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Library of America Thornton Wilder Edition

Thornton Wilder
Thornton Wilder: Collected Plays & Writings on Theater (LOA #172) by Thornton Wilder
Thornton Wilder: The Bridge of San Luis Rey and Other Novels 1926-1948 (LOA #194) by Thornton Wilder

Library of America Thornton Wilder Edition : Titles in Order

Book 2
Thornton Wilder was the rare writer whose achievements as a playwright were matched by equal abilities as a novelist. As companion to its volume of Wilder’s collected plays, The Library of America’s edition of his early novels and stories brings together five novels that highlight his wit, erudition, innovative formal structures, and philosophical wisdom.

Drawing on the post-collegiate year he spent in Rome, Wilder fashioned in The Cabala a tale of youthful enchantment with the Eternal City in the form of a fictitious memoir of an American student and the enigmatic coterie of noble Romans who draw him into their midst. He followed this debut novel two years later with The Bridge of San Luis Rey, which catapulted him to literary prominence and earned him the first of his three Pulitzer prizes. Set in 18th-century Peru, the book is a kind of theological detective story concerning a friar’s investigations into the lives of five individuals before they were killed in a bridge collapse. An elegantly told parable, with credible historical ambience and psychologically rounded characters, The Bridge of San Luis Rey is primarily a probing inquiry into the nature of destiny: Why did God allow these particular people to die?

The Woman of Andros, based on the Andria of Roman writer Terence, is a meditation on the ancient world filtered through the sensibility of a meditative courtesan; Heaven’s My Destination, a departure from Wilder’s historical themes, is a picaresque romp through Depression-era America; and The Ides of March takes up the story of Julius Caesar’s assassination by imagining the exchange of letters among such prominent ancient figures as Catullus, Cleopatra, Cicero, and Caesar himself, “groping in the open seas of his unlimited power for the first principles which should guide him.” The volume concludes with a selection of early short stories–among them “Précautions Inutiles,” published here for the first time–and a selection of essays that offers Wilder’s insights into the works of Stein and Joyce, as well as a lecture on letter writers that bears on both The Bridge of San Luis Rey and The Ides of March.

LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.
Book 1
Collected Plays and Writings on Theater, the most comprehensive one-volume edition of Thornton Wilder’s work ever published, takes the measure of his extraordinary career as a dramatist by presenting the complete span of his achievement, beginning with his early expressionist experiments and daring one-act plays, such as “The Long Christmas Dinner” and “The Happy Journey to Trenton and Camden” (one of Wilder’s personal favorites), ranging through the full flowering of Our Town, The Skin of Our Teeth, and The Matchmaker, and encompassing the intriguing dramatic projects of his later years, such as his adaptation of the ancient story of Alcestis (The Alcestiad) and plays written for dramatic cycles based on the Seven Deadly Sins and the varied ages of an individual’s life. Complementing the selection of plays is an illuminating group of essays that captures Wilder’s reflections on his plays and contains a revealing epistolary account of the film adaptation of Our Town.

This volume also includes material never before published: scenes from The Emporium, an ambitious unfinished play that, emerging out of Wilder’s intense engagement with existentialist philosophy in the postwar years, imagines a Kafkaesque department store whose enigmatic activities are as inscrutable as the mysteries of life itself; and the complete screenplay Wilder wrote for Alfred Hitchcock’s film Shadow of a Doubt just before reporting for military service in 1942. Although faithful to the spirit of the film, the screenplay presented here restores Wilder’s original dialogue, some of which (to Wilder’s dismay) was altered for the movie. A study of family life, youthful illusions, and the desperation of a criminal on the run, the Shadow of a Doubt screenplay is a masterful exhibition of the art of suspense and taut dramatic storytelling, and is an essential part of Wilder’s oeuvre.

LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.

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