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Familiar Spirits: A Memoir of James Merrill and David Jackson Paperback – February 26, 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Alison Lurie, on the other hand quickly establishes her credentials in "Familiar Spirits" as both early, close friend of Merrill, and established member of his literary circle going back over forty years. Who am I to question her re-casting of the poet I know only through luminous verse and conversations with the gods, as a mere mortal? She knew the man. It was she, Lurie reminds us, whom he called, even in his sixties, to weep about a quarrel with his lover. She called him Jimmy.
James Merrill's poetry seemed so often to be glancingly autobiographical... the people and places (and absences) in his life were a substrate upon which he grew some startling and wonderful poetry. But it was always only refracted autobiography. One wondered at the life itself. Yet, during his lifetime, Merrill rarely obliged with more than the slightest bits of extra-poetic reflection.
When Merrill died in 1995 many readers mourned the fact that we would be offered no more glimpses of that life, which had come to illuminate our own in surprising ways. Perhaps, had he lived, his admirers would have eventually, greedily, consumed him. Instead, into the vacuum of that terminated story, came this insider view - a delightful prospect. Reading it, delight turns to dismay as Merrill is, instead, consumed here by a friend.
This book is a rambling hodge-podge of disconnected anecdote and amateurish psychology.Read more ›
Juicy, gossipy, lewd, audacious at times, you had to imagine she was indeed capitalizing somewhat on her friendship with Merrill because she did not wait for her friend David Jackson to die before she began revealing what a mess he had become. Why? If she were afraid SHE would die without having a chance to add her two cents she could have written the book, but not published it until after Jackson's real death.
I guess it's hard to quarrel with her motives as I read it in one sitting, lapping up all the strange, weird revelations about these men. My respect for them was not diminished by her lurid details of their intimate life. Nothing in Key West is ever ordinary...
What was most fascinating about the book though was the fact that Lurie herself became an equal part of the mystery. Was she obsessed with these men? Secretly in love with Jackson? Jealous of them? Twice she had to say that "they were rich and could buy anything they wanted". Twice!
Sadly, Lurie never did manage to do what she wanted---to comprehend these men. This goal never got quite satisfied, so in the end the reader of this book is not quite satisfied.
It is an important memoir though because it is the ONLY one right now offering any insight into Merrill, the man and the poet.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I was drawn to this book by a Ouija Board. (Kidding.) Actually, I was fascinated by the story of two writers who decided to contact spirits of dead poets, or whoever came... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Jonster
Wonderful story - only that, like Merrill & his companion, the author got lost in the Ouija board stuff so I had to skip about 50 pages!Published 11 months ago by KATE P
It is a sort of maxim that a writer, when taking up her subject, should be in sympathy with the topic. Read morePublished on March 5, 2012 by starfish123
It's about that gay poet with the ouija board.
Oh yeah I heard he fooled around.
They all do. Read more
Lurie writes a very carefully rendered and bittersweet record of a friendship that was fraught with love, frustration, complexity, and disappointment. Read morePublished on February 1, 2011 by Mitch Horowitz
How unfortunate that the self-appointed biographer (though she terms it a memoir) of James Merrill should take such a dull and dreary approach, ploddingly setting about trying to... Read morePublished on August 8, 2006 by Marjorie Spiegel
I seldom read fiction, but I've enjoyed three of Alison Lurie's novels. After my attention fell on the work of James Merrill, and I saw that Alison Lurie had written about him, I... Read morePublished on June 18, 2006 by Clare Fairchild
This is a beautifully written long view of the lives of James Merrill, poet, and his lover and uncredited collaborator David Jackson. Read morePublished on August 26, 2005 by reality bites
The story is strongest when she is most generous to her characters and most fully shares her own story within theirs. Read morePublished on July 8, 2003