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Allen Tate Hardcover – December 15, 2000

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Some biographers depict the triumph of poetic genius as a thing fated and inevitable. Underwood discards all such illusions in this compelling account of Allen Tate's formative years. Indeed, painstaking research reveals how close this literary genius came to losing his way and squandering his gifts by becoming a political pamphleteer. To uncover the reasons for this near-tragedy, Underwood plumbs a difficult childhood during which Tate's parents burdened him with the myth of beleaguered southern virtue. In his self-lacerating responses to the imperatives of that myth, Tate vacillated. His true artistic vocation allied him with regional giants like Faulkner and Ransom and with international figures like Hemingway and Pound. But reactionary politics exercised a strong attraction, drawing Tate into the orbit of apologists for Hitler and Mussolini. Tracing each step--and misstep--in letters, conversations, and poems, Underwood charts the torturous path by which Tate finally escaped from fascist temptations and genealogical confusions. Liberated at last by self-knowledge, Tate could finally write the milestone novel The Fathers, in which he exposed--with artistic poise and maturity--the imprisoning cultural contradictions of the South. A biographical study to be treasured as long as Tate's masterful verse attracts readers. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


"[A] first rate biography . . .[written] with skill, care and psychological acuity."--Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post

"[A] compelling account of Allen Tate's formative years . . . A biographical study to be treasured as long as Tate's masterful verse attracts readers."--Booklist

"The distinction of Underwood's biography lies in its exploration of how cultural identity gets into our heads, shaping us as we shape it."--Lem Coley, Oxford American

"Tate is fully dramatized here as a soul in torment, a seminal figure in Southern literature."--Library Journal

"An admirable recounting of how Tate began his journey to influence American poetry and criticism in the 20th century."--Kirkus Reviews

"Mr. Underwood's portrait of his conservative, combative, politically naive, aristocratic, alienated subject is remarkably balanced."--Sudip Bose, The Washington Times

"A well-researched, thoroughly detailed study of how the South shaped and alienated one of its best-known men of letters."--Gary Kerley, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Rebellious, hot-headed, arrogant, brilliant, and supremely confident in the rectitude of his controversial views, Tate makes a fascinating subject for a biographical study."--Damon Smith, The Boston Globe

"A life full of improving or cautionary lessons, with vistas of a vanished literary world less glamorous by far than the jazz age legends, but with an occasional springtime whiff of genuine barnyard innocence. . . . The interest of Underwood's volume resides . . . in its portrait of the poet as a young modernist. For it is the poetry that has, despite its thorniness, stood the test of time: interesting both in its own right and as a uniquely 'pure' specimen of American modernism."--Thomas M. Disch, The Weekly Standard

"Tate has been lucky in his biographer. Underwood's book is rigorously researched and sturdily written. . . . Underwood's book is a defense of Tate's fundamental seriousness, and of the historical importance of his stances and stands."--Christopher Benfey, The New Republic

"Underwood's exhaustive research and sound judgment have led to a biography of the first rank."--Ben F. Johnson III, Journal of Southern History

"A splendid biography."--Henry L. Carrigan, Jr., Charlotte Observer

"Underwood has made a substantial contribution to literary history and given readers a poignant portrait of Tate's struggle to come to terms with the past through art."--Melissa McIntosh Brown, Commercial Appeal (Memphis)

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