BERRYMAN'S SHAKESPEARE

ESSAYS, LETTERS, AND OTHER WRITINGS

The poet’s lifelong study of Shakespeare yields a stimulating centerpiece series of lectures, surrounded by assorted intriguing, maddeningly incomplete projects. Shortly before Berryman’s suicide, his old college mentor, noted Shakespearean scholar Mark Van Doren, wrote a teasing letter about how his former student would never finish his latest book on the Bard. Berryman had planned various projects throughout his career: on the identity of the Sonnets dedicatee, Mr. W.H.; Shakespeare’s comprehensive worldview; the correct text of King Lear; and Shakespeare’s life. Although he steeped himself in Elizabethan studies, firsthand sources, and Shakespeare’s canon (in various versions), only his very popular series of lectures reached completion, which he then adapted to undergraduate and popular audiences as needed, and which Berryman biographer John Haffenden has at last collected along with his published essays and other projects’ literary remains. At his best in the lectures, Berryman vivified them with his own poetic experience and close academic scrutiny, most successfully in “Shakespeare at Thirty,” a brilliant combination of biographical insight and textual scholarship of the poet-playwright at the uncertain outset of his career. Berryman’s attention to the problematic composition and apprentice imagination of early plays, from King John to Two Gentlemen of Verona, is likewise revealingly multifold. Later, while convincingly pointing to a deep spiritual crisis on Shakespeare’s part, he flounders a bit in the depths, particularly in Hamlet’s Oedipal complex and suicidal impulses—familiar problems for Berryman. His essays, by contrast, are mostly meant for an academic audience (i.e. textual critics), with their insights embedded firmly in dense scholarship. To show the human side of this donnish delving, Haffenden also includes Berryman’s correspondence while working on Lear, like a restorer trying to clean an Old Master, only to be beaten out by the unexpected publication of a similar, less rigorous work in England. Graded an “I” for incomplete, but comparable in perspicacity with, say, Helen Vendler’s and Harold Bloom’s recent Bardolatry.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-374-11205-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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