A graceful, sympathetic biography of an innovative American poet.

THE BEAUTY OF LIVING

E.E. CUMMINGS IN THE GREAT WAR

How outrage over brutality and violence informed a well-known poet's work.

British literary scholar Rosenblitt creates a perceptive, captivating portrait of the modernist Edward Estlin Cummings (1894-1962), focusing on his early years and experience during World War I. Cummings, she argues persuasively, “remained a war poet until the end of his life. His sympathy with the smallest of creatures, and the beauty that he saw in the world, come out of the destruction that he saw during the war.” Cummings grew up in Massachusetts; his father, minister of Boston’s progressive South Congregational Church, was socially liberal but, within his family, “deeply authoritarian,” generating in his son a “suppressed rage and sense of failure” that led, increasingly, to personal and literary rebellion. At Harvard, cummings was drawn to “Decadence, classicism, Futurism, and poetry.” When war broke out, he volunteered as an ambulance driver in France, a decision that felt willful yet still one that his father would approve. “It was defiance without actual defiance,” Rosenblitt observes. Once in Paris, logistical problems left him and his friend William Brown at large for a month while they waited to be processed. During that time, he fell in love with Marie Louise Lallemand, a prostitute, which Rosenblitt characterizes as a deeply profound relationship. Cummings “clung to his love” for her “because to him she embodied everything about beauty and tragic nobility that would seem to give some romanticized meaning to war and death.” Shortly after beginning their service as ambulance drivers, on the basis of ill-considered letters, cummings and Brown were arrested for being German sympathizers. Through his father’s vociferous efforts, cummings was released after 3 months of imprisonment, an experience he chronicled in visceral detail in The Enormous Room. Besides insightful analyses of cummings’ poetry, Rosenblitt presents him as an accomplished artist, with 74 pieces at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A graceful, sympathetic biography of an innovative American poet. (16 pages of illustrations)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-393-24696-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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