BEYOND LOVE AND LOYALTY: The Letters of Thomas Wolfe and Elizabeth Nowell by Richard S.--Ed. Kennedy

BEYOND LOVE AND LOYALTY: The Letters of Thomas Wolfe and Elizabeth Nowell

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The lively, chummy, but thoroughly professional correspondence between Thomas Wolfe and his literary agent, 1934-38. ""Yours for bigger and better markets,"" is how Nowell--a swaggering, well-bred Yankee (imagine Katharine Hepburn in the role)--signs her first letter here, when she was on the staff of the Maxim Lieber agency. And, over the next few years, setting up her own agency with Wolfe as problematic prize-client, she continues to labor at getting the sprawling Wolfe-fiction output in shape for short-story sales to magazines: as editor Kennedy says, with the letters backing him up, ""besides the marketing, she made her contribution to many of these works by whittling away at Wolfe's verbosity or by badgering him into doing it himself."" In his replies, Wolfe occasionally offers comments on his private doings (""I have just passed a weekend out in the country that would make the wildest imaginings of W. Faulkner sound like Winnie the Pooh""); and, just before the onset of his final illness in 1938, he writes with bitter intensity about Maxwell Perkins--whose editorship he had recently renounced. But the bulk of the correspondence concerns the work itself and literary business: Wolfe sets out story ideas (later to appear in You Can't Go Home Again), hopes for money, responds to criticism; Nowell asks for revisions, reports on rejections and acceptances, pours out encouragement, and--at one point--eloquently, successfully argues the case for her commission as editor rather than agent. (""I know you think cutting like that is easy, but it really is the hardest thing in the world and the one which takes the most patience, going over and over and taking out just a few words at a time and putting back half of them in an effort to be sure not to slaughter your meaning, and then counting up the whole estimate and finding it STILL much too long. . . ."") Together with Kennedy's impeccable annotations and a previously-unpublished Wolfe story, ""No More Rivers"": essential reading for Wolfe scholars--and sporadically fascinating material, too, for anyone interested in relations between writers and agent/editors.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1983
Publisher: Univ. of North Carolina Press