A Life in Letters: Correspondence, 1929-1991

Norah K. Barr, Author, M. F. K. Fisher, Author, Patrick Moran, With Counterpoint LLC $35 (464p) ISBN 978-1-887178-46-4
A revealing self-portrait, these letters by one of the century's great prose stylists and writers on food comprise a delightful feast for fans. The volume opens with correspondence from Dijon, France (1929-1932), where Michigan-born Mary Frances Kennedy (1908-1992) tagged after first husband, Al Fisher, while he pursued his doctorate in English. Their marriage soon unwound, however, while they were living in California during the Depression. Fisher then married painter Dillwyn Parrish in 1940--the one irreplaceable love of her life. Trials and tragedies nearly derailed Fisher: Dillwyn's suicide in 1941 after amputation of a leg; her brother David's suicide one year later; her hasty third marriage to New York publisher Donald Friede, which she called a mutually harmful union (they divorced in 1951); single parenting of her two daughters while caring for her chain-smoking father. The letters of this period are frazzled, freewheeling, at times embittered. But Fisher regained her balance: she taught at an all-black school in Mississippi from 1964 to 1965, discovered the joys of French culture and cooking in Provence, settled in California wine country and valiantly fought Parkinson's disease, arthritis and failing eyesight. The chatty letters of the volume's second half (to Julia Child, Janet Flanner, James Beard, etc.) at their best display Fisher's trademark mix of elegant wit, earthiness and empathy. Photos. (Jan.) FYI: This is the first publication of Fisher's letters. Barr is Fisher's younger sister; Marsha Moran, who was Fisher's secretary, and her husband, Patrick, were longtime friends of the gastronome, essayist and story writer.
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
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