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book cover of The Archivist

The Archivist

(1998)
A novel by

 
 
Matthias Lane is the proud gatekeeper to countless objects of desire, the greatest among them being T.S. Eliot's letters to Emily Hale. Now in his late 60s and archivist at an unnamed East Coast university, Matthias is--as one of his colleagues tells him--"exceptionally well defended." He's intent on keeping the Hale collection equally remote, and when a young poet first seeks access, Matthias rebuffs her with little difficulty. Still, Roberta Spire does remind him of his wife, Judith, who had also written poetry but had committed suicide 20 years earlier. And he is much taken with the student's self-possession: "Pleading never works with me," he concedes, "but authentic and angry self-interest does."

Betrayal figures heavily in The Archivist. For starters, Roberta feels betrayed by her parents, German Jews who had spent World War II in hiding and emigrated to the U.S. soon afterward, re-creating themselves as Christians. She has only recently discovered her Jewish background. The irony is that Matthias's wife had also been an Eliot adept and had felt violated by a false version of her own past and destroyed when confronted with the realities of the Holocaust. No wonder Roberta sees the Hale letters as a Holy Grail, the key to her questions about religious conversion and identity.

What holds this exceptionally ambitious and layered first novel together is the love all three main characters have for the pleasures of the text and the knowledge they share that time is, as Eliot writes, both preserver and destroyer. Eliot, after all, had wanted Emily Hale to destroy his letters (and in reality they are sealed until 2020, safe at Princeton University). Martha Cooley is deeply concerned, as are her characters, with questions of conscience, privacy, action and inaction, and security--personal and scholarly. If there is one parallel too many in this impressive work, perhaps that is more like life than some of us care to admit. --Kerry Fried

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Used availability for Martha Cooley's The Archivist

Hardback Editions

April 1998 : USA Hardback
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Title: The Archivist
Author(s): Martha Cooley
ISBN: 0-316-15872-0 / 978-0-316-15872-5 (USA edition)
Publisher: Little Brown & Co
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


August 1998 : USA Hardback
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Title: Archivist, The
Author(s): Martha Cooley
ISBN: 0-316-64247-9 / 978-0-316-64247-7 (USA edition)
Publisher: Little Brown & Co, Boston
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


Paperback Editions

August 1999 : UK Paperback
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Title: The Archivist
Author(s): Martha Cooley
ISBN: 0-349-10974-5 / 978-0-349-10974-9 (UK edition)
Publisher: Abacus
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   


April 1999 : USA Paperback
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Title: The Archivist: A Novel
Author(s): Martha Cooley
ISBN: 0-316-15846-1 / 978-0-316-15846-6 (USA edition)
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


November 1998 : UK Paperback
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Title: The Archivist (An Abacus original)
Author(s): Martha Cooley
ISBN: 0-349-11096-4 / 978-0-349-11096-7 (UK edition)
Publisher: Abacus
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   


Audio Editions

July 2014 : USA Audio edition
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Title: The Archivist
Author(s): Martha Cooley
Publisher: Recorded Books
Availability: Amazon   


Kindle Editions

November 2008 : UK Kindle edition
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Title: The Archivist: A Novel
Author(s): Martha Cooley
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Availability: Amazon UK   


October 2008 : USA, Canada Kindle edition
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Title: The Archivist: A Novel
Author(s): Martha Cooley
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Availability: Amazon   Amazon CA