Sunday, January 18, 2009
I'm Busy Reading Stephen Crane's Letters!
That's right! And, working 14,000 hours per week. But it's so relaxing at the end of the day to crawl into bed with The Correspondence of Stephen Crane Volumes I and II. I just finished Volume I and have put a dent in II. Perhaps i shall review them after i've finished both, as i intend to post reviews of every Crane-related book on this blog, eventually. Right now i will give you my first impressions of Correspondence and the basic info in case you'd like to read along!
Published in 1988 by Columbia University Press, and edited by Paul Sorrentino and Stanley Wertheim, The Correspondence of Stephen Crane Volumes I and II totals 772 pages of every known (in 1988) letter by Stephen Crane and many written to him and to/by Cora. Sorrentino has updated the letters in various volumes of Stephen Crane Studies.
Crane's letter writing is just as good as his story-telling, and i don't think many Crane fans would be disappointed by the man revealed through these letters. His sense of humour is especially sharp. Sometimes he is shady, for instance writing love letters to multiple women at once...but jeez what young man of brilliance and vigor hasn't been there?! It was rather pathetic when Crane runs off to Cuba and doesn't write his debt and panic stricken honey Cora for months (or anyone else in his family). But in Crane's defense he was sickly and overworked and broke at the time too, so extremely distracted. During this period he writes mainly to his agent, Paul Revere Reynolds, badgering him for cash and urging sales of his stories. Crane seems to be dodging bankruptcy from month to month, flinging publication rights into the mouth of the financial beast at his heels, while constantly seeking loans and advances. The poor man!
The Correspondence gives a good insight into Crane's relationships with publishers, agents, and fellow literary men alike, in addition to his family and school chums, which i personally found less interesting. Crane has good rapport with outlandish literary promoter Elbert Hubbard, his lit godfather Willie Dean Howells, and writer co-exile Joseph Conrad, to name a few. He shows fairly good business sense in some of his letters to agents Reynolds and James Pinker, but demonstrates rather poor relations with his publishers, such as S.S. McClure, and doesn't hold back when talking about some editors.
Cora Crane, his common law wife, makes a good showing for herself in the letters she's written. She seems very intelligent, warm-hearted, and devoted entirely to Stephen and his career. We will be discussing much more of Cora in the months to come, including a review of the biography by Lillian Gilkes.
If you'd like to pick up a copy of the Correspondence, i would suggest you do it soon as the book is already 20 years old. Look to Amazon and Alibris for the most affordable/in best condition copy, as if you insist on buying a new copy you will spend $100 to $200 if you are able to find one at all. I was able to buy two sets for $15 for each set, I don't know if you will be that lucky but certainly you could find a set for $35 plus shipping on Amazon. The ISBN numbers are as follows...Volume One: 978-0231066525, Volume Two: 978-0231066549, the set of Vols I & II, somewhat pointless since it's two books no matter what, but easy to look up: 978-0231060028.
Below & above are scans of the dust jackets...