‘CORRESPONDENCE of John Cairns with Betty Clark (Joan Ure) 1963 – 1971’ isn’t a book you’d think might interest you unless you’re into what two people with some literary flair write candidly to one another in the ’60s but it’s a bit more than biography or history.    In responding to her wish to be a published writer, he has her practise writing in letters to him as good as any of the poems intended for publication she stuffs the letters to him with.  He was also directing the relationship dramatically, such that both sides of the correspondence, or as much as was possible, should end up in his hands with the right, freely given by her, to use the whole as he willed.  She trusts that whatever he’s doing, and will do, is to the end she’s giving her life for; but he’s not just doing it for her wished-for end, largely achieved by the end of this correspondence. He’s doing it to fashion something from it, using her, their relationship, the expression of their lives in correspondence, to exact a structure beyond that of letters passed between two people to end up in separate piles with the copyright to one in the possession of the other or, worse, her estate, so that when he does come to make their correspondence into a book, that that book will have an artistic shape as a whole with an aesthetic effect on the reader – even an emotional charge.  If it does that, it’s not just a work of scholarship with attendant critical apparatus of notes and index and such but a work of literary art or, at the least, a bloody good read for you now of our lives in letters then.  Judge for yourself.  Yours, John Cairns.


About johnbrucecairns

I'm a retired history teacher who's written for most of his life with a book readied for publication.
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2 Responses to Handbill

  1. Janet Hall says:

    Congratulations John. Really like this handbill. Yet to read or digest anything else here. Looking forward to doing so. Know the book will be interesting and a good read. Jan Hall


  2. Thanks, Jan. I’m still waiting on the publisher’s call after the holidays which are well past. She said the book was at the printer’s but, significantly I can’t help but feel, she’d told him there was no rush.


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