Speaking in an Empty Room: The Selected Letters of John Sanford

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Tough Poets Press
Publish Date
5.83 X 8.27 X 0.97 inches | 0.93 pounds
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About the Author

John Sanford was born Julian L. Shapiro on May 31, 1904, and died on March 5, 2003. He was the author of 24 books, including novels, creative interpretations of history, and several volumes of memoir and autobiography. While studying law at Fordham University, Sanford had a chance encounter with his childhood friend Nathan Weinstein, who was then going by the name of Nathanael West (later known for such works as Miss Lonelyhearts and The Day of the Locust) and working on his first novel. Inspired by West, he ultimately decided to devote all his time to writing. William Carlos Williams, Ernest Hemingway, and James Joyce were also important early influences on Sanford's themes and style. In 1935, Shapiro adopted the name of John Sanford, the protagonist in his first novel, The Water Wheel (1933), in hopes that, in a time of rising antisemitism in the U.S., a gentile name would aid book sales. Sanford was married for over 50 years to screenwriter Marguerite Roberts, who is best known for scripting John Wayne's 1969 Oscar-winner, True Grit. Both Sanford and Roberts were blacklisted during the McCarthy era of the 1950s. Sanford wrote half of his books after he was 80. He published a five-volume autobiography, for which he received a PEN Award and the Los Angeles Times Lifetime Achievement Award. He left three unpublished novels and was writing up until a month before his death at the age of 98. During his later years, Sanford was variously described as the most unjustly neglected major writer in America and America's greatest unread writer. Just before his death, the Los Angeles Times hailed Sanford as an authentic hero of American letters.
Jack Mearns is a professor of psychology at California State University, Fullerton. He is the author of John Sanford: An Annotated Bibliography (Oak Knoll Press, 2008).