Feature

Also of interest...in letters and other piecework

Under the Sun: The Letters of Bruce Chatwin edited by Elizabeth Chatwin & Nicholas; C.P. Cavafy: Selected Prose Works translated by Peter Jeffreys; Public Enemies by Bernard-Henri Lévy & Michel Houellebecq;

Under the Sun: The Letters of Bruce Chatwinedited by Elizabeth Chatwin & NicholasShakespeare (Viking, $35)Travel writer and novelist Bruce Chatwin “was the king of wanderlust,” said Susan Salter Reynolds in the Los Angeles Times. His letters, which span 40 years of his “too-short life,” represent a “vivid account” of a beautifully restless mind, and are stamped from such varied ports of call as Sardinia, Benin, and Nepal. “I know well what I am fleeing from,” he wrote, quoting Montaigne, “but not what I am looking for.”

C.P. Cavafy: Selected Prose Workstranslated by Peter Jeffreys (Univ. of Michigan, $25)The late poet C.P. Cavafy sounded like a different man when he wrote prose, said Eric Ormsby in Bookforum. His poetry seems written in stone, while the essays collected here are “restless, hesitant, darting.” The “wildly eclectic” subject matter includes considerations of Persian manners, Greek misogyny, and Shakespeare, but a theme emerges: Cavafy was obsessed with “sincerity in art.” He worried that all art may be lies, but yearned to make his own “true to actual life.”

Public Enemiesby Bernard-Henri Lévy & Michel Houellebecq (Random House, $17)It’s hard to know what to make of a pair of French intellectuals who admit, at one point, that they “perfectly exemplify the shocking dumbing-down of French culture,” said Stephen Goode in The Washington Times. The controversial pro-American philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy and the controversial nihilist novelist Michel Houellebecq at least “raise good questions” in this exchange of letters about their beliefs and about why so many of their countrymen vilify them.

Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorkeredited by Joelle Biele (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $35)The centenary of Elizabeth Bishop’s birth was recently marked by the publication of new volumes of her collected poems and prose, said Craig Morgan Teicher in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “The best way” to read this collection of correspondence between Bishop and the magazine she spent her life writing for is “in combination” with those other books. Bishop’s dialogue with her editors over issues of clarity and poetic rhythm provides great insight into her most loved poems.

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