by John Tytell ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 4, 1987
Artistic genius and social responsibility have frequently come in conflict throughout the centuries. Think of Caravaggio, of Villon, of Oscar Wilde. Seldom, however, has the confrontation been as dramatic as in the life of Ezra Pound, told here in a fascinating if somewhat turgidly written account by Tytell (English/Queens College). Pound's progress from one of this century's most acclaimed literary innovators, and perhaps its most perceptive proselytizer of modern English verse, to the reviled yet still-defiant asylum inmate accused of treasonous support of America's fascist enemies in WW II makes for a compelling tale of cultural sensitivity and political wrongheadedness. Tytell, as editor of Literature and Psychology, is predictably expert at tracing the origins and development of the megalomania that accounted in large measure for Pound's irrational and eventually self-destructive behavior. Particularly revealing is the part that Pound's ancestral background--early Anglo-Saxon settlers and legislators--played in fostering his sense of racial superiority and in what he later admitted was ""that stupid suburban prejudice of anti-Semitism."" Here, the author is convincingly evenhanded in his arguments. Tytell does err occasionally, however, on minor details. He has, for example, Pound being taken as a child to view Connecticut's Charter Oak, a tree that blew down 30 years before Pound was born. He also apparently mistakes Unity Mitford for Oswald Mosley's sister when she was in fact his sister-in-law. He further states that Mitford killed herself in 1939, though her suicide attempt at that time was unsuccessful and she survived, though an invalid, until 1948. For the most part, however, this is a worthy addition to the already considerable body of Poundiana, one sure to be read with enjoyment by anyone concerned with the literary and political turmoil of the past 100 years.
Pub Date: Sept. 4, 1987
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1987
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