"I'd say something a little bit radical: as much as I respect lots of scholarship in general, what matters most is the books and not 'book chat,' " he said."Something's obviously been lost, even though I don't think it's the most important literary thing we could lose."Book chat or no, great letters are great literature.Knopf, Doubleday and Bantam Dell, set any guidelines. does not have in place a distinct corporate policy for archiving electronic author-publisher correspondence, and we have yet to establish a central electronic archive for housing publishing material," Stuart Applebaum, a spokesman for Random House, noted.
"I'd say something a little bit radical: as much as I respect lots of scholarship in general, what matters most is the books and not 'book chat,' " he said.Tags: Direct Instruction Research PapersValue Of Time Essay In LifeBook Report Over The OutsidersDiversity In Workplace EssayEssay On Horror MoviesEssay On Tv ProgrammeThe Secret Life Of Walter Mitty Critical EssayStrong Argumentative Essay
"At a minimum, you convict yourself of suffocating levels of self-importance.
I also don't see how you resist the temptation to select material that suggests the most flattering possible narratives. Unless you're really cash-starved and you're trying to woo those deep-pocketed collectors at the University of Texas, I can't imagine why you'd confess to archiving your own stuff," he said, referring to the Ransom Center at the University of Texas, which has bought the papers of many major American writers.
But the confusion at publishing houses over what and whether to save bodes ill for cultural historians.
"Memory is consummately, wackily unreliable, so that interviews can only serve up to a point; as per Rashomon, if I interview five different people about the same episode, I fully expect to hear five very different versions," Bailey said.
Although David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, said he considers the collected letters of Harold Ross, the magazine's founding editor, "the best book I've ever read about The New Yorker," you won't see Remnick's collected letters -- or e-mail correspondence -- any time soon. For one thing, The New Yorker routinely purges messages from its system.
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Deborah Treisman, who as The New Yorker's fiction editor is in communication with most major living writers, confessed she doesn't always save her messages.
"It often occurs to me that e-mail may render a certain kind of literary biography all but obsolete," Blake Bailey, the author of a biography of Richard Yates and a forthcoming one of John Cheever, said.
The messages are "too ephemeral: people write them in a rush without the sort of precision and feeling that went into the traditional (and now utterly defunct) letter."Steven Kellman, the author of a new biography of Henry Roth, predicted the rise of e-mail correspondence would affect historians, not just biographers.
In Robert Lowell's letters, for instance, the mundane quickly opens up into whole worlds of feeling.
"I think our letters on the agency tax-money must have crossed," Lowell wrote Elizabeth Hardwick, his soon-to-be ex-wife, in 1971.