SELECTED PROSE by Louis Simpson


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A mixed bag of letters, memoir fragments, and essays from Jamaica-born, now American poet Simpson, winner of the 1963 Pulitzer and author of Three On the Tower: The Lives and Works of Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and William Carlos Williams and A Revolution in Taste: Studies of Dylan Thomas, Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Hath, Robert Lowell. Without employing any apparent underlying structure, Simpson begins this collection with recollections of a relatively insulated upbringing among Jamaican white society: boarding school, Latin, tennis, church, garden parties, the Help. This promising beginning is, however, interrupted by a collection of letters covering the author's experiences from 1943-45, few of which seem worthy of such isolated, prominent attention. From here the trail splits again, into a series of memoirs dealing with Simpson's experiences in WW II, and, thereafter, in a succession of ""furnished rooms"" in postwar New York. These New York episodes are among the most captivating here--battling New Yorker editorial fussiness, meeting Ginsberg and Bellow, hacking in a publishing house--but are short-lived. The remainder of the project is taken up with literary essays and ruminations bearing only nominal relation to the first half of the book, and wrapped up with a collection of random journal entries. Of the essays, Simpson's expertise on Yeats and Auden shows through, but, as elsewhere, a lack of sustained direction makes any reading here a hit-or-miss affair. Marginalia then, but large chunks of which deserve a better, more developed fate.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1989
Publisher: Paragon