ALLEN TATE: A Recollection by Walter Sullivan

ALLEN TATE: A Recollection

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So few are the telling anecdotes in this memoir of the distinguished Fugitive poet and critic, and so superficial is Sullivan's analysis of Tate's character, that it's difficult to see what purpose his rambling narrative serves. One thing is certain: Vanderbilt English prof. Sullivan can't stand Tate's third and final wife. The former nun and student of Tate's at U. of Minn., Helen Heinz, over 30 years younger than her 65-year-old spouse, hectored him throughout his years of decline and up until his death in 1979. Unliterary and obsessed by money--or Tate's apparent lack of it--Helen even destroyed some of his friendships, coming between him and his age-old fellow Agrarian, Andrew Lytle, novelist and editor of The Sewanee Review. Though Sullivan first met Tate when the latter was still married to novelist Caroline Gordon, he spent little time with him until Tate's return to Tennessee as an old man. For his part, Tate was a ""loveable monster,"" as one friend calls him, and there's plenty here to support that. Sullivan's frankness allows him to dwell on Tate's promiscuity, including one night of extramarital activity Sullivan heard from the next room. Where Sullivan might be expected to provide the most insight--on Tate as teacher, editor, fellow MLA panelist and lecturer--he proves the weakest. Helen, who suffered greatly at the accidental death of her one-year-old son by Tate (one of three he proudly fathered in old age), endures the final insult after his death--Sullivan testifies to her greed as a literary executor, asking great sums for the rights to reprint Tate's work. Surprisingly disagreeable stuff from a second-generation Fugitive who seems to be settling some scores few readers will care about.

Pub Date: Nov. 4th, 1988
Publisher: Louisiana State Univ. Press