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Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker: The Complete Correspondence Hardcover – February 1, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This superbly edited collection traces the correspondence between poet Bishop and her editors at the New Yorker--Katharine S. White (wife of E.B. White) and Howard Moss--from 1934 to 1979. Many of Bishop's finest poems were first published in the New Yorker. These were the days of manual typewriters, carbon copies, and Varitype working proofs. The letters often capture the back and forth from editor and publisher to writer concentrating on the nitty-gritty of punctuation and word choice. "Punctuation is my Waterloo," Bishop bemoans. The "real world" rarely intrudes, for example, a fleeting reference to the 1960 presidential campaign. When White departs as poetry-and-fiction editor in 1956, taking her warm and chatty approach with her, Bishop's initial disappointment is clear. Over time she warms up to Howard Moss and vice versa, even to the point of his eventual purchase of her cherished clavichord. He pleads: "Please send some poems!" This is a fascinating, placid, and inevitably repetitious correspondence that ought to be assigned to all aspiring editors of poetry. (Illus. not seen) (Feb.)
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[Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker] offers a glimpse into Bishop's life (she lived in Brazil for much of this period), writing process and relationship with her editors, as well as a look into the internal workings of that fabled publication in which so many of her poems were published … As with the best correspondence, it is like eavesdropping on a lively conversation already in progress. (The Globe and Mail)

Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker collects nearly forty years of letters between Bishop and the magazine, largely a correspondence with two of Bishop's formidable editors, Katherine White and Howard Moss. It was more than a partnership. In letters to Moss and White over the years, her valedictions warmed from 'Sincerely' to 'Affectionately' to 'Love' … This collection is most interesting as a record of how Bishop and her editors mulled over questions of style, clarity, and accuracy--and as a keyhole through The New Yorker's legendary doors. Sometimes Bishop's submissions provoked charmingly cordial editorial notes. Her story 'In the Village' mentions a child's fascination with 'steaming cow flops'; as White put it, 'the loving description of manure seems to go too far.' (Jeremy Axelrod, Columbia Journalism Review)

True, you're reading a lot of the nuts and bolts of Bishop's relationship with her New Yorker editors [Katherine] White and then Howard Moss--the work accepted and rejected, checks sent, detailed changes. You're also following a narrative line about Bishop the writer and the changing literary climate of the New Yorker. Fascinating. (Jeff Simon, Buffalo News)

Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker, ably introduced by the poet Joelle Biele, charts her relationship with the first publisher of most of her best poems … Although much of this correspondence is about punctuation … postal delays or illness … there is also regular disagreement about how "coarse she is allowed to be in [The New Yorker's] genteel pages. She broke off contact with the magazine in 1961, stung perhaps by its rejection of poems such as her discreetly lesbian love poem The Shampoo, a rejection that has come to seem more significant because Bishop subsequently avoided publishing poems that dealt explicitly with sexuality. [The collection] shed[s] light on the arc of Bishop's development as a poet, and implicitly grants us a sense of the limits that hemmed in gay writers in the middle of the last century. (John McAuliffe, The Irish Times)

Bishop's long and affectionate relationship with the magazine is thoroughly documented in Elizabeth Bishop and the New Yorker: The Complete Correspondence … Poets and NewYorker aficionados will find it irresistible … Reading this volume, noting the meticulous attention brought to each poem and story, one realizes how skillfully the editors helped focus and clarify every detail of the text … as these letters so copiously prove, the editors never tried to change the author's intentions, even in the smallest matters, only to realize them. For a woman without a fixed home or even country, The New Yorker provided a sense of stability and continuity. It adopted her early and gave the consistent support that allowed her to develop her idiosyncratic talents into genius. (Dana Gioia, The Wall Street Journal)

The letters of … Elizabeth Bishop, written to The New Yorker where she published a great deal of her work, offers an exhilarating glimpse into the poet's thinking about her own work … and the background for much its creation, which views she shared with her editors. (Michael Coffey, Publishers Weekly)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (February 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374281386
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374281380
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #634,588 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Deb Oestreicher on February 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This beautiful book offers a rare peek at the give-and-take between a great poet and her (also great) editors. I really got a feeling for these lives (mainly Elizabeth Bishop, Katherine White, and Howard Moss) as if through a side window. The letters also drove me straight back to Elizabeth Bishop's poems--which not only stand up to the test of time, but which seem even better than when I first read them (WRITE IT!) more than 25 years ago. They may yet send me back to Howard Moss and EB White as well. Inspiring.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By almost fifty years old on April 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book. It shows the reader how The New Yorker edited the poetry that was being submitted by Elizabeth Bishop. It also shows the warm and caring relationship Elizabeth Bishop had with the editors of that magazine and the gradual intimacy that was being established between Katherine White, Howard Moss and Bishop in the warm letters being sent back and forth. The introduction is good too because it sets the context of what The New Yorker was like in the middle twentieth century.
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By Amy Lowell on September 9, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Love anything about Elizabeth Bishop. This deals with her correspondence and involment with magazine. Rather try stuff, but as usual EB, can come across even in her business dealings. I would not recommend this as a causal read on Bishop. However if you are writing on her, this would be a must to look at.
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Much of Bishop's work over the years was published in the New Yorker, making this an essential part of any study of Bishop.
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Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker: The Complete Correspondence
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