Brazeau's not-quite-biography is a compilation of oral interviews about Stevens taken from co-workers at the Hartford...

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PARTS OF A WORLD: Wallace Stevens Remembered

Brazeau's not-quite-biography is a compilation of oral interviews about Stevens taken from co-workers at the Hartford Insurance Company, where he was vice president, from various frustrated literary admirers, from academic observers, and from distant family. The un-intimacy of the relationships, however, fits the portrait repeated over and over: a very distant man, a bourgeois with a sharp tongue, a miserable husband (wife Elsie was reclusive, ignored, a social burden--with some evidence that Stevens himself had made her all this), a meddling father--and nowhere in his daily person the luminous poet his finest work shows him to be. He was, it is testified, a fine bonding lawyer, a gourmand, a drinker, a bigot (shown a picture that included poet Gwendolyn Brooks, Stevens asks his fellow 1952 NBA judges, ""Who's the coon?""), a doting uncle late in life: a man so anxiously separated-out that his portrait is all but unintelligible. Which is why Brazeau's patchwork approach finally seems appropriate, if only barely satisfying: Stevens' world of words, his marvelous talent, was a continent apart, a fabulation that hardly ever connected with life beyond its own gorgeous vocabulary. It isn't a poetry of intimacy, on the whole, nor was it particularly a life of intimacy either. Brazeau's interviewees suggest that the myth--Stevens painstakingly keeping art and his business-man's life out of each other's way, at incalculable costs and discipline--was perhaps only that, a myth. In a peculiar way, then, revelatory.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1983

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1983

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