The Ransom Center has acquired the papers of Jayne Anne Phillips, whose most recent work, Lark and Termite (2009), was described by author Tim O'Brien as "by far the best new novel I've read in the last five years or so." Known for her poetic prose and acute studies of family relationships, Phillips has published six highly regarded novels and story collections over the last three decades.
Born in West Virginia in 1952, Phillips published her first story collection in 1976. The publication of Black Tickets in 1979 prompted Nadine Gordimer to call her "the best short story writer since Eudora Welty." Phillips is also the founder and director of the Master of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing at Rutgers University, Newark.
The extensive archive contains manuscripts in multiple states for Black Tickets, Machine Dreams (1984), Shelter (1995), Motherkind (2000), and Lark and Termite, as well as dozens of short stories and essays, some never published. Papers related to Lark and Termite, for example, include several files of documentary material concerning the Korean War and at least 14 drafts of the novel itself.
Phillips's school records, early writings, family photographs, notebooks, business documents, and correspondence will be of great value to scholars interested in the writer's life, writing process, family relationships, and publishing history. Correspondence files reveal Phillips's associations with many writers of her generation, including Raymond Carver, E. L. Doctorow, Ellen Gilchrest, Nadine Gordimer, John Irving, and Tillie Olsen, among others.
Phillips visited the Ransom Center for a behind-the-scenes tour in September 2009, just days before the arrival of her archive. Her Recommended Reading can be seen in this issue of Ransom Edition.
Other recent acquisitions include:
- Correspondence between John Steinbeck and his publisher Pascal Covici, documenting the publication of The Grapes of Wrath (1939).
- The full archive of Andre Dubus (1936-1999), one of the writers credited with resuscitating the American short story in the 1970s and '80s.
- The correspondence files of Matthew Bruccoli (1931-2008), a scholar best known for his work on F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway and for publishing the Dictionary of Literary Biography. The collection includes correspondence from Edward Albee, Umberto Eco, Alan Furst, Seamus Heaney, James Jones, Doris Lessing, Harold Pinter, John Updike, Richard Yates, and dozens of other writers.
- A collection of letters written by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (1929-1994) to fellow editor Ray Roberts during her years at Doubleday.