cover image Love, Loosha: The Letters of Lucia Berlin and Kenward Elmslie

Love, Loosha: The Letters of Lucia Berlin and Kenward Elmslie

Edited by Chip Livingston. Univ. of New Mexico, $29.95 (312p) ISBN 978-0-8263-6416-6

Livingston (Owls Don’t Have to Mean Death) delivers a revealing collection of letters between short story writer Lucia Berlin (1936–2004) and poet and lyricist Kenward Elmslie (1929–2022). Their correspondence began in 1994 after they attended Naropa University’s Summer Writing Program as visiting writers, and ended a decade later when Berlin died of lung cancer. In their correspondence, the writers are candid about their insecurities regarding their works (in one instance, Berlin admits she’s nervous about writing a short story inspired by a real love affair with a 17-year-old student when she was 35) and their personal lives (Elmslie frequently mentions his lover Joe Brainard, who died of AIDS and inspired Elmslie’s play Postcards on Parade), and offer book recommendations (Berlin praises Alice Notley, Elmslie references Chekhov). As a whole, their correspondence makes for an intimate, touching portrait of a friendship, one bound by a love of literature. Especially powerful is one note in which Berlin reflects on Elmslie’s strengths as a writer, praising his style, which “shines” as much as Flaubert’s: “Your letters have such history in them, valuable information about musicals, poetry, writers.... They should be published.” The result is a fine tribute to the careers and lives of two writers. (Nov.)