Magazine August 12, 2019, Issue

The Exhilarating Letters of Guy Davenport and Hugh Kenner

Questioning Minds: The Letters of Guy Davenport and Hugh Kenner, volumes 1 and 2, edited by Edward M. Burns (Counterpoint, 2,016 pp., $95)

Last fall, when The Letters of Guy Davenport and Hugh Kenner first appeared, the reviewer for the Washington Post impetuously cast all critical caution to the wind and described this correspondence between two dead literary polymaths as “the most intellectually exhilarating work published in 2018 . . . a lasting treasure.” As it happens, I didn’t exaggerate a bit.

At the time, though, I derived that bold estimate from just the first 750 pages of volume 1 — my editors needed my copy and, as Guy Davenport once said of himself, “I’m an every-word reader. . . . And slow.” Having

This article appears as “A Well-Lettered Friendship” in the August 12, 2019, print edition of National Review.

Michael DirdaMr. Dirda is a Pulitzer Prize–winning book columnist for the Washington Post and the author of several collections of essays, most recently Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books.  

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