This is an outstanding collection that is intelligently put together. I didn't get this so much for the stories (they are good, but that is about all I can say). the non-fiction is interesting as are some of the letters. It is the poetry that is the thing. There is a greater selection than Complete Poems and it is well worth the extra view quid. For me, Bishop is not my favorite poet but I regard her as the greatest 20th century poet. Her discipline as an artisan jumps out from every word, her heartfelt constructions, even when doing something as demanding as a sestina, pour our and drown the reader in their beauty. If you are not familiar with Bishop then it is the poem `The Moose' that one should turn to and experience again and again until it is recognized for what it is: the most perfect poem of the last century.
This is a book to love and that needs a word on the quality of the book itself. It is not any old print on some recycled garbage. Even the book is shown loving care. the Library Of America produces some outstanding collection and is one of the best book publishers I have come across. these are books made with one eye on eternity.
The way to read any author new to you is to pick up one of the original publications, a first edition in any impression. You see the work as the author and as the original readers first saw it, an artefact of its time. The Library of America offer 'the boxed set', an anthology devoted to one person. The English equivalent would be the inter-war Nonesuch compendiums and the later Reynard Library The Library of America editions have the same advantages of fine paper, good print and sturdy bindings. The Elizabeth Bishop volume is a perfect example of the benefits of this approach. Bishop is one of the rare poets who change sensibility. She did it very quietly and efficiently, bringing the voice of an intelligent woman out of America. Her poems aim at perfection of craftsmanship: for British readers a Larkin rather than a Hughes. She is amusing and witty and thoughtful and touching. Her letters are a delight. The stories are so-so. The book would make a perfect gift for a poetry reader who hasn't previously explored her work but perhaps will have come across The Sandpiper – one of her handful of masterpieces, 'a perfect lyric' as Yeats might (rather impatiently) call it. She would share his impatience. A superb writer; an excellent edition.
This is a very dull cover and the paper is thin and annoying: but the book is beautifully constructed and very good as a complete works from Bishop. I have long wanted to get to know her work and this is a very good way. The Prose could have done with more intro . . and setting out her life line and when she worked with who. A few more friendly editorials won't go a miss. But full of every poem, therefore good for the money. Her pretty photo on the front should have been the cover . . .?