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Wallace Stevens: The Early Years, 1879-1923 Hardcover – August, 1986

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Stevens claimed that he never read other poets, yet, as this massive biography reveals, he held imaginary dialogues with his favorite "man-poets," Hardy and Plato among them. A successful insurance executive and man of letters, he had a precarious sense of self and attempted in his verse to define an ideal self abstracted from his humdrum, bourgeois world. Combining psychobiography and criticism, this first half of a two-volume work argues that Stevens made his wife into a mother figure because he was unable to integrate the feminine into his psyche. The poet comes across as demanding, priggish, miserly, aloof, but the real subject here is the process of his mind, how his arresting images crystallized, and how they amplified or concealed his inner self. Richardson's dense, wordy study rewards the patient reader. No other book gets into the workings of Stevens's imagination so deeply. The author, a professor at City University of New York, has uncovered fascinating material on Stevens's meeting with Dada artist Duchamp and his borrowings from commedia dell'arte. (September
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The time has long been ripe for a complete biography of Stevens. The author of this attempt says that the poet "took on for me the roles of father, teacher, lover. . . . I have questioned whether I could or can properly call my consciousness my own." She goes on to hypothesize at great length minute, indeed ineffable, details of Stevens's mental life, while failing to put in order basic facts about her subject. Her discussion of the poetry, marred by digressions into history, religion, and art criticism as well as by turgid prose, relies heavily on non sequitur and flat assertion. The most suggestive and cogent exploration of connections among Stevens's life, thought, and poetry remains Milton Bates's Wallace Stevens ( LJ 8/85); a suitable biography remains to be written.Frank J. Lepkowski, Oakland Univ. Lib., Rochester, Mich.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Beech Tree Books; 1st edition (August 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688054013
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688054014
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #743,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Detailed account of the life of a poet who practiced law.
The author's writer is academic rather than conversational; still, there is no substitute for the contextual communication of facts that results from well-organized research-writing.
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By Richard steingesser on February 12, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'll go back to this but find it dull going, maybe Steven's life is just dull. And the literary criticism is okay but would like more depth here as well.
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