Remember that story you were going to write about your neighbor’s dog but never did? When you’re a writer, you have to know when to ditch both the bad and good ideas. At The Atlantic, Bob Brody laments all the stories he’ll never write and concludes: “It’s taken me a long time to learn this—that sometimes the best course of action is inaction.”
A while back, I linked to a contentious letter between Saul Bellow and Jack Ludwig, written not long after Bellow found out Ludwig was sleeping with his wife. Now, here’s a (somewhat) less angry piece of correspondence, sent from Philip Larkin to Barbara Pym. Sample quote: “Has anyone ever done any work on why memories are always unhappy?”
As a poet, historian, critic, translator and editor of The New Republic, Malcolm Cowley was a genuine literary polymath, which is why it’s not surprising that he wrote eloquent letters. In one, for example, he described Larry McMurtry, who Cowley taught when McMurtry was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford, as a “wild young man from Texas, expert in pornography.” In the Times, Dwight Garner reviews The Long Voyage, a new collection of Cowley’s letters.