Letters & Essays: 2000s

Richard Wright: The Visible Man

By Max Steele

Last year I was invited to give a walking tour and lecture to UNC students in a summer abroad program. I was to take them to St. Germain, St. Sulpice, and the Luxembourg to show them where the writers of the 1950s had hung out. I hoped to make them feel how exciting it was to walk up any street near St. Sulpice and maybe see the now great poet Christopher Logue, even his hair raging, elaborating to Trocchi, or to turn the corner at the Luxembourg and run into the ever busy Robert Silvers maybe with Jack Fisher from Harper’s in tow talking about writers waiting to be published. Or to start down the rue de Tournon and see, on the terrace of the café, Eugene Walters and Pati Hill, Blair Fuller, Alfred Chester, or even Evan Connell on one of his rare daytime visits there.

From a Diary: 2002-2003

By Ned Rorem

When people say “I’ve stopped living” do they mean that they’re numb with grief? In dire health? Having menopause? Continually drugged or drunk? But these conditions are part of living, they just don’t revolve around love affairs or money. What’s more, all artists “stop living” in order to comment on living. Art is a suspension of life. You can’t write a poem about tears in your eyes with tears in your eyes, the salt water would smudge the ink.


By Anthony Hecht

Dear Reynolds,


That day in New York, when you asked me whether I could recite any limericks of my own, I was momentarily at a total loss, and couldn’t recall a single one; though in the course of years I’ve composed quite a few. So I thought I would send you some. I record them in a pretty good book called The Lure of the Limerick, by W.S. Baring-Gould. But before I offer any works of my own, I should mention one reputedly by Kingsley Amis.



The fellow who screwed Brigid Brophy

Was awarded the Kraft-Ebbing trophy;

          He was paid eighty quid

          For the thing that he did.

Which many declared was a low fee.


And now, some modest efforts of my own.

Madame, I’m Quite Drunk

By William Jovanovich

Over the last three decades of his life Erich Maria Remarque lived in the town of Ascona on Lago Maggiore. His house and the gardens below it were on a hillside between the lake and a narrow road cut into the mountain slope that runs southeast from Locarno. Inside the rather small building was a prodigious collection of Pisarro and Picasso, Monet and Manet, gold-leaf Venetian commodes and other seventeenth-century artifacts-so many objects, with so few available spaces left, that a Cezanne hung in the downstairs "powder room" and on the living-room floor were late medieval tapestries stacked like rugs.