The Broken Tower: A Life of Hart Crane

ISBN 10: 0393047261 / ISBN 13: 9780393047264
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Synopsis: "The Broken Tower" reads with all the drama of a psychological novel and the inexorable force of a Greek tragedy. Hart Crane made a meteoric rise in the late 1920s and then as suddenly burnt out, killing himself at the age of 32, and thus turned his life and poetry into the stuff of myth. A mid-Westerner, Crane came to New York to play a central part in the contemporary avant-garde literary world and also became part of the New York gay scene. This biography of Crane includes major new discoveries about his life. The author probes Crane's inner demons, promiscuous sexual life, alcoholism and self-destructive behaviour to give us a profound portrait of a complex, haunted and brilliant life.

Review: In addition to several volumes of poetry, Paul Mariani has also written biographies of major 20th-century American poets: William Carlos Williams, Robert Lowell, and John Berryman. In his fourth biography, he takes on the life of Hart Crane (1899-1932), a contemporary of Williams who held a similarly pivotal role in the development of American literature's avant-garde. "It would be difficult," Mariani suggests, "to find a serious poet or reader of poetry in this country today who has not been touched by something in Hart Crane's music." (However, at the time, many critics--with some of whom he had strained personal relationships--did not evaluate his work so highly, which contributed in part to Crane's dramatic suicidal leap off a ship at sea.) Crane loved New York, moving there from his hometown of Cleveland as soon as he could; even when financial straits forced him to return home to work for his father, the "white buildings" of Manhattan loomed in his imagination. The Broken Tower does a fine job of recreating the passionate energy and vitality of Crane's life. Mariani weaves lines from Crane's letters and poems into his narrative throughout, and while he does not skimp in his accounts of the poet's alcoholism and promiscuous sex life with other men, he treats these matters simply as components of the poet's complex personality.

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Title: The Broken Tower: A Life of Hart Crane
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