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biography

E.E. Cummings: A Life

 
 
Author
Susan Cheever.
Publisher Pantheon  
Format hardcover
Product Dimensions 9.5 x 6.5 x 0.95 inches
ISBN 9780307379979
Pages/Publication Date 213/2014
Daedalus Item Code 60800
This item is not available.
Description
At the time of his death in 1962, at age 68, Edward Estlin Cummings was, after Robert Frost, the most widely read poet in the United States. Here the author of American Bloomsbury and biographer of Louisa May Alcott offers a major reassessment of the life and work of Cummings, a novelist, painter, and playwright who is most often thought of as one of America's preeminent 20th-century poets. In Susan Cheever's book we see that beneath Cummings's blissful, golden New England childhood the strains of sadness and rage were already at play. Headstrong and cavalier, he volunteered as an ambulance driver in World War I, working alongside Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, and Ford Madox Ford, and once home, fled to Greenwich Village to be among other modernist poets of the day. Cheever's fascinating book gives us the evolution of an artist whose writing was at the forefront of what was new and daring and bold in an America in transition.

"With boundless new detail gathered through meticulous research, Susan Cheever succeeds where most other biographers have failed."—Economist (London)

"Cummings's life is inherently interesting, dramatic, and sad, and Cheever highlights its colorful and tragic aspects.... One has to admire the spirit of acceptance that Cheever breathes into her book. Even as she celebrates Cummings's rebelliousness, bravado, and 'irrepressible' nature, she emphasizes, with compassion and tenderness, his frailty, anxiety, vulnerability."—Boston Globe

"Cheever, the author of discerning books about writers, alcoholism, and problematic sexuality, begins this dramatic portrait of modernist poet E.E. Cummings ... with her memories of Cummings performing one of his famed readings and of listening intently in the backseat as her father, fiction writer John Cheever, drove the poet, his good friend, back to Greenwich Village. This intimacy shapes her telling of the up-and-down story of this unlikely rebel––a handsome, 'flexible and slight,' rigorously educated 'Harvard aristocrat' who discovered 'a kind of poetic sweet spot' of scintillating innovation and complex lyric power. Cheever analyzes Cummings's subterranean anger, anti-Semitism, excessive carousing, and flagrant antiauthoritarianism in France after enlisting during WWI, which landed him in a camp for 'undesirables.' Cheever incisively dissects Cummings' two disastrous marriages and the shocking abduction of his adored only child, Nancy Thayer, who became an artist and poet unaware of who her father actually was. With Ezra Pound as friend and mentor, Cummings deftly created 'wild, expressive syntax' and wielded his signature lower-case 'i' as critical response ran hot and cold, and ardent fans left flowers on his doorstep. Cheever's reconsideration of Cummings and his work charms, rattles, and enlightens in emulation of Cummings' radically disarming, tender, sexy, plangent, and furious poems."—Booklist (starred review)

 
 
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