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A Whole World by James Merrill
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A Whole World

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A Whole World by James Merrill
Hardcover $45.00
Apr 06, 2021 | ISBN 9781101875506

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“A bounty of writing as exquisite and as effortlessly witty as anything Merrill produced . . . A Whole World amounts to something new and indispensable: a never-planned autobiography, assembled piecemeal, written with dozens of unwitting collaborators . . . The fullest account written ‘from the inside’ by the writer himself, showing and telling his stylistic development one letter at a time . . . Revelations abound.” —Christopher Spaide, Poetry

“Gorgeous, gossipy, revealing and welcoming letters; the epistolary Merrill is excellent company . . . Hammer and Yenser have done exemplary work in choosing the letters, annotating them with economy and tact, and providing useful, compact biographies of the major players . . . It is a mark of how well [the editors] have served the poet that one wishes the book were twice as long as it is.” —Heather Cass White, Times Literary Supplement

“A workshop and a stage for the poet’s wit . . . A cosmopolitan, bejeweled and philosophical chronicle of friendship, love, sex and work . . . [Merrill] was generous with his advice and his money, and the letters he sent, whether or not they enclosed a check, were carefully crafted presents. Their entertainment never feels like a performance for posterity, but rather something directed at the living, individual recipient, who seems to be sitting directly across from the sender . . . These letters went into the mail fully formed and polished, but this new collection of them, arriving a quarter-century into letter-writing’s death spiral, assures their monumentality.” —Thomas Mallon, The New York Times

“The art, the music, the reading in esoteric subjects, the daily life of shopping and cooking—and, most important, the friendships . . . This book, which takes us from age 6 (a letter to Santa Claus) all the way to his final days in Tucson, Ariz., where he died from AIDS-related complications in 1995, immerses us in that world and enriches our understanding of the poetry that came out of it . . . [A Whole World] shows us that the term ‘man of letters’ has never been more appropriately applied to a writer.” —Gregory Dowling, The Wall Street Journal

“I had impossibly high expectations for A Whole World. Somehow, the epistolary collection is better than I’d hoped for . . . Merrill’s correspondents comprise a Who’s Who of twentieth-century American literary culture . . . His love letters are tender and self-revealing . . . He includes flashes of critical insight and Proustian social portraiture . . . The Merrill that emerges is tactful, gracious, witty, and whole.” —Anthony Domestico, Commonweal

“Magisterial. . . The editors of the collection show a combination of scrupulous scholarship and inner-circle access. This makes for editorial annotations to the letters that are acute, comprehensive and so audience-intuitive that readers never feel lost, as we are congenially guided through the novel-like accumulation of places, incidents and personalities that comprise, as the title aptly describes it, “a whole world.” And what a world it was. . . . The takeaway from A Whole World will be its many passages of brilliant writing and the exciting entrée it gives us to the way a truly great poet thinks, feels and, above all, sees.” —Ron Maresco, America Magazine
“[An] opening up and extension of himself . . . The letters should be read for their immediate emotions: their generosity, affection, empathy, and love, their readiness to entertain, and their unfailing eagerness to please.” —Dean Flower, The Hudson Review

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