A Critical Friendship


A Critical Friendship

Donald Justice and Richard Stern, 1946-1961

Edited by Elizabeth Murphy
Foreword by William Logan

296 pages
1 illustration


December 2013


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eBook (EPUB)

August 2021


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eBook (PDF)

December 2013


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About the Book

A chance meeting in the University of North Carolina campus library in 1944 began a decades-long friendship and sixty-year correspondence. Donald Justice (1925–2004) and Richard Stern (1928–2013) would go on to become, respectively, the Pulitzer Prize–winning poet and the acclaimed novelist. A Critical Friendship showcases a selection of their letters and postcards from the first fifteen years of their correspondence, representing the formative period in both writers’ careers. It includes some of Justice’s unpublished poetry and early drafts of later published poems as well as some early, never-before-published poetry by Stern.

A Critical Friendship is the story of two writers inventing themselves, beginning with the earliest extant letters and ending with those just following their first major publications, Justice’s poetry collection The Summer Anniversaries and Stern’s novel Golk. These letters highlight their willingness to give and take criticism and document the birth of two distinct and important American literary lives. The letters similarly document the influence of teachers, friends, and contemporaries, including Saul Bellow, John Berryman, Edgar Bowers, Robert Lowell, Norman Mailer, Allen Tate, Peter Hillsman Taylor, Robert Penn Warren, Eudora Welty, and Yvor Winters, all of whom feature in the pair's conversations. In a broader context, their correspondence sheds light on the development of the mid-twentieth-century American literary scene.

Author Bio

Elizabeth Murphy is an independent scholar, freelance editor, poet, and cofounder and editor of The Straddler, a journal of arts, politics, and culture.

Table of Contents

Foreword: A Literary Friendship
The Letters
[1]Correspondence of 1946 to 1947
[2]Correspondence of 1948
[3]Correspondence of 1949 to 1950
[4]Correspondence of 1951 to 1952
[5]Correspondence of 1954 to 1955
[6]Correspondence of 1956 to 1958
[7]Correspondence of 1959 to 1961
Source Acknowledgments

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