cover image The Selected Letters of Thornton Wilder

The Selected Letters of Thornton Wilder

Thornton Wilder, , edited by Robin G. Wilder and Jackson R. Bryer, foreword by Scott Donaldson. . Harper, $39.95 (729pp) ISBN 978-0-06-076507-1

Wilder and Bryer provide considerable insight into a protean American novelist and playwright. As a man of the theater, Thornton Wilder (1897–1975) is not typically counted among experimentalists. Yet Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth are works of high modernism. This essential gathering of letters, carefully edited and abundantly annotated by independent historian Wilder (the writer’s niece by marriage) and Bryer (editor of Selected Letters of Eugene O’Neill ), indicates a man of sophistication, immense energy yet with a curious detachment. He was at home with classical, Far Eastern and 20th-century literature as well as popular culture. In this generous selection, Wilder’s abiding friendships from the worlds of literature and the arts count, among many others, Hemingway, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Max Reinhardt, Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin, Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, and Mia Farrow. Like the best collections of correspondence in the hands of sensitive editors, this one peels away the quotidian to reveal the underlying personality of its subject. 38 b&w photos. (Oct. 7)