This companion volume to prolific Mallon's 1984 study of diaries, A Book of One's Own
, surveys several epistolary subgenres, including friendship, advice, complaint, love, confession, war-zone dispatch and pleas from prison. A 25-year correspondence between Mary McCarthy and Hannah Arendt pleasurably mixes world politics and personal foibles, musings about the Eichmann trial with an unwanted pregnancy and literary gossip. Henry Miller bullied his patient publisher James Laughlin for 30 years (“Why should I compromise?... to please you?
”); Florence Nightingale's angry, agitated letters from the Crimean War show a respect for the suffering soldier and a contempt for complaining nurses; E.M. Forster confides to a friend his homosexual initiation at age 37 by an Egyptian tram conductor; and Winston and Clementine Churchill's long correspondence blends patriotism, ambition and shared tenacity. They stand in marked contrast to the duke and duchess of Windsor's baby talk and self-pity. This smart, witty and lively account with excerpts of a not-yet-extinct literary genre will whet our appetites for published collections of letters—a selected bibliography is included—while motivating us to put pen to paper to rediscover a satisfying means of communication. (Nov. 10)