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In Extremis: The Life of Laura Riding Hardcover – June, 1993

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Acknowledging the difficulty of accurately portraying a writer who continuously reinvented herself, Baker ( Making a Farm ) draws heavily on unpublished works to achieve some success in illuminating the life of Laura Riding (1901-1991). Riding's verse-- Collected Poems was published in 1938--was acclaimed for the precision of its language. From 1927-1936 she lived on the island of Majorca with British writer Robert Graves, with whom she established an avant-garde literary salon and founded the Seizin Press. In 1941 Riding left Graves, returned to America and, amidst scandal, married critic Schuyler B. Jackson. Renouncing poetry, she worked with Jackson on the never-published The Dictionary of Meanings and wrote several philosophical treatises, e.g., The Telling (1972). Temperamental and controversial, Riding carried on active correspondences with critics and academics until her death. Illustrations not seen by PW.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Baker presents a well-researched biography of Riding (1901-91), a writer whose work has been obfuscated by a difficult personality and estrangement from her colleagues. As is often the case in literary biography, Riding's life is examined through her writing and, accordingly, her inner being becomes as important as her actions. The core of the book is Riding's 14-year relationship with Robert Graves--treated most thoroughly. In addition, descriptions of Riding's suicide attempt, her collaborative efforts, and her personal associations with such literary luminaries as Gertrude Stein are telling of Riding's complex psyche. Baker has made extensive use of archival souces in tracing this unconventional woman's journey away from poetry and toward an absolute truth that could be exposed by means of other forms such as criticism. Recommended for humanities and woman's studies collections. (For a recent review of the work of Laura Riding Jackson, see The Word "Woman" and Other Related Writings , LJ 4/15/93.
-Ed.)-- Janice Braun, Hoover Institution Lib., Stanford, Cal.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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More About the Author

Born in Charlottesville, Deborah Baker grew up in Virginia, Puerto Rico and New England. In 1990 she moved to Calcutta where she wrote In Extremis, a biography of the American modernist poet, Laura Riding which was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize in biography. A Blue Hand: The Beats in India (2008) explored the imaginative relationship between India and America as seen through the Indian travels of Allen Ginsberg et al in the early 60s. In 2008-2009 she was a Fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis C. Cullman Center for Writers and Scholars at The New York Public Library. There she researched and wrote The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism (2011), a narrative account of the life of an American convert to Islam, drawing on letters she found in the library's manuscript division. The Convert was a finalist for the National Book Award.


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