THE SERAGLIO by James Merrill


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Reissue of an early novel by the famous poet, published in 1957 and out of print since shortly afterward. At the time of its publication, Kirkus spoke of the book as ""An inconclusive interval with the Tannings, a family of considerable wealth,"" and ended by saying that ""The author views his utterly useless characters at a distance--and it is a specious world indeed, none the more attractive for its affectation of naughtiness."" In passing, Kirkus mentioned the character of Francis, who, ""having attempted suicide, then drifts into the homosexual bohemia of Greenwich village."" It can now be said that Francis' ""suicide"" attempt is an act of self-emasculation in his bath (""The blade was very sharp: something began easily to separate, then to resist, tougher than a thong of leather""). In a preface to the new edition, Merrill provides some history of the composition, and some personal history in its relation to the novel. Of the bath scene, he explains: ""Freely granting its Grand Guignol aspect, I'll stand by the scene to this day. The victim after all is only a character in a book.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Atheneum