Cover image for Selected letters of Dawn Powell, 1913-1965
Selected letters of Dawn Powell, 1913-1965
Powell, Dawn.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Correspondence. Selections
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Henry Holt, 1999.
Physical Description:
xix, 373 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Personal Subject:
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3531.O936 Z48 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The rediscovery of Dawn Powell is in full swing. Her novels, most of them back in print, now grace the shelves of bookstores across the nation. Tim Page's masterly biography of Powell has helped to generate an enormous amount of publicity and renewed interest in this immensely provocative and insightful writer-including a three-page spread in The New York Times .

Terry Teachout, writing in The New York Times Book Review , hailed The Diaries of Dawn Powell , edited by Tim Page, as one of the outstanding literary finds of the last quarter century. This collection of Dawn Powell's letters promises to create yet another wave of excitement and discovery. Written to friends, fans, relatives, and publishers, and to Malcolm Lowry, John Dos Passos, Edmund Wilson, Max Perkins, and Malcolm Cowley, they are rife with Powell's great ability to entertain. This collection will complete the restoration and rehabilitation of one of America's finest literary voices.

Author Notes

Tim Page is the artistic advisor and creative chair for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Few people can honestly say they have single-handedly resurrected an author's reputation, but through the efforts of Tim Page, the Pulitzer Prize^-winning music critic for the Washington Post, the novels of Dawn Powell are back in print and she is recognized as a vibrant mid-century literary voice. Page wrote Dawn Powell: A Biography (1998) and edited The Diaries of Dawn Powell, 1931^-1965 (1995) and now has compiled an entertaining and informative collection of her letters. We get a fine description of her college years, early days in New York, roller-coaster marriage to Joseph Gousha, and experiences raising her emotionally disturbed son, Jo-Jo. The arc of Powell's professional life is seen here, as well, in the letters she sent to some of the major literary figures of the period, including John Dos Passos, Maxwell Perkins (her editor at Scribner's), and Edmund Wilson. Academic libraries collecting American literature will certainly want this collection, but most other libraries can content themselves with Page's biography and copies of Powell's novels. --Nancy Pearl

Publisher's Weekly Review

A posthumous triumph, these letters are in many ways the perfect record of a difficult life lived with pluck, intelligence and verve. Powell (1896-1965) spent much of her youth shipped from relative to relative in small Ohio towns after the death of her own mother from a botched abortion. she worked and borrowed her way through a small women's school in Ohio, then arrived in New York's Greenwich Village in 1918. There she became involved in left-leaning causes and met Joseph Gousha, her future husband (later an advertising executive). Their marriage, which lasted until his death in 1962, withstood a series of catastrophes, periods of separation and love affairs. Both Powell and Gousha struggled with alcoholism; their only child, Joseph Jr. (Jojo), born in 1921, suffered from birth from what may have been autism or a combination of cerebral palsy and schizophrenia, and spent most of his life in state institutions; Powell survived a long battle with misdiagnosed cancer; and the family was perpetually short of money. Powell's wonderful satires of New York life (Turn, Magic Wheel; A Time to Be Born; etc.) never made her famous. But her letters (to Gousha, family in Ohio and friends like John Dos Passos, Edmund Wilson, Malcolm Lowry, Gerald and Sara Murphy, benefactress Margaret De Silver and editor Maxwell Perkins) record a sense of humor, a political acuity and a down-to-earth genius for friendship, love and getting by that is nothing less than invigorating. The great flaw of this volume is that there isn't more of it (all but one of the thousands of letters that Powell wrote to Jojo have been lost). What letters we have may win Powell even deeper admiration than The Diaries of Dawn Powell, edited by Page, or his Dawn Powell: A Biography. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

American author Powell (1896-1965) wrote witty, satirical novels about barflies and bohemians who flee to New York City from small-town America (e.g., The Locusts Have No King). Page (Dawn Powell: A Biography), the Pulitzer Prize-winning chief music critic for the Washington Post, continues his study of Powell's life and writing with this volume of selected letters. Written by Powell from the time she was enrolled at Lake Erie College until her death in 1965, the letters focus on the events and relationships significant to her career and personal life. Here we glimpse the young writer making her way through the heartbreak of caring for her ill son, the disappointment of a fizzling marriage, and the demands of her career as a playwright and novelist. Page has included a time line that should prove handy for readers unfamiliar with Powell's life and works. Recommended for regional public libraries where there is an interest and all academic libraries that have Page's first two studies of Powell.ÄJoyce Sparrow, Oldsmar Lib., St. Petersburg, FL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Though written by a comparatively minor novelist, these letters merit the attention of book lovers for three reasons. First, Powell resurrects her times with startling immediacy: in her correspondence with such fellow writers as Edmund Wilson and John Dos Passos, she has a tendency toward throwaway lines like "met an Irish playwright named Sam Beckett." Second, Powell dishes out world-class gossip, for example in her description of the tawdry behavior of Franz Kline's assorted lovers at the artist's funeral. Finally, the letters are howlingly funny, beginning with her 1919 description of herself as a suffragette canvassing an Irish neighborhood and telling the women that the Pope himself is for suffrage and that she has heard talk of a "lady pope." Page, also editor of The Diaries of Dawn Powell, 1931-1965 (CH Mar'96), calls this a "reading edition": he selected from the thousands of letters Powell wrote throughout a period in which she also wrote 15 novels. Though this reviewer hopes a scholarly edition of the letters will be published one day, he doubts that, letter for letter, it could beat this volume for celebrity sightings, juicy tidbits, and one liners. For graduate and research collections and for large general collections. D. Kirby; Florida State University

Table of Contents

Introductionp. ix
Time Linep. xiii
Country Girl, 1913-1918p. 3
New York Youth, 1918-1931p. 29
9 East Tenth Street (and Hollywood), 1932-1942p. 79
35 East Ninth Street, 1943-1950p. 119
Paris, 1950-1951p. 181
35 East Ninth Street, 1951-1958p. 203
The Last Years, 1958-1965p. 259
Acknowledgmentsp. 353
Indexp. 357