William Goyen

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William Goyen

Selected Letters from a Writer’s Life

By William Goyen

Edited by Robert Phillips

Afterword by Sir Stephen Spender

These letters, which span the years 1937 to 1983, chronicle Goyen's long participation in the writing life and offer a compelling testament to what it means to be a writer in America.



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6 x 9 | 471 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-292-72964-3

Proclaimed "one of the great American writers of short fiction" by the New York Times Book Review, William Goyen (1915-1983) had a quintessentially American literary career, in which national recognition came only after years of struggle to find his authentic voice, his audience, and an artistic milieu in which to create. These letters, which span the years 1937 to 1983, offer a compelling testament to what it means to be a writer in America.

A prolific correspondent, Goyen wrote regularly to friends, family, editors, and other writers. Among the letters selected here are those to such major literary figures as W. H. Auden, Archibald MacLeish, Joyce Carol Oates, William Inge, Elia Kazan, Elizabeth Spencer, and Katherine Anne Porter.

These letters constitute a virtual autobiography, as well as a fascinating introduction to Goyen's work. They add an important chapter to the study of American and Texas literature of the twentieth century.

A longtime friend of William Goyen's, editor Robert Phillips is Director of the Creative Writing Program and Professor of English at the University of Houston. He also edited Letters of Delmore Schwartz and Delmore Schwartz and James Laughlin: Selected Letters.

"Goyen's work requires much of a reader, but these letters provide an intimate 'portrait of the artist' from Texas that makes reading it and them well worth the effort."
Texas Books in Review

"Letters this impassioned about one's art have few if any analogues or forebears. They take their place in the tradition of Baudelaire, Flaubert and even Dostoyevsky.... His prose has the emotional power of poetry...and these letters deal unceasingly with the torment of getting his vision into the right language.... Goyen's letters are almost never preoccupied with philosophical grandstanding but with the daily details, the constant affirmation of a tough choice — the 'agony and ecstasy' of creating some of America's most distinctive prose."
San Antonio Express-News

"...an exceptionally responsible volume, one that belongs—for the eloquence of its...accounts of the writer's life, intention, and travail—with other important American documents of the period—the journals of Wilder and Wescott, the letters of Cheever and Bogan..."
—Richard Howard