Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Fall 2009 Newsletter

Recommended Reading: Thomas F. Staley

Thomas F. Staley

The Ransom Center has ties to a number of renowned authors and literary works. Dr. Thomas F. Staley has noted a few of his favorites.

The Ransom Center holds a rare first edition with dust jacket of The Great Gatsby and other materials related to F. Scott Fitzgerald. Papers related to Ford Maddox Ford can be found in the Knopf archive. The Center holds substantial collections of James Joyce materials, and an extensive archive of manuscripts and correspondence by Elizabeth Bowen.

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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

(Charles Scribner's Sons, 1925)

Gatsby is a poem about the fragility of the American dream, but it is also the story of the foul dust that lies in the wake of that dream. I know of no other novel that is so quintessentially American. Fitzgerald's characters offer a perfect blend of the realistic and the mythic. Behind them lies the America of Ben Franklin and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Right: A rare first edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby with dust jacket.

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The Good Soldier: A Tale of Passion by Ford Madox Ford

(John Lane, 1915)

This novel tests the truths and the lies that we tell each other and ourselves. As the narrator begins, "This is the saddest story," but there are few better.

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Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead

(Doubleday, 2009)

This is the beautifully written, keenly observed story of 15-year-old Ben's summer at Sag Harbor in 1985. Its style is succinct yet flowing, witty, and warm. It is an engaging and memorable book for reasons that will be immediately apparent after reading the first pages.

Colson Whitehead will participate in a Ransom Center-sponsored panel about race and authorship at the Texas Book Festival on October 31.

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Finnegans Wake by James Joyce

(Viking Press, 1939)

Everybody reads Ulysses, but Finnegans Wake is reserved for the most diehard enthusiasts. Even among Joyceans, there is a distinct group of those devoted to this book—we call them the Wakeans. The Wake begins at the end and ends at the beginning, corso e recorso.

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Ivy Gripped the Steps and Other Stories by Elizabeth Bowen

(Knopf, 1946)

Elizabeth Bowen is perhaps best know for her remarkable novel The Death of the Heart, but her stories in Ivy Gripped the Steps are among the most realistic and dramatic about wartime London that have ever been written.


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Elizabeth Bowen photo from Knopf archive.
Unidentified photographer.

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James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Ford Madox Ford
and John Quinn in a photo from the Marcella Spann Booth
collection of Ezra Pound materials.
Unidentified photographer.

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First edition of The Good Soldier: A Tale of Passion by Ford
Madox Hueffer, who later changed his name to Ford Maddox Ford.
Ford originally titled the book The Saddest Story, here inked in on
the title page, but he was persuaded by John Lane, his publisher,
to change it. The novel was published in war time, and Lane was
afraid it would hurt sales.

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