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University of Texas at Austin

Lily Tuck:

An Inventory of Her Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Tuck, Lily, 1938-
Title: Lily Tuck Papers
Dates: 1956-2020 (bulk 1991-2015)
Extent: 19 document boxes (7.98 linear feet), 1 oversize box (osb), 1 oversize folder (osf), and 28 electronic files (461 MB)
Abstract: The papers of National Book Award-winning author Lily Tuck consist of drafts of published and unpublished novels, books, and short stories; notebooks; correspondence; contracts and royalty statements; and university papers.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-54169
Language: English, French, Italian
Access: Open for research. Researchers must create an online Research Account and agree to the Materials Use Policy before using archival materials. To request access to electronic files, please email Reference. Original documents containing personal information, such as social security and credit card numbers, are restricted due to privacy concerns during the lifetime of individuals mentioned in the documents. Such documents have been photocopied and replaced with a redacted copy.
Use Policies: Ransom Center collections may contain material with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in the collections without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the Ransom Center and The University of Texas at Austin assume no responsibility.
Restrictions on Use: Certain restrictions apply to the use of electronic files. Researchers must agree to the Materials Use Policy for Electronic Files before accessing them. Original computer disks and forensic disk images are restricted. Copying electronic files, including screenshots and printouts, is not permitted. Authorization for publication is given on behalf of the University of Texas as the owner of the collection and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder which must be obtained by the researcher. For more information please see the Ransom Center's Open Access and Use Policies.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation: Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin. Lily Tuck Papers Manuscript Collection MS-54169.
Acquisition: Gift, 2020 (20-02-017-P)
Processed by: Amy E. Armstrong, 2021 Born digital materials processed, arranged, and described by Brenna Edwards, 2022.

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

Lily Tuck was born Liliane Alice Solmsen in Paris, France, to German parents, film producer Rodolphe (sometimes spelled Rudolf and known as Rudy) and Irène Solmsen (née Schultze-Jena), on October 10, 1938, just as the Nazi threat in Europe was intensifying. After war was declared in 1939, the family, of Jewish heritage and fearing for their future, left Europe. Her father joined the French Foreign Legion, serving in North Africa, and Liliane and her mother embarking for Peru where they lived for several years, and another year in Uruguay. After World War II, the family reunited in Paris, but Tuck's parents divorced shortly thereafter. In 1947, she and her mother emigrated to the United States and settled in New York City where her mother married Gustav Hermann Kinnicutt in 1948. As a child, Tuck split time between her parents and lived with her father in Italy during summers.
In 1956, Tuck enrolled at Radcliffe College and earned a B.A. in English in 1960. In 1962, she married Ethan "John" Emery, a graduate of Harvard University. Shortly after marrying, the couple moved to Bangkok, Thailand, where they had Josiah, the first of their three children--Dana and Matthew were born after returning to the United States. The couple divorced in 1970, and in 1975, Tuck enrolled at the Sorbonne in Paris and earned a master's degree in American Literature.
Tuck began to write short stories and in the early 1970s also began work on her first novel based on the disappearance of Jim Thompson, a well-known American business man and art collector she knew who went missing from the Cameroon Highlands in Malaysia in the 1960s. She worked on the novel for years and submitted it to numerous publishers between 1975 and 1980, but it was never published.
In the late 1970s, Tuck married attorney Edward H. Tuck, who had three children from his first marriage: Edward, Matthew, and Jessica. The Tucks lived in New York City, where she continued to write and submit stories to magazines including The New Yorker and The Village Voice. She also translated two French books: Camille: The Life of Camille Claudel, Rodin's Muse and Mistress (by Reine-Marie Paris, 1988) and Zola: Photographer (by François Émile-Zola and Missen, 1988).
In 1988, Tuck enrolled in a writing workshop with the editor Gordon Lish, who was then working at Alfred A. Knopf and editing The Quarterly. Lish became a mentor to Tuck, providing feedback on her writings and overseeing the publication of her first book, at the age of 53, Interviewing Matisse or the Woman Who Died Standing Up (1991).
Five years later, Tuck released her second novel, The Woman Who Walked on Water, published by Riverhead Books. For her third novel, Siam or the Woman Who Shot a Man (1999), Tuck drew on her life in Thailand, as the central characters are newlyweds who move to the country at the start of the Vietnam War. It also incorporated reworked parts of her unpublished novel, the disappearance of Jim Thompson. In addition to receiving good reviews, it was nominated for the 2000 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Tuck's next book was a collection of short stories Limbo, and Other Places I Have Lived: Stories (2002).
In 2004, The News from Paraguay was published and received much attention after it was shortlisted—and won—the National Book Award. The win surprised some critics and the literary establishment who criticized the selection of the five finalists who all were women who lived in New York City, were relatively unknown, and whose nominated books had modest sales. The works were not the focus of the critiques, but rather the authors themselves, which rallied the nominees who became friends. The win also caught the attention of the Paraguayan government who invited Tuck to visit the country after she stated in her acceptance speech that she had never been to Paraguay. Her visit sparked controversy as some citizens were angered over her portrayal of dictator Francisco Solano Lopez.
Other books by Tuck include The Double Life of Liliane (autobiographical novel, 2015), Heathcliff Redux: A Novella and Stories (collection, 2020), The House at Belle Fontaine: Stories (short story collection, 2013), I Married You for Happiness (novel, 2011), Sisters (novel, 2017), and Woman of Rome: A Life of Elsa Morante (biography, 2008).
In 2002, Liliane Tuck's husband, Edward, died of cancer. In 2018, she recieved and Gugenheim Fellowship. As of 2022, she divides her time between New York City and Maine.


In addition to material in the papers, the following sources were used:
Brennan, Carol. "Tuck, Lily." Newsmakers 2006 Culmination, Gale 2007, pp.417-418. Gale ebooks. Accessed 15 November 2021.
"Edward H. Tuck, 75, Lawyer." New York Times, October 12, 2002. Accessed 14 December 2021.
"Liliane Solmsen Becomes Bride of Ethan Emery." New York Times, November 18, 1962; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times, p. 92. Accessed 14 December 2021.
"Mrs. Solmsen Wed to G. H. Kinnicutt." New York Times, August 13, 1948; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times, p. 18. Accessed 14 December 2021.
Obituary-Kinnicutt. New York Times, August 9, 1999; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times, p. B7. Accessed 14 December 2021.
"Tuck, Lily." The Writers Directory, edited by Jennifer Stock, 36th ed., vol. 5, St. James Press, 2018, p. 3610. Gale ebooks. Accessed 15 November 2021.

Scope and Contents

The papers of National Book Award-winning author Lily Tuck include drafts of published and unpublished novels, books, and short stories; notebooks; correspondence; contracts and royalty statements; and university papers. The papers are arranged into two series: I. Works, circa early 1970s-2020, undated and II. Personal and Professional Material, 1956-2020, undated.
The arrangement of the material reflects Tuck's own organization of her papers, which were stored in labeled manuscript boxes or file folders. Where Tuck provided a meaningful label for a grouping of material or work, that wording was used in the container list and is indicated in single quotation marks.
Series I. Works forms the bulk of the material and consists of 15 document boxes of notes, research material, drafts, proofs, correspondence, and reviews. The works are arranged into two subseries: A. Novels, Non-Fiction, Collections, circa early 1970s-2020, undated and B. Short Works, circa 1983-2020, undated. Short works include essays, short stories, book reviews, book submissions, and similar writings.
Works within each subseries are generally in alphabetical order by title. The exceptions are categories of writing that are better served by grouping them together by genre (e.g. essays). Materials associated with published works may include drafts, research and notes, proofs, correspondence, and reviews. For book-length works, there is often more than one draft; some of which contain edits by Tuck's editors, such as Gordon Lish and Elisabeth Schmitz, or friends, such as novelist Frances Kiernan, as well as copyedits by frequent copyeditor Trent Duffy. Notes written on sticky notes were photocopied and placed in polyester sleeves and put before the original page. Correspondence—often in the form of email printouts—regarding a specific work may be located with the work or in the correspondence segment in Series II. The Index of Correspondents at the end of this finding aid contains box and folder locations for the correspondence in the collection.
Tuck's unpublished first novel about the disappearance of American businessman Jim Thompson in Thailand during the 1960s, called The Lord in the Air, is represented in the papers with a final draft and rejection letters from various publishers.
The News from Paraguay, Tuck's historical novel about the love affair between Paraguayan dictator Francisco Solano Lopez and Ella Lynch, received favorable reviews from critics at the time of publication. Tuck and her novel received even more attention after it was shortlisted—and awarded—the 2004 National Book Award for Fiction. The material in this series relates to the publication and promotion of the novel, before and after the award, with material related to the National Book Award, filed in the Awards section of Series II. Personal and Professional Material. Documents regarding a related visit to Paraguay in 2005 are filed in the 'Paraguay' segment, also in Series II.
Tuck's biography about Italian writer Elsa Morante contains extensive biographical research, including interview transcripts and recordings. The cassette tapes were transferred to the Center's Sound Recordings Collection. Additionally, four compact discs containing digitized research photos were transferred to the Center's Electronic Records Collection.
Subseries B. is organized alphabetically by genre and contains book reviews, published and unpublished short stories, and essays. Many of these drafts are undated. Of particular interest is the essay Tuck wrote for The Village Voice, which they decided not to publish, called "Thanksgiving at Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp."
Series II. Personal and Professional Material is of relatively small volume and includes documents relating to Tuck's writing career and aspects of her personal life. It is ordered alphabetically by theme or topic.
The Awards segment includes material related to recognition Tuck's writing received, including the National Book Award for The News from Paraguay and the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction nomination for Siam or the Woman Who Shot a Man. This segment includes Tuck's acceptance speech, letters and cards from supporters, articles and reviews about Tuck's nomination and her novel.
A large volume of contracts and royalty statements are present for most of Tuck's published books. The statements from Grove Press and HarperCollins Publishers frequently list royalties for more than one book on each statement.
One document box of correspondence contains letters from Tuck's agents, friends and acquaintances, most of whom are authors. Correspondents include friends and admirers such as Bernardo Bertolucci, Michael Cunningham, Elizabeth Hardwick, Amy Hempel, Michelle Huneven, Margot Livesey, Annie Proulx, Christine Schutt, among others. In these letters, the writers often praise Tuck's books, thank Tuck for her support of their works, and provide details on their writing, and/or events in their lives. There are quite a large number of letters from writer Roger Angell, who also served as fiction editor at The New Yorker for over fifty years. As an editor, his letters provide feedback regarding Tuck's short story submissions to the magazine; as a friend, they offer support, encouragement, and provide a glimpse into their close relationship. There are also numerous letters and notes from writer and editor Gordon Lish, who mentored Tuck, and offered his feedback on her works, particularly Interviewing Matisse or the Woman Who Died Standing Up, which he shepherded into print. Letters from literary agent Alexandra Harding document her efforts to place Tuck's short stories and essays in various magazines and literary journals. The Index of Correspondents at the end of this finding aid contains box and folder locations for the correspondence in the collection.
The folder labeled 'Paraguay' contains correspondence, speeches, travel journals, and excerpts from American and Paraguayan newspapers related to two different trips Tuck took to Paraguay. The first was in 2005 following the announcement of The News from Paraguay as the recipient of the National Book Award. In her acceptance speech, Tuck stated she had never been to Paraguay, so she was invited to tour the country by the Paraguayan government. Her novel was criticized by some citizens for its portrayal of Francisco Solano Lopez—who many still consider a national hero—and so her visit made frontpage news.
In the same year, Tuck was invited to Thailand to give the keynote address for the S.E.A. Write Award (Southeast Asian Writers Award). Her invitation was rescinded by the Chairman of the Organizing Committee due to "controversial historical content" and sensitivities surrounding mention of Thai Royalty in her novel Siam or the Woman Who Shot a Man. The "Thailand" folder contains correspondence documenting this incident, as well as Tuck's response to the censure.
The earliest material present are the papers Tuck wrote for the English and Comparative Literature courses she took while an undergraduate at Radcliffe College between 1956 and 1960. The University segment contains these papers, as well as her notebooks, admission documents, student identification cards, and thesis for her Master's degree at the Sorbonne in Paris.
Between 1988 and 1989, Tuck attended writing workshops taught by Gordon Lish, who would go on to become Tuck's mentor and first editor. This segment contains two notebooks full of notes from Lish's lectures, the introductory notes Lish sent to his students, as well as two class rosters.
The papers are in very good condition. A limited number of thermal faxes were photocopied for preservation purposes.

Separated Material

Non-commercial sound recordings containing interviews were transferred to the Center's Sound Recordings Collection and are cataloged in a separate database.
One VHS tape about Elsa Morante was transferred to the Center's Moving Image Collection and is cataloged in a separate database.
Compact discs containing digitized images were transferred to the Center's Electronic Records Collection.

Index Terms


Lish, Gordon.
Morante, Elsa, approximately 1912-1985.


Authors, American--20th century.
Women authors--20th century.

Document Types

Electronic documents.
Short stories.

Container List