SELECTED LETTERS OF DAWN POWELL, 1913-1965 by Tim Page

SELECTED LETTERS OF DAWN POWELL, 1913-1965

edited by

KIRKUS REVIEW

Witty, dishy, trenchant reports by novelist and short-story writer Powell to an array of correspondents, ranging from a young grandniece to Edmund Wilson, John Dos Passos, and Gerald and Sara Murphy. This collection begins with a teenage Powell’s charming 1913 letter to her guardian/aunt, away on a trip, catching Aunt Orpha up on all the home doings, including Powell’s efforts to make a peach pie and her new duties as editor in chief of the high school paper (“I need the experience if I intend to pursue a journalistic career.”). It ends with a letter to her adult nephew and friend, written less than a month before her death, but still full of news of theater, literature, and the foibles of friends. Powell was born and grew up in the Midwest but moved to New York City and established herself in the Greenwich Village of the 1920s and “30s, eating, drinking, and partying with famous and not so famous writers, musicians, and artists, as well as their patrons, editors, and publishers. She was no hanger-on, but a prolific and sometime successful author of novels about the contemporary New York scene (including post-WWII), as well as stories set in the Midwest of her childhood; for a time, Max Perkins was her editor. Her output also included plays, film treatments, short stories, magazine articles, and this voluminous correspondence, only part of which has survived. Devoted to her husband (although it appears she had at least one passionate extramarital affair) and her autistic son, in these letters, Powell reveals only a portion of the pain she suffered in raising her child. Editor Page (a Pulitzer Prize—winning music critic) seems to have made Dawn Powell his life’s work: he has written a biography, edited her diaries, and successfully crusaded for the resurrection of her novels (most are again in print). If these pungent and brave letters are any indication, her novels are well worth a read.

Pub Date: Oct. 19th, 1999
ISBN: 0-8050-5364-6
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2000




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