By Susan Cheever
From the writer of American Bloomsbury, Louisa may possibly Alcott, and Home prior to Dark, a huge reassessment of the existence and paintings of the novelist, painter, and playwright thought of to be certainly one of America’s preeminent twentieth-century poets. on the time of his loss of life in 1962, at age sixty-eight, he was once, after Robert Frost, the main commonly learn poet within the United States.
E. E. Cummings used to be and is still arguable. He has been referred to as “a grasp” (Malcolm Cowley); “hideous” (Edmund Wilson). James Dickey known as him a “daringly unique poet with extra power and extra sheer uncompromising expertise than the other residing American writer.”
In Susan Cheever’s wealthy, illuminating biography we see Cummings’s idyllic early life years in Cambridge, Massachusetts; his Calvinist father—distinguished Harvard professor and sternly spiritual minister of the Cambridge Congregational Church; his mother—loving, attentive, a resource of encouragement, the aristocrat of the kinfolk, from Unitarian writers, judges, and adventurers.
We see Cummings—slight, agile, playful, a made of a nineteenth-century New England formative years, bred to be flinty and made up our minds; his love of nature; his feel of enjoyable, laughter, mimicry; his hope from the get-go to face traditional knowledge on its head, which he himself might usually do, actually, to amuse.
At Harvard, he roomed with John Dos Passos; befriended Lincoln Kirstein; learn Latin, Greek, and French; earned levels; found alcohol, quickly automobiles, and burlesque on the previous Howard Theater; and raged opposed to the school’s conservative, exclusionary upper-class rule by means of A. Lawrence Lowell.
In Cheever’s booklet we see that underneath Cummings’s completely happy, golden youth the lines of unhappiness and rage have been already at play. He grew right into a darkish younger guy and set out on a lifelong process uprising opposed to traditional authority and the serious institution, devouring the poetry of Ezra Pound, whose radical verses driven Cummings clear of the politeness of the normal nature poem towards a extra adventurous, sexually awake form.
We see that Cummings’s self-imposed exile from Cambridge—a city he’d come to hate for its intellectualism, Puritan uptightness, racism, and self-righteous xenophobia—seemed worthwhile for him as a guy and a poet. Headstrong and cavalier, he volunteered as an ambulance motive force in international struggle I, operating along Hemingway, Joyce, and Ford Madox Ford . . . his ongoing stand opposed to the imprisonment of his soul taking a literal flip whilst he used to be held in a makeshift legal for “undesirables and spies,” an event that turned the foundation for his novel, The huge, immense Room.
We keep on with Cummings as he completely flees to Greenwich Village to be between different modernist poets of the day—Marianne Moore, Hart Crane, Dylan Thomas—and we see the improvement of either the poet and his paintings opposed to the backdrop of modernism and during the affects of his contemporaries: Stein, Amy Lowell, Joyce, and Pound. Cheever’s attention-grabbing booklet provides us the evolution of an artist whose writing used to be on the vanguard of what was once new and bold and impressive in an the USA in transition.
(With 28 pages of black-and-white images.)
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Additional info for E. E. Cummings: A Life
May still poems and books be understood in a vacuum—in the old silence during which a author connects viscerally and spiritually with a reader? Or should still they be understood as items of the internet in their personal time and ours? while Cummings used to be writing poetry, I. A. Richards at Cambridge in England was once arguing the previous in his popular New feedback. paintings may still stand by itself, Richards wrote in his e-book functional feedback in 1929. What may take place if a reader knew not anything of the author or the work—no biographical fabric or textual clarification? considering the fact that Richards wrote, his rules were beaten by means of the cult of character; in our global it’s unthinkable to learn a poem with out figuring out who the writer is, what she or he meant, and what the poem is set. Biography has spawned a cottage of literary scientific women and men writing essays within which they diagnose the health problems of a Coleridge (heroin dependancy) or a Louisa might Alcott (bipolar disorder), or a Hemingway (clinical melancholy and alcoholism). In our makes an attempt to appreciate the prior, you will need to weigh the surroundings then opposed to the data we've. Cummings was once raised in a group which was once casually racist—casually until eventually Jewish scholars started to visit Harvard, whilst it turned systematically anti-Semitic less than President A. Lawrence Lowell. the best guy, represented via Cummings’s barrel-chested, masculine father, was once illiberal and sometimes frightening. Gender during this global was once sharply outlined. there has been no homosexuality. Sodomy used to be actually unlawful in addition to culturally unacceptable. women and men who discovered themselves interested in humans of an analogous intercourse lived in secrecy and worry. girls poured tea; males made judgments. Cambridge itself was once a homogeneous microcosm of highbrow stuffiness and conceitedness. It’s worthy noting that Cummings hated all this. He didn't, couldn't, wouldn't comply with the blustering masculine excellent of his youth, and he left Cambridge once he might to discover a extra tolerant, much less anti-Semitic and racist surroundings within the freedom of Greenwich Village. whilst, Cummings had committed himself to wondering any ideas that got here his way—the principles of grammar, of matrimony, of the Harvard overseers—and through the Nineteen Fifties it used to be now not appropriate to be anti-Semitic in phrases or dialog. The unacceptable used to be like a pink flag of invitation for a poet as provocative as Cummings. His anti-Semitism is indefensible. there's little element in evaluating him with different public figures whose anti-Semitism was once a ways worse. Language is strong, as Cummings knew larger than someone, and the language he used is felony and repulsive. possibly the main brilliant safeguard of Cummings’s poem got here from the yank critic Leslie Fiedler, who wrote that “what is remarkable isn't really that Cummings could be an anti-Semite (this he stocks with innumerable jerks) yet that he's in a position to make orderly and lovely issues out of his chaotic and imperfect center. … definitely whilst the attackers of Cummings (or Eliot or Ezra Pound or Céline) are printed as males influenced now not loads via a love for Jews as through a hatred for paintings, i do know the place to take my stand.