It never ends, does it? Wit, love and the 'Other World' in the letters of James Merrill.

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Date: May 7, 2021
From: TLS. Times Literary Supplement(Issue 6162)
Publisher: NI Syndication Limited
Document Type: Book review
Length: 674 words
Lexile Measure: 1160L

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Letters from James Merrill


700pp. Knopf. $45.

Why read a poet's letters? Because if, as Elizabeth Bishop said, for poets writing letters is "like working without really doing it", then for readers letters are like poems with most of the fun left in and the hard parts left out. This is consistently true of James Merrill's gorgeous, gossipy, revealing and welcoming letters; the epistolary Merrill is excellent company. A Whole World: Letters from James Merrill is edited by Langdon Hammer (author of the faultless biography James Merrill: Life and art, 2015) and Stephen Yenser (poet, critic, beloved friend of Merrill's and, with the late J. D. McClatchy, co-executor of Merrill's literary estate). In creating the book, Hammer and Yenser chose letters "on the basis of their interest as letters", making "no attempt to tell the story of Merrill's life or show the full range of his correspondence and relationships". This wise decision lets the reader luxuriate in Merrill's preposterously...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A661839220