The Oxford Book of Letters (Oxford Books of Prose)

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9780192804907: The Oxford Book of Letters (Oxford Books of Prose)
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Reading other people's letters, like reading private diaries, offers thrilling and unexpected glimpses into the lives of others, and it is partly this guilty pleasure we take in such literary eavesdropping that makes The Oxford Book of Letters so compelling. With subjects ranging from the mundane to the extraordinary, from the tragic to the hilarious, this volume spans over five centuries and chronicles the affairs of correspondents from Elizabeth I to Groucho Marx, from politicians to poets, from the famous to the unknown.
But whether the writers are educated or barely literate, whether their style is polished and witty or stumbling and artless, these letters display an immediacy and intimacy not shared by any other form of writing. In an age where communication is instant and ephemeral, this volume celebrates the glory of the written word, and what may well be a dying art form.
"This unusual and intriguing collection offers letters unlikely to be encountered elsewhere.... Leafing through these pages, it is easy to become caught up in the private lives laid open to our view."--The Wall Street Journal

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Sir Philip Sidney begins a May 1578 letter, "Few words are best." Happily, Frank and Anita Kermode, the editors of this 500-page collection, disagree. Thanks to them, we can now guiltlessly eavesdrop on writers such as Elizabeth I, Pope, Keats, and the most verbal Marx Brother. When Warner Brothers objects to the title A Night in Casablanca, Groucho innocently responds, "I just don't understand your attitude. Even if you plan on re-releasing your picture, I am sure that the average movie fan could learn in time to distinguish between Ingrid Bergman and Harpo. I don't know whether I could, but I would certainly like to try." A paragraph later, Groucho tells the studio, "Professionally, we were brothers long before you were." The ironies just keep on coming.

But The Oxford Book of Letters goes beyond (actual, literary, and Hollywood) royalty. It also includes letters home from emigrants, "a sprightly Birmingham schoolmistress," and other uncelebrated individuals. Some are witty, others bizarre, and still others contain "jokes and teases that depend on a prior intimacy but can sometimes be enjoyed by the voyeur." In their fine introduction, the editors term 1700-1918 "the great age of letter-writing," though their selections from other eras are a long way from weak. They are right, however, about the fact that there will be fewer future epistolary contenders. Fortunately, this book--and the many from which it is pillaged--will still be on hand.

About the Author:


An acclaimed critic, scholar, and author, Frank Kermode was formerly King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at Cambridge. He has written and edited many books, including Uses of Error (1991), History and Value (1989), The Oxford Anthology of English Literature (with John Hollander, 1973) Shakespeare's Language (2001), and Pleasing Myself: From Beowolf to Philip Roth (2002). Anita Kermode has researched and taught English and American literature at Rutgers University, the University of Cambridge, and Columbia University.

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Book Description Oxford University Press, United Kingdom, 2003. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****.Reading other people s letters, like reading private diaries, offers thrilling and unexpected glimpses into their lives, and it is partly the guilty pleasure we take in such literary eavesdropping that makes this volume so compelling. More than 300 letters spanning five centuries chronicle the affairs of correspondents from Elizabeth I to Groucho Marx, from politicians to poets, and from the famous to the unknown. But whether the writers are educated or barely literate, whether the prose is polished and witty or stumbling and artless, these letters share an immediacy and intimacy unlike any other form of writing. Their subjects range from the mundane to the extraordinary, from gossip about the latest fashion to the horrors of a public execution, and from the tragic to the hilarious. Exchanges of letters between regular correspondents are included, where familiarity and an ongoing saga add to the fascination. Among the most moving letters are those from emigrants to America, Australia, and South Africa, describing the hardships they endured and the resolution with which they faced their new worlds. In every case the editors provide a context for the letters, and unobtrusive notes. In an age where communication is instant and ephemeral this volume celebrates the glories of the written word, and what may well be a dying art form. Seller Inventory # AAV9780192804907

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Book Description Oxford University Press, United Kingdom, 2003. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. Reading other people s letters, like reading private diaries, offers thrilling and unexpected glimpses into their lives, and it is partly the guilty pleasure we take in such literary eavesdropping that makes this volume so compelling. More than 300 letters spanning five centuries chronicle the affairs of correspondents from Elizabeth I to Groucho Marx, from politicians to poets, and from the famous to the unknown. But whether the writers are educated or barely literate, whether the prose is polished and witty or stumbling and artless, these letters share an immediacy and intimacy unlike any other form of writing. Their subjects range from the mundane to the extraordinary, from gossip about the latest fashion to the horrors of a public execution, and from the tragic to the hilarious. Exchanges of letters between regular correspondents are included, where familiarity and an ongoing saga add to the fascination. Among the most moving letters are those from emigrants to America, Australia, and South Africa, describing the hardships they endured and the resolution with which they faced their new worlds. In every case the editors provide a context for the letters, and unobtrusive notes. In an age where communication is instant and ephemeral this volume celebrates the glories of the written word, and what may well be a dying art form. Seller Inventory # AAV9780192804907

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Book Description Oxford University Press. Paperback. Condition: New. 592 pages. Dimensions: 7.6in. x 5.2in. x 1.3in.Reading other peoples letters, like reading private diaries, offers thrilling and unexpected glimpses into the lives of others, and it is partly this guilty pleasure we take in such literary eavesdropping that makes The Oxford Book of Letters so compelling. With subjects ranging from the mundane to the extraordinary, from the tragic to the hilarious, this volume spans over five centuries and chronicles the affairs of correspondents from Elizabeth I to Groucho Marx, from politicians to poets, from the famous to the unknown. But whether the writers are educated or barely literate, whether their style is polished and witty or stumbling and artless, these letters display an immediacy and intimacy not shared by any other form of writing. In an age where communication is instant and ephemeral, this volume celebrates the glory of the written word, and what may well be a dying art form. This unusual and intriguing collection offers letters unlikely to be encountered elsewhere. . . . Leafing through these pages, it is easy to become caught up in the private lives laid open to our view. --The Wall Street Journal This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Seller Inventory # 9780192804907

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