THE GIFT by Hilda (H.D.) Doolittle


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It's questionable whether H.D.'s reputation is really enhanced by the release of her lesser, unpublished prose works, whose quality is wildly even. This novelized memoir, written during the Blitz in WW II London, deals with the child Hilda's most tender remembrances--and thus leaves out all of the psychological vertigo captured in the early sections of HERmione (published last year), which covered much the same material and then went on to concentrate on Hilda's budding relationship with Ezra Pound. Among the memories preserved here: two houses--one in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the other a country place outside of Philadelphia; the fascination with grandfather Papalie's microscope; making Christmas ornaments; the steady obscurity of Hilda's mother's religion (more fully explored in HERmione); the even more mysterious ""concussion"" which her father, bloody-faced, arrives home with one evening. And H.D.'s style does sometimes replicate a child's thought process: ""That was how it was. Little Eva was really in a book, yet Little Eva was there on stage and we saw her die, just like the book, Aunt Bella said, though we hadn't read it."" But, for the most part, the prose is that of faux naif surge and recapitulation--the sort of stuff a high-school literary magazine might trade heavily in; nowhere does it reach the strangely effective poetic heights occasionally achieved in HERmione. And there's virtually nothing here to suggest any fictional shaping: most of it reads as a delicate memoir--untransformed. For H.D. scholars, then, there may be a few details to add to the files, along with an introduction by H.D.'s daughter, Perdita Schaffner. Other readers, even passionate Pound-ists, will find little of interest.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1982
ISBN: 0811208540
Publisher: New Directions