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Robert Frost: A Life Paperback – March 15, 2000
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“A pleasure to read, combining penetrating commentary on the poetry and good illustrative anecdotes. Mr. Parini has brought Frost more sharply into focus.” ―Christopher LehmanHaupt, The New York Times
“Inspired and always humanizing, Parini sympathetically illuminates the stunning contradictions embedded in Frost's personality, work, and life.” ―Susan Miron, The Miami Herald
About the Author
Jay Parini, a poet, novelist, and biographer, is Axinn Professor of English at Middlebury College. His books include The Last Station, John Steinbeck, and Benjamin's Crossing. He lives in Middlebury, Vermont.
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It should be said that Parini's reading of Frost is sympathetic and, as he notes in an afterword entitled "Frost and his biographers," is consciously intended as a corrective to earlier biographies. Parini remarks that Frost "has generally not been well served by his biographers." In particular, this Life is a continuing reply to the strikingly (many think perversely) hostile three-volume literary biography by Lawrance Thompson. There is no doubt that Frost felt and showed a compelling need to be the center of all attention, certainly in his art, and often in his personal life. But where Thompson sees a vain and often cruel "monster," Parini finds a "passionate, head-strong man who believed deeply in his own vision" --- a man who both loved and exemplified paradox, but who also resolutely and nobly pursued the meaning of life in language with a rare genius. It is not that Parini downplays Frost's vulnerabilities or faults, but rather that he finds a more complex and sympathetic character and purpose. For my part, I rather prefer a biographer who recognizes failings, but ultimately likes and appreciates his subject, as well.
In short, an excellent study of the man and poet, which also benefits from a close and perceptive reading of many of Frost's works. I am sure that my own future reading of Frost's poetry will be richer for reading Parini's "Life."
You will walk next to this literary icon on his daily [country] searches for words and subjects for his poems. You will travel across the country and sit in the front row of the auditorium where Frost is giving a lecture/reading of his and other poet's poems. Then you will board a ocean liner and travel to other countries where he is accepted as America's poet.
You will also feel the different tiers of pain which threatened to break the man's sanity, which wasn't strong to begin with.
A good read I am happy I chose this bio from many others. Bobby Brandt
I remember thinking the image of this short, stocky white-haired old man was as close to a wood nymph as I would ever come. Later, I was to learn that Frost lead anything but a simple life. Biographer drawing on this image, often sensationalized the details of his life at the expense of the precious poetry he created.
Jay Parini, the Axinn Professor of English at Middlebury College, does not travel that path. Rather, he provides his readers with insight into how Frost lived day-to-day, poem to poem. He animates Frost's daily struggles with depression, anxiety, self-doubt and confusion. The poet's family life was not happy; he experienced bad luck with his children. Yet, he exhibited tremendous force of will, love for his children and dedication to creating a lasting body of creative work.
Unlike Frost previous biographers, Parini skillfully weaves the details of the poet's life with poetry he created. Frost's desire to "lodge a few poems where they can't be gotten rid of easily" is woven into a picture of an artist attempting to rescue his sanity by creating what he called a "momentary stay against confusion."
For me, reading Frost's poetry is a labor of love; reading Parini's biography is like reliving a best friend's life. This biographical study offers an unusual glimpse into the life, poetry and times of Robert Frost, a man who ranks as one of the world's greatest poets.
Frost's character,demeanor, personal and professional life and work are informatively and aptly weaved together in this in-depth study of one of our nation's best representative poets. The author's sweeping articulate prose captures the artistic and personal sensibilities that any reader can appreciate and at the same time satisfies readers who delve into the art of poetry themselves. Most rewardingly special is that this work is both biographical and pedagogical as if it was from Frost himself;wherein a plethora of Frost's letters and lectures are explored notwithstanding the myriad comments by the letters and books of his acquaintances, friends, publishers, and past biographers.
One should read the best supporting and critical customer reviews at Amazon to gain the breath and accomplishment of this book.
Although without omission by Parini, I would have appreciated more extant personal written correspondence by Frost to and by his children given by the author in order to further glean the certain underlying familial dysfunction that existed.
Frost occupies a credible place in the pantheon of American poetry. Parini has rekindled this manner of man and his achievements for today and future generations.
Top international reviews
Parini was very conscious as he wrote his book of a need he felt to demolish Lawrance Thompson's waspish view of Frost in his official biography. There are frequent references to Thompson throughout the book. The general reader might see this running 'debate' as a distraction from the main theme, but it helps to bring home how Frost (like many creative artists) was a figure of some controversy throughout his life. Ultimately, Parini's book brings us 'up close and personal' with one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century. It is an illuminating and deeply moving experience.