Selected Letters of Dawn Powell traces a richly talented writer's fifty-two-year journey from her childhood in a small Ohio town to the glitter of Manhattan. Powell was a prolific letter writer, and her correspondence provides an intimate look at the woman about whom The New York Times recently said: "[She] is wittier than Dorothy Parker, dissects the rich better than F. Scott Fitzgerald, is more plaintive than Willa Cather in her evocation of the heartland, and has more supple control of satirical voice than Evelyn Waugh."
Living most of her life in Greenwich Village, Powell supported herself as a writer through the Great Depression and two world wars while nursing an autistic son, an alcoholic husband, and her own parade of illnesses. In her correspondence, including gossip-filled letters to such luminaries as Edmund Wilson, John Dos Passos, and the legendary editor Max Perkins, we find the record of a courageous and dramatic woman who produced fifteen novels, ten plays, and more than one hundred stories.
Let's set the scene...
Rory is sitting on a bench outside of a Chilton classroom, reading while she waits for the first meeting of The Franklin to begin. She's reading this book. And then we learn that Paris told her the wrong start time... because she's Paris.
I went into this knowing nothing about Dawn Powell... besides what I learned from Rory's little rant about how overlooked she is in the season 4 episode "Help Wanted". And after reading her letters, I fully agree with Rory's consternation over her relative obsurity. Powell's wit is more accessible than Dorothy Parker's while still being biting and intelligent.
And while Powell's constant looking for that thing that would change her life was annoying, it definitely made her more human and took a woman writing in the early to mid 20th century and made her feel like someone I was overhearing in line at Starbucks. Just reminded me that some life issues are universal and timeless. And my annoyance was born mostly of how much of myself I saw in her complaints and yearning.
I am definitely onboard the Dawn Powell train and look forward to reading her work. I already love the woman... now I'm interested to know more about what made her known.
Who do I see reading this in the Stars Hollow gazebo?
The passion with which Rory speaks about Powell makes this choice a no-brainer. I can see her extoling Powell's virtues whenever a discussion about Dorothy Parker comes up on the Yale campus (as it inevitably will... pedantic college kids).