Guy Davenport and James Laughlin: Selected Letters

W. C. Bamberger, Editor
W. C. Bamberger, Editor W. W. Norton & Company $29.95 (262p) ISBN 978-0-393-05950-2
Reviewed on: 12/04/2006
Release date: 12/01/2006
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In his very first letter to Guy Davenport, James Laughlin wrote, ""Just a line to tell you what a beautiful piece that was you wrote about Tom Merton in The National Review."" Laughlin could not have imagined his note of admiration would set off an avalanche of missives, but 480 letters later (234 by Laughlin and 245 by Davenport), they had a discourse well worth preserving. The 28-year conversation (1969-97) between talented writer Davenport (who, as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford wrote the university's first thesis on James Joyce) and the New Directions publisher (who published luminaries like Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams) largely concerns work-their own and others'-and the nuances of language (Challenging Davenport's use of two words-""gutulliocae"" and ""archeotera""-missing from his dictionary, Laughlin writes, ""I'm not trying to copy-edit you. I just get curious about new words""). Heavy footnoting makes for some slow reading, but Bamberger's careful explication of the more obscure allusions (""Andreas Divus, whose translation of Homer's Odyssey into Latin ... was one of the inspirations for Pound's Cantos"") are well worth the detour. With Bamberger's help, this collection of intellectual epistles reads like an extended, two-part love song to the English language.
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