The Library of America

Volumes in the Library of America series

Volumes in the Library of America series (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Signature of writer Edgar Allan Poe.

English: Signature of writer Edgar Allan Poe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If I am not careful, I am going to start sounding like a stodgy member of the literary establishment–NOT!  I think serious writers have to keep their distance–a safe one–from received opinion in order to access what it is that might be original and new in what they have to say.

But having said this, I must also add this: Once one becomes convinced of the importance of certain authors to one’s own background and mental architecture, if you will, one cannot do better than invest in a Library of America edition of those authors’ works.

Mark Twain
Cover of Mark Twain

As a for instance:  While I already own all of Twain, O’Connor, Poe and others in various assorted editions,  I recently purchased LOA editions of their work for the handiness of having it all under one cover, with exhaustive textually sound notes, chronologies of the individual works, impeccable author bios, all beautifully printed on archival paper, replete with excellent indices for quick and easy searching and reference, and bound in hardcover to last centuries (certainly “bound” to outlast any Ebook Amazon may on a whim decide to rescind from one’s library or “revise” according their half-baked commercial ethos, etc).

My recent LOA purchases: three vols of Twain, two vols of Poe,the single vol. of all of Flannery O’Connor‘s work, and two vols. of the  LOA edition of Eudora Welty.

English: I took photo of Eudora Welty at Natio...

English: I took photo of Eudora Welty at National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. U.S. government collection, public domain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My standards are high, I know, I want the best most complete and scholarship-sound buttressing, and ease of use, for beloved authors warrant frequent revisiting.

Oh and did I mention that each volume comes with a lovely black ribbon to mark one’s place?

Most of these LOA editions are priced at $26 and are worth many times that amount. I encourage you to investigate their offerings. They do not disappoint! (While, alas, I often do).

After the fact and with my humble apologies! Eudora Welty was the first author to receive the notice and respectful publication of her entire corpus  by LOA.  In some dark corner of my mind I must have known this, but life intervened, confusing me yet again. Sorry.

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About Margaret Jean Langstaff

A lifelong critical reader with literary tastes, a novelist, short story writer, essayist, book critic, and professional book editor for many years. A consultant to publishers and authors, providing manuscript critiques and a full range of editorial services. A friend and supporter of all other readers and writers. A collector of signed modern first editions. Animal lover and tree hugger. Follow me on Twitter @LangstaffEditor
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2 Responses to The Library of America

  1. Well said! There is a reason why “classics” are still read. It’s the same with music–to appreciate the modern, you must also have a solid understanding of past works.


    • Yes, indeed, Jeff! The amazing thing to me is the high quality of the LOA editions (in every way) and their relatively low price. Many of the editions are underwritten by wealthy individual philanthropists and foundations. Hats off to them! What a joy these books are, what national and cultural treasures


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