A World-Class Resource for the Humanities
Not only has this spring been a time of unprecedented construction for the Ransom Center, it has also been a monumental time for collection building. Thanks to French Curator Carlton Lake, twice decorated by the French government for his collecting achievements, the Center will be adding to its already renowned French Collection a group of materials that will enhance its reputation as one of finest stores of twentieth-century French artistic and literary resource material in the United States. Unpublished manuscripts, original artwork, poetry, and photographs pepper a mass of correspondence in the collection. Represented is a list of names that reads like a veritable Who's Who of twentieth-century French culture: Guillaume Apollinaire, Georges Bataille, André Breton, Marc Chagall, Jean Cocteau, Nancy Cunard, Claude Debussy, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Jean Genet, André Gide, Valentine Hugo, André Malraux, Henry Miller, Joan Miró, Kay Sage, Gertrude Stein, and Paul Valéry. In addition to being a collector, Lake is author of In Quest of Dali and a memoir, Confessions of a Literary Archaeologist, and is coauthor, with Francoise Gilot, of Life with Picasso. Director Thomas F. Staley said, "This collection is a major addition to our great French collections that Carlton Lake has donated and helped us acquire. I can't think of many places outside of France that has such a rich archive."
Consistent with its Contemporary Authors Program, the Center also acquired the collection of an important modern author in the last six months. The archive of American writer Russell Banks has found a home at the Ransom Center. Russell Banks, who has twice been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and has won the O. Henry Award and the John Dos Passos Award, was born in 1940 and raised in Massachusettes and New Hampshire. He has published eight novels, numerous volumes of short stories and poetry, and countless essays, reviews, and various nonfiction. Two of Banks' novels have been adapted into Oscar-nominated films: The Sweet Hereafter (1997), starring Ian Holm and Sarah Polley; and Affliction (1990), starring Nick Nolte, Sissy Spacek, Willem Dafoe, and James Coburn. The archive consists of the customary cache of materials, including manuscripts, typescripts, and correspondence, with several pieces that stand out as unique: Banks' unpublished first novel, Locus; a play based on notes about Senator John Kerrey and another on Jack Kerouac; essays on music icons Billie Holliday and Robert Johnson; and notes from a collaboration with photographer Arturo Patten are among the most distinctive.
In addition to these three major acquisitions, the Center has acquired several other significant collections in recent months. The archive of the literary journal Bananas includes material from the magazine's entire run from 1975 through 1978, and includes work from such contributors as Martin Amis, J. G. Ballard, Angela Carter, Ian McEwan, Stephen Spender, and Paul Theroux. The Center received additional materials for the Thomas Pynchon archive in the form of the manuscript for a musical written by the author and J. Kirkpatrick Sale in 1958. Other archives receiving supplements were those of Robert Lowell, Sonora Babb, John Le Carré, Arnold Wesker, Anne Sexton, and Tennessee Williams.