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The Enormous Room (The Cummings Typescript Editions) Paperback – January 17, 1994

4.2 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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About the Author

E. E. Cummings (1894–1962) was among the most influential, widely read, and revered modernist poets. He was also a playwright, a painter, and a writer of prose. Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he studied at Harvard University and, during World War I, served with an ambulance corps in France. He spent three months in a French detention camp and subsequently wrote The Enormous Room, a highly acclaimed criticism of World War I. After the war, Cummings returned to the States and published his first collection of poetry, Tulips & Chimneys, which was characterized by his innovative style: pushing the boundaries of language and form while discussing love, nature, and war with sensuousness and glee. He spent the rest of his life painting, writing poetry, and enjoying widespread popularity and success.
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Product Details

  • Series: The Cummings Typescript Editions
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Liveright; 2nd Revised ed. edition (January 17, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871401509
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871401502
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,614,107 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on May 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
Reading Cumming's poetry was never a priority in my school days, except such excerpts as appeared in my far from comprehensive American Lit book. After reading this, I wish I'd paid more attention to this truly gifted writer.
The Enormous Room is the story of Cumming's three month incarceration at La Ferte Mace, a squalid French prison camp. Cummings is locked up as accessory to exercise of free speech, his friend B. (William Brown) having written a letter with some pro German sentiments. What Cummings experienced in those three months and the stories of the men and women he met are, despite the straits of the polyglot texture of the book, never other than fascinating. At moments touching (the stories of the Surplice and The Wanderer's family), hilarious (the description of the Man In the Orange Cap is hysterical), and maddening (the smoking of the four les putains), this is a brilliant weft of memorable characters and not a little invective for the slipshod French goverment.
Something I noticed. Though the book claims as its primary influence Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, I noticed a similarity with Thoreau's Walden. In both books, there is the idea of self-abnegation breeding liberty and peace of mind. The idea is to shear away all luxuries, all privileges. But Thoreau had one very important luxury to his credit: Free will. Whereas Thoreau chose his isolated and straitened existence near Walden Pond, Cummings' was involuntary. So, if the touchstone of freedom both men share is valid, is not Cummings, by virtue of the unrequested nature of his imprisonment, the freer of the two men?
This is a fascinating, thought provoking, ribald and intelligent book. I only regret that the Fighting Sheeney was never given commupance...
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Format: Paperback
Written by America's most inventive poet, "The Enormous Room" is a book of prose set in a French detention camp during World War One. It is a coming-of-age story in which events happen, not always to the narrator (E.E. Cummings), but to the inhabitants of a place that serves as a microcosm for all the folly and brutality of war itself. As a war narrative it is unique -- unlike Hemingway's "Farewell to Arms" or Remarque's "All Quiet on the Western Front," the central story doesn't take place on the front lines. The plot of the book is basically non-linear, with the exception of the first three or four chapters, and several passages are written in French (thankfully a glossary of foreign terms is printed at the back of the book). I would describe Cummings' story as a stream-of-consciousness dialogue with himself, written in the language of a talented budding poet. Most memorable are the wonderful characters Cummings encountered during his short stay at La Ferte Mace, the name of the camp in which he was interned. They are objects of torn humanity and how terrible it must have been for him to leave them, knowing that upon his release many would languish in prison for the rest of their lives. "The Enormous Room" is a unique historical fiction. It is not an easy read, but it is one of those books that is even more difficult to put down. I have never read another book quite like it. [P.S.: There are two editions of the book, one published by Boni & Liveright and the other by Penquin Classics. The Liveright edition is the better one (and naturally harder to locate online or in book stores), and includes samples of drawings that Cummings made during his confinement.]
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By A Customer on January 1, 1998
Format: Hardcover
First published in 1922, THE ENORMOUS ROOM, is Edward E. Cummings's remembrance of his six-months stay in a French detention center before World War I. Almost never published, this odd little book details how Cummings and another American,working as volunteer ambulance-drivers, were picked up on suspicion of treason and then held in a kind of limbo, in "The Enormous Room," with other unfortunates whose only crime was not being French, and were hence also considered traitors. The almost six months spent imprisoned under horrendous conditions left indelible memories of the immigrants Cummings met there, and also shaped his distrust for all in authority. The book may be slighly difficult for readers without a knowledge of a bit of French, but the delighful and swarmy character-descriptions that Cummings draws, should more than compensate for this. This book is eccentric, exquisitely written, and a true treat for any Cummings admirer who yearns for more insight into his life --before he was a poet, and before he was "e.e."
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By A Customer on January 31, 1997
Format: Hardcover
When I was ten, I read "In Just-" from Cummings' _Chansons Innocentes_. It changed the way I lived, thought and wrote from that moment onward. Since then, I've been a devout fan of Cummings' poetry... yet, until 1996, more than 15 years later, I'd never read any of his prose. Then a friend lent me _The Enormous Room_.

Despite what may have been said by previous critics, this is not a book about or against war. It's not a guilty diatribe of anguish and violence. Although it takes place in a french concentration camp during WW1 where atrocities are committed daily, Cummings doesn't waste words complaining. The focus and subject of this tale is the things he learned, the people he knew, the beauty he finds recollecting his experience in that place.

I read _The Enormous Room_ in one sitting, and when I'd finished it I read it again. Slowly. It's gorgeous, it's funny, it's intelligent, and it's so damned big-hearted that it makes me feel like a gnat. A very happy gnat. And that's about the highest compliment I think I've ever paid a book.

'Nuff said. Read it.
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