Although Patrick White requested that his correspondents destroy his letters, many of them did not. In fact, David Marr, who also wrote the authorized biography of White, had access to some three thousand letters and included, with some cuts, about six hundred of them to a wide variety of people— publishers, agents, other writers and artists, politicians, family, and lovers. The letters, which concern a wide variety of topics, are supplemented by excerpts from a diary White kept during World War II and by Marr’s explanatory comments that bridge chronological gaps and put the letters in their literary, political, and biographical context. Marr has also meticulously edited the letters and appended a “Cast of Correspondents,” which provides additional information.
Literary critics may be disappointed by the paucity of White’s comments about the meaning of his works, in part because he so resisted the efforts of critics to explicate them and in part because he stressed intuition rather than analysis. Aside from some references to the narrative problems posed by VOSS (1993), the only interpretive information is provided by Marr, who ties White’s life to his art and justifies White’s claim that all his fiction is about himself. What is interesting about the letters is the portrait they present of White, a reclusive Jeremiah, a compulsive writer and editor, an avid music buff and art collector, a political leftist, and a prolific letter writer, who devoted his Sundays to his correspondence. He recounts his publishing problems,...
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- Critical Essays