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The Roots of Treason: Ezra Pound and the Secret of St. Elizabeths Paperback – September 15, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 339 pages
  • Publisher: Lucas Publishers (September 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1929636016
  • ISBN-13: 978-1929636013
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,038,285 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From The New Yorker

"The book is exhaustively documented, and is balanced in its treatment of Pound's career, his character, and his literary output. . . . Dr. Torrey demonstrates, however, that a man can have hateful opinions and commit hateful acts and still be quite sane and accountable."

Review

One of the "Notable Books of the Year" for 1983. --The New York Times Book Review

"The book is exhaustively documented, and is balanced in its treatment of Pound's career, his character, and his literary output. . . . Dr. Torrey demonstrates, however, that a man can have hateful opinions and commit hateful acts and still be quite sane and accountable." --The New Yorker

"If this book were a performance, I'd be on my feet shouting 'bravo' and strewing the stage with roses. This biography of America's most outrageous literary figure is a virtuoso work." --Judith C. Wolf, San Diego Union

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Barnaby Thieme on November 13, 2008
Format: Paperback
The biographical facts and materials presented in this book are marred by the author's injudicious hostility toward his subject. Pound cannot win with Torrey; the pre-sexual youth is depicted as a tepid and resentful celibate, while the mature Pound is an over-zealous worshiper at the altar of eroticism.

When Pound leaves the academy behind him and good riddance, his "pretensions toward a professorship were stillborn". Why "pretensions"? Why not "ambitions"? And is Pound's savage indictment of the academy really so off-the-wall, that it can be read as nothing more than ressentiment?

It is not going too far to say that this book makes a freak of Pound. Perhaps this is to be expected from a clinical psychiatrist who views the troublesome colossus as a personification of the institutional problems of his profession. But there is more to the man than a collection of neuroses, and Torrey fails to come to terms with his genius as well as his failings.

I do not deny that Pound's biography is problematic, to put it mildly. But it circumvents the problem his legacy poses to paint his caricature without a counterbalancing appreciation for how Pound changed the course of the world-famous Yeats in mid-career, why Eliot dedicated a masterwork to this "better craftsman", and why Hemingway claimed lifelong to remain in his debt.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Mental Health Expert on March 31, 2000
Format: Paperback
Torrey is the most original and definitive chronicler of mental illness and this previously out-of-print book is a stunning example of why. In Roots of Treason, Dr. Torrey takes on St. Elizabeth's Hospital which conspired to label the poet Ezra Pound, 'mentally ill' in order to help him avoid a prison sentence for treason. It is a delicious commentary on the intersection of cold war politics, liberalism, and the abuse of mental institutions. In previous books, Dr. Torrey has taken on the American Psyciatric Association (Freudian Fraud), politicians who kicked the mentally ill out of hospitals (Nowhere to Go), misguided mental health advocates (Out of the Shadows) and others. He has also expanded our knowledge of Schizophrenia (Schizophrenia and Manic Depressive Disorders) and provided invaluable assistance to those who have schizophrenia or have someone in the family who has it (Surviving Schizophrenia). This book differs from other Torrey works in that it should be of immense interest to those who have no interest in mental illness, per se, but are interested in the life Ezra Pound and the literati who surrounded him. The book details Pound's escapades in Italy, atraditional lifestyle, and return to America that ultimately ended in him being charged with treason. It's a fun, fast, informative read, ridden with blunt Torreyisms. SO glad it is back in print
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Cha Yoo Soon on October 21, 2010
Format: Paperback
I was lucky to be able to read a library copy of this book, lucky because, if I'd have paid for such a biased, sketchy and un-thorough biography I'd have asked for my money back. HOWEVER it DID grease the wheels of thought for an article I was writing at the time.

The central problem of a decent biography on Pound is very simple, how to extract the brilliant pioneering critique on the international banks of Europe and America from the petty prejudices Pound furthered to 'bring out' this economic thesis. Very few writers are even remotely well-versed in Pound's prose to even attempt a well-balanced biography (and their publishers unfortunately don't nudge them too far in that direction either)... but, for the record, we might say the most established biogs might be:

'This Difficult Individual' by Eustace Mullins (I haven't read this but suspect it to be eminently more sympathetic to Pound than Torrey, in fact it's sympathies, I am sure, are probably part of the reason is it out of print and no U.S publisher will touch it)... another problem being that Mullins, for all his apparent gusto, I've been given to understand, does not cover the post-war years whatsoever (partially he couldn't since the book came out a decade before Pound's death)

...then we have Noel Stock's mildly more thorough standard biog, again; the problem being that its author was too young and unfamiliar with the entire output of Ezra Pound to make well-balanced decisions during the process of putting the biog together. Stock IS familiar with Pound post-WWII but can he piece together his understanding of Pound's early years well enough to have some knowledge of how the pre-war relates to the post-war Pound (fundamentally the 'economic theis' directly relates to this).
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Penelope J. Sparhawk on October 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
Dr. Torrey does a good job of demonstrating that Ezra Pound was in no way mentally ill, and that St. Elizabeth's Hospital should not have been used as a convenient means of dealing with a troubling dissidenter after World War II.
But the author seems to have been afraid that his book would be seen as advocacy for Pound, and thus, for the type of Jew-baiting utterances included in Pound's wartime radio programs. (Pound, like many populists, blamed big banks in part for inciting and promoting wars; he blamed Jews for running these institutions for the super-rich masters of war.)
Thus the book is at pains to denigrate Pound in all sorts of ways that have no bearing on its central thesis. (Was Pound a poseur and literary provocateur? Of course; noone doubts this. But it does not detract from his literary genius or his major role in shaping the literature of high Modernism.)
And this one-sided treatment of Pound causes the author to ignore a line of investigation that challenges his central thesis: the author seems to claim that Pound was a coward who chose a fake mental illness as a way out of being punished for his opposition to the Allied war effort. (Pound had no say in how he was treated; the US government had no basis for putting him on trial, and no desire to.) Also, the months of rigors and deprivations that the elderly Pound underwent at the Pisa Detention Facility after his capture quite plausibly impacted him physically and mentally. The author is blinded to this aspect of the story. Did Pound's rough treatment render him insane? No way - but it might explain a good part of Pound's responses during the psychiatric exam at St. E's.
In short, the author weakens the treatment of his central thesis by an attack on Pound that is simply not supported by the facts.
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More About the Author

E. Fuller Torrey, M.D., is a research psychiatrist specializing in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. He is the executive director of the Stanley Medical Research Institute, the founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center, a professor of psychiatry at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and the author of twenty books. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland.

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The Roots of Treason: Ezra Pound and the Secret of St. Elizabeths
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