I am fascinated by the idea of an anthology of letters to Carcanet and in principle I am delighted with the possibility of being included in it. I’m fairly certain that I haven’t said anything indiscreet in mine (though of course I shall be glad to be shown that I haven’t) but I do wonder if I’ve said anything interesting – lapidary comments or good jokes or anything like that – and I shall be glad to be shown that I have. […] is there anything else I can do? Shall I write a bestseller?1
James Atlas, nine of whose letters were included in the compilation, wrote to MNS on 16 May 1989:
I have just spent the morning reading through these letters; what a strange experience! I feel paralyzed with self-consciousness as I sit down to write to you now: to think that one actually writes about oneself, and leaves a public record even in private correspondence. Of course, no one will ever write my biography; but as I read these letters, I had many tumultuous thoughts: that I’ve had an interesting life; that I did actually possess a certain degree of self-knowledge, though not enough to prevent me from doing things I shouldn’t have done; that I’m only slightly different now than I was twenty years ago; and that these letters, I’m glad to say, might be of some slight interest to people interested in literature […] illuminate a little corner of literary life. It was fun reading them, remembering how happy and unhappy I’ve been.2
Living authors have mostly been very obliging about allowing publication in this volume, even if they have had misgivings about their younger selves and opinions; we are very grateful to them, and also to authors’ executors/estates.
It has not always been easy to match correspondents with years: some correspondents would have provided letters of interest for every year; others, who have been really important to the Press, are nevertheless not represented here. As Stella x