Review: “Memoirs,” by Robert Lowell

Lowell may have lived a humorous and good-natured life, but he rarely showed it in his work. But here, his portraits — Old Salt the drinker, friend of his naval-era father, Christian Science socialite, overbearing mother Tart Rejander — are artful and feisty, and what we usually see in Lowell. At times they remind us of the comedies of Congreve or Sheridan. Lowell shows an ear for speaking in this example, but is nowhere to be seen in his often congealed lead-like poetry. Then there seemed to be a ruthlessly wilting portrayal of his weak and procrastinating father, a familial embarrassment. I feel

If Lowell was almost as cruel in his rather innocent and flattering portraits of his literary mentors, friends, and epigones, then the “Life Among Writers” section of “Memoirs” is of immeasurably interesting interest. will be (For comparison, consider the gloriously awkward portraits of Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Wyndham Lewis in Hemingway’s The Travelable Feast.

Aside from a chapter called “91 Revere Street,” “My Autobiography,” which appeared in “Life Studies,” languished in Lowell’s desk drawer for decades, never published or read, until Giroud made another two appearances. I extracted one chapter and summarized it in an essay. In “Collected Prose”. It deserves a larger audience. All in all, My Autobiography is nothing short of a gem in the memoir genre. As time goes on, you might wonder if it will be the work Lowell is best remembered for.

It had an interesting origin. While at Payne Whitney, Lowell engaged in “talk therapy” sessions with a psychoanalyst. In the process, I experienced the release of the emotions associated with the memory. Upon leaving the clinic in 1954 after an extended stay, he immediately began work on “My Autobiography”, and with his then-wife Elizabeth Hardwicke, just one block from 91 Revere Street. I moved to a house a block away. To better inspire these memories of childhood. His groundbreaking book, Life Studies, considered by many to be his masterpiece, was published five years later and met with praise and, in some ways, disappointment. American poetry will never be the same.

August Kleinzahler is the author of more than ten books of poetry and the memoir Cutty, One Rock.

Memoire, Robert Lowell | | WahooArt.com Edited by Steven Gould Axelrod and Grzegorz Kosc. Page 387 | Farrar, Strauss & Giroud | $40

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