Lost Puritan: A Life of Robert Lowell

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9780393313741: Lost Puritan: A Life of Robert Lowell

"Thorough and just. . . . Quietly, surely in touch with its distinguished subject."―Richard Wilbur

Robert Lowell's poetry radically altered the American literary landscape, combining as it did family drama and an apocalyptic view of the history of our times. He won three Pulitzer Prizes and two National Book Awards for poetry. Married three times, always to writers, he had his dark side, suffering from crippling bouts of manic depression and alcoholism.

Using hundreds of Lowell's unpublished manuscripts and letters, and dozens of interviews, Paul Mariani has given us a balanced, passionate, and readable life, capturing the man, his age, and his place in literary history.

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About the Author:

Poet, scholar, essayist, critic, Paul Mariani is the author of many books, including William Carlos Williams and The Great Wheel. He teaches at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

From Kirkus Reviews:

A generously sympathetic and artistically astute account of one poet by another, the author also of a biography of John Berryman (Dreamsong, 1990). Openly building on Ian Hamilton's 1982 biography of Lowell, Mariani has been able to draw on newly available sources: his own interviews and Lowell's correspondences with, among others, Elizabeth Bishop, George Santayana, Mary McCarthy, Adrienne Rich, and Randall Jarrell. The saga of Lowell and his friends, wives, and lovers (with their addictions, breakdowns, early deaths, and driving accidents) seems scripted for a sudsy TV movie, but Mariani conveys both ``the hugeness and the frailty'' of Lowell: An unwanted child and school bully, he became a precocious poet- historian; his initial literary allegiances to Eliot and Allen Tate later made room for a poetics of greater ``lived experience'' inspired by William Carlos Williams; from ambitious attempts at ``prophecy and myth'' he moved to an appreciation of ``the more humble fragments of the quotidian.'' Uncannily strong, Lowell was nicknamed ``Cal'' for Caliban and/or Caligula. The combination of strength and psychosis led to some problems, for Lowell's lyrical and rhetorical violence could turn physical, as it did the time he decided ``it would be good fun'' to steal tickets from a movie theater. ``The police were called, and once more, feeling cornered, Lowell took on the arresting police officer and beat him up.'' Lowell was descended from the great preacher Jonathan Edwards, and Mariani sees Lowell as very much in the lineage of a stern, passionate, torn Puritan idealism. Yet through expert (if interpretively familiar) analyses of major poems and quotations of Lowell's brilliant, often wry critical judgments, Mariani argues for the pertinence of Lowell's themes, eloquently defined here as ``our destructive self-interest, our racial fears and self- delusions, our murderous innocence.'' A welcome volume about a Rabelaisian monster of a man and a poet, made timelier by the recent publication of Elizabeth Bishop's letters. (photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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