The Company They Kept cover
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Publication date:
September 1, 2009
New York Review Books

Now in paperback

Many of the illustrious contributors to The New York Review of Books have had deep and abiding relationships—both personal and intellectual—with other poets, writers, artists, composers, and scientists of equal stature. The Company They Kept is a collection of twenty-seven accounts of these varied friendships—most of them undeniably fraught with “idiosyncratic complexities.” From Anna Akhmatova’s dreamlike description of wandering through Paris with the impoverished Modigliani to Joseph Brodsky’s account of his first meeting with Isaiah Berlin (from which he returned to report, around the kitchen table, to Stephen Spender and W. H. Auden), these pieces are tantalizing glimpses into the lives of those who have made The New York Review of Books into what Esquire magazine calls”the premier literary-intellectual magazine in the English language.”

Also see The Company They Kept, Volume 2, for more writers and their remarkable friendships, or purchase as a two-volume hardcover set.


Silvers and Epstein, editors of The New York Review of Books, pull together 27 essays in this smart and eclectic collection. Published over the past four decades in the NYRB, pieces here deal with professional relationships and personal friendships among such writers as Robert Lowell and Jerome London, Susan Sontag and Paul Goodman, and Robert Oppenheimer and Albert Einstein. Saul Bellow writes of the immediate connection he made with John Cheever, whom he “met at irregular intervals all over the US.” Derek Walcott shares his take on the work of fellow poet Robert Lowell, who “made the body of literature his body, all styles his style, every varying voice his own.” And Larry McMurtry recalls his experiences with Ken Kesey, the original Merry Prankster, whom he first met at Stanford University in September 1960 and kept up with through the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s….A thoroughly academic audience…will no doubt appreciate the comprehensive line-up here.— Publishers Weekly

Whether fond or surprisingly frank, these essays are soothing in their intimacy, their acceptance of fallible fellow humans. “As always,” writes Robert Oppenheimer of Albert Einstein, “the myth has its charms; but the truth is far more beautiful.”— O, The Oprah Magazine

A charming addition to a friend’s bookshelf would be The Company They Kept: Writers on Unforgettable Friendships.— Vogue

An extraordinarily striking, moving and delicious collection of short essays…The writing in most of these essays is dazzling, the anecdotes and insights even more so. It is a superb collection of vignettes, and their variety throws more light on the diversity and possibilities than a treatise could.— Financial Times

This volume should be read piece by marvelous piece: Robert Oppenheimer on Delmore Schwartz, Saul Bellow on John Cheever, Susan Sontag on Paul Goodman.— The Chicago Tribune

These wonderful reminiscences will renew readers’ appreciation for those unpredictable joys shared between all close friends.— Booklist