There were complaints when the aging William Butler Yeats took poems from his youth and revised them. The complaints were so strenuous that Yeats even wrote a response, in verse:
The friends that have it I do wrong
Whenever I remake a song,
Should know what issue is at stake:
It is myself that I remake.
Yeats isn’t the only writer who’s ever taken early work and changed it. More recently, Peter Matthiessen returned to his Watson trilogy published in the 1990s and republished it in 2008 as a single narrative, “Shadow Country.” (Originally, he said, the story was supposed to be a single manuscript, but his publishers had urged him to break it into three.)
The same is true of Nicholas Delbanco, who published a highly acclaimed trilogy of novels in 1977, ’78 and ’80 centering on the life — saga, really — of a New England clan whose conflicts and celebrations unfold in the shadows of the family manse on its Vermont estate. Dalkey Archive Press last week released a revised edition of the trilogy, brought together between the soft covers of a single book, titled “Sherbrookes.” Don’t misunderstand, however: This book is not simply the three original novels — “Possession,” “Sherbrookes,” “Stillness” — bound together. It isn’t a complete revision of the original story, either. Instead, what Delbanco has done is trim the narrative excesses of his younger self and rediscover thematic echoes that occur when three books fit together snugly into one. In a recent interview, he explained the challenges of revising one’s early work.
Read the full interview:
More on the trilogy: