successful advocacy to publish "On the Road" at Viking Press, a book rejected by FS&G among other publishers, is hardly mentioned today in reference to the iconic work. Ken Kesey may have hit the road across America on the bus Furthur, yet without Cowley's mentorship at Stanford may never have authored his first two books -- the basis of his reputation. John Cheever was always grateful for Cowley being responsible for his initial publication and advice.
Cowley was an avid, energetic letter writer from his Sherman, CT home, from The New Republic (where he took over the factotum literary responsibilities of Edmund Wilson), from Viking Press, and from wherever he found himself. To this point we've only had access to letters to and from Faulkner and between Cowley and his life long friend Kenneth Burke. His son, Robert Cowley, in a touching and erudite Foreward to "The Long Voyage" reports on his amazement at the voluminous correspondence of his father. Robert says there was never a letter to Cowley to which he didn't reply. "Voyage" gives us a peek at this wonderful mountain of correspondence from 1915 - 1987.
"I knew them all at twenty-six" Cowley declares in his poem, "The Flower and the Leaf." Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Crane,Stein, Tate, Olsen, Pound, and so many, many more were among those he knew. Most of his titles are out of print. But Harvard University Press has published this 800 page collection under the copyright of the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Might it start a deserved renaissance for Cowley like Cowley's rebirth of the neglected Faulkner of 1946?
2 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars hello i must be going 23 Feb 2014
By Conan - Published on
"at least there are no jews here." not exactly an auspicious beginning for this reader. then its on to the pro-stalin opinions for what he never recanted. is this someone whose others views i might find interesting? NOT
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