During the Dust Bowl in 1930s Oklahoma, a woman waiting out the drought on the farm she shared with her husband wrote to a friend across the country. Her dispatches on the agricultural crisis of the time—published in the May 1936 issue of The Atlantic—encapsulate their daily life in a matter-of-fact tone that belies the scope of the disaster. Letter-writing is an old-fashioned form, but it remains a thoughtful one that can reveal the individual realities of a distant era.
The open letters collected and edited by Carolina De Robertis in Radical Hope offer lessons for surviving racial oppression, following the striking example set by James Baldwin’s letter to his nephew in The Fire Next Time. Sylvia Plath’s letters to her mother show the writer’s efforts to be excited about small joys in her life even while struggling with depression.
The notes exchanged between Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz glitter with affection that transcends the couple’s reputation as artistic icons. T. S. Eliot’s correspondence with a woman named Emily Hale shows the depth of the love between them—and creates a mystery as to why that love dissolved.
Every Friday in the Books Briefing, we thread together Atlantic stories on books that share similar ideas.
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What We’re Reading
The secret cruelty of T. S. Eliot
“The sensation of a letter from T. S. Eliot in your hands—dry and delicate and sort of immaculate, in a way that seems to partake of the nature of the man himself—is a strange one. And these are, by his standards, intimate letters.”