A Late Holiday Treat: “Noel” for Noel


Collections of letters are made for dipping, not diving, into. Yet once I had placed my toe in the waters of “The Letters of Noel Coward,” published last month, I decided immediately to take the plunge. One of the reasons this deluxe volume, brought out at Knopf by editor Victoria Wilson, is worth reading straight through is its unconventional premise: there are not only letters from Coward but letters to him. And the connecting text by Barry Day is informative and, with the exception of some silly rearguard comments about Coward’s gayness, not overwhelmingly old-school. The most stylish review of the book has been written by Daniel Mendelsohn in the New York Review of Books, but I urge anyone with an interest in Coward, or in theatre, or in the world of interlocking artistic and political elites in the days when at least a modicum of sophistication or intelligence was required for entry, to rush to the book store and treat yourself.

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