From the archives of the Southwestern Writers Collection at Southwest Texas State University, former curator Richard Holland has selected from among thousands of Larry L. King’s letters dealing with the daily warp and woof of an American writer alternately giddy with success and doubting his own talents. The result is a crazy ride of almost fifty years on a roller coaster of many dips, loops, and steep climbs.
As a Texas farm boy, young Lawrence Leo King wrote postcards or tablet-paper letters of advice and/or instruction to among others FDR, Winston Churchill, quarterback Sammy Baugh, writer James M. Cain, upcoming football opponents, pen pals in distant lands, and relatives. As a young newspaperman, his complaints of jackass rules” so bedeviled J. Edgar Hoover that the top G-man handed him off to subordinates and, ultimately, The Bureau” quit responding.
King has feuded in public print with Burt Reynolds, Norman Podhoretz, Tommy Tune, his own book editors and publishers, Universal Picture moguls, his collaborators in writing projects, professional critics, and some fans” who had the temerity to write less than admiring letters.
Norman Mailer, William Styron, Willie Morris, Dan Jenkins and Bud Shrake are just a few of the many writers with whom King long has corresponded. Politicians include former Speaker of the House Jim Wright, Congressman Mo Udall, and Senator Ralph Yarborough. Show-biz types count directors Mike Nichols and Peter Masterson and actors Dan Blocker and Henderson Forsythe.
But it is to old Texas friends that King truly lets his hair down in telling intimate secrets of the salts and sours of the literary life that has been his for almost forty years.
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A high-school dropout who became a Nieman Fellow at Harvard, a Communications Fellow at Duke and held an endowed chair at Princeton, Larry L. King has accomplished thirteen books and seven stage plays as well as television documentaries, screen plays, short stories and hundreds of magazine essays. His honors include the Stanley Walker Journalism Award, the Helen Hayes and Molly Goldwater awards as a playwright, a television Emmy,” nominations for a Broadway Tony,” and a National Book Award. He now lives in Washington, D.C.
Richard Holland is the former Head of Special Collections and Curator of the Southwestern Writers Collection at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos. He lives in Austin, Texas.
Before he wrote the 1979 rowdy musical comedy Broadway hit The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, King worked a variety of jobs, leaving a trail of sometimes funny, often bilious letters to editors, writers, politicians and assorted others. Spanning the years 1954 to 1999, this collection of correspondence follows King as he works as a congressional assistant to Jim Wright and a lobbyist in Washington, where he witnesses the stunned, slightly crazed reaction to the assassination of JFK by the Texas congressional delegation; as a novelist (The One-Eyed Man); playwright (The Night Hank Williams Died); essayist and cultural commentator (Confessions of a White Racist, which earned him an enthusiastic letter of praise from Maya Angelou); Harper's editor under Willie Morris; and New York carouser who hobnobbed with the East Coast literati while remaining fiercely proud of his West Texas roots. An epistolary autobiography of sorts, this unbowdlerized scrapbook of rants, wisecracks, stories, scrapes and reminiscences lets us watch King as he resourcefully reinvents himself. What saves this selected correspondence from becoming a whiny, defensive, extended ego trip are King's jibes at William Buckley ("the Rightest in residence of New York City"), Harvard lecturer John Kenneth Galbraith ("he puts me to sleep: drones on in a monotone..."), Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn ("too goddamn wordy"), Norman Mailer, Nelson Rockefeller and other targets. At their best, these letters are brash, funny, pugnacious and charged with their author's renegade energy. Photos. Author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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