THE CORRESPONDENCE OF STEPHEN CRANE: Vol. I & Vol. II by Stanley & Paul Sorrentino--Eds. Wertheim


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An impressive piece of scholarly fieldwork, compilation, editing, and reclamation that, like so many literary letter collections, disappoints where it counts most: in the correspondence. Wertheim and Sorrentino have done a commendable job of cohering Crane's scattered correspondence, previously collected in what they call the ""incomplete, inaccurate"" and out-of-print 1960 edition, Stephen Crane: Letters. Their volume includes 170 items recently discovered and almost 400 items not in the original, corrects numerous errors to be found there, and relegates to an appendix letters suspected to be apocryphal or extensively edited. Unfortunately, many of the ""items"" so scrupulously collected are just that--fragments, scribblings, blurbs, and inscriptions, the throwaway correspondence of a busy author trying to make professional ends meet. These jottings do tell part of the Crane story--namely that he was constantly in debt and, after the early notoriety of The Red Badge of Courage, straggling unsuccessfully to produce and publish work of equal merit--but they also make for a tedious, fragmented, and superficial reading experience. Thus the gems here are truly buried: Crane explaining his desire to avoid the ""clever school"" in literature and defending his ""sincere, desperate, lonely battle"" to remain true to his realist aesthetic; love notes to his wife Cora that show both passion and duplicity; return letters from a prickly Joseph Conrad and a sympathetic Henry James, the latter a fan who bemoaned Crane's ""brutal, needless extinction"" at his death at 28. An invaluable aid to Crane scholars and fans, this collection is masterfully presented, and for that alone worthy of high praise. Given its price tag and heft, however, this one is tailor-made for a casual browse on library loan.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1988
Publisher: Columbia Univ. Press