The Letters of Gertrude Stein and Thornton Wilder

Edited by Edward M. Burns and Ulla E. Dydo; With contributions by William Rice

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The friendship and correspondence of Gertrude Stein and Thornton Wilder encompassed the last twelve years of Stein's life and a period of major work by Wilder. A generation apart in age, the two writers met during Stein's acclaimed American lecture tour in 1934-35, during which they shared the experience of lecturing to audiences in the wake of great success. They quickly became mentor and pupil as well as friends, and Wilder eloquently passed on what Stein taught him through his introductions to her books. While Wilder supported Stein's efforts at publication, she held him to his vocation as a writer, urging him to ignore the distractions incurred by family and fortune.

The letters between Stein and Wilder contain ideas and plans about publications, attitudes toward fame and work, and thoughts about other artists and people near to them. They also refer to European-American cultural relations prior to and through World War II, show how Stein and Wilder responded to critical reception of their new work, and above all, examine how the two writers affected one another's progress. It is clear from the letters that without their friendship, Stein's Narration lectures would not have come about, The Geographical History and the novel Ida would have become different books, and Wilder's Our Town might not have become the play we know.

The edition, fully annotated by Edward M. Burns and Ulla E. Dydo, includes a detailed chronology of Stein's lecture tour prepared by William Rice, staging histories of Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth, and an account of Stein in World War II with new documentation.

Edward M. Burns is professor of English at The William Paterson College of New Jersey and the editor of Gertrude Stein on Picasso, Staying on Alone: Letters of Alice B. Toklas, and The Letters of Gertrude Stein and Carl Van Vechten: 1913-1946. Ulla E. Dydo is professor emeritus, City University of New York, the editor of A Stein Reader and author of a forthcoming book on Stein. William Rice is a painter, actor, and researcher.

"An invaluable accounting of Stein's wartime activities and the sources of her protection."—Brenda Wineapple, New York Times Book Review

"Outstanding work . . . distinguishes this collection. The abundant annotations and appendices offered are consistently provocative, imparting an additional quality of detail that transforms the two writers' correspondence into a full-scale narrative. . . . An informal collaboration between the two great minds, enhanced by adept editorial stewardship."—Aaron Wehner, Boston Book Review

"A lively chronicle of two writers and their time. . . . Fundamentally a chronicle of caring, the 'Letters' are required reading to understand Stein, Wilder and the work fueled by their friendship."—Brenda Cronin, Boston Globe

"The book as a whole is a pleasure to read, as well as illuminating."—Martin Seymour-Smith, Scotland on Sunday

"For the student of modern literature, this is a delightful record of a mutually influential pairing, the more valuable for its appendices on aspects of both careers, and its wealth of charming photographs."—Bob Mahony, Irish Independent

"Libraries that cater to graduate students and researchers interested in these two writers and the expatriate era and to readers (including ambitious undergraduates) of modernist American writers will find the book well worth having on their shelves."—Choice

"What these letters offer is an informal chronicle of theater travels and daily doings laced with the playful wit and humor of friends who actively supported each other's work. Their silence about matters of Eros may be as much a reflection of their personal characters as of the puritanical and homophobic age in which they lived."—Andrew Velez, HX Magazine

"This chronicle of a fascinating literary friendship should provide interest both to the acolyte and the aficionado of the lives and works of both writers."—Brian Jarvis, American Studies

ISBN: 9780300067743
Publication Date: December 25, 1996
486 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
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