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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Founder of modern poetry
Although on my guard, I did find the assertions and digressions of Edmund White frank and refreshing. He begins the enchantment by describing a prodigious genius who was reading and writing Latin poetry as a school-boy. He found the influence of his strict,religious and ambitious mother, who never completely abandoned him, suffocating. He had a demonic urge to break all...
Published on 2 Nov 2011 by Philip Herring

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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Slim and Unimpressing
This slim volume left me completely lost. My basic problem is in deciding who should be its audience.
If you are in love with Rimbaud you should simply stay away from this book. White does not offer anything you have not heard before - major difference from academic biographies is that he seldom indicates his authorities but for some it may be a plus: there are no...
Published on 3 Feb 2009 by Ford Ka


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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Slim and Unimpressing, 3 Feb 2009
By 
Ford Ka (Edinburgh, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This slim volume left me completely lost. My basic problem is in deciding who should be its audience.
If you are in love with Rimbaud you should simply stay away from this book. White does not offer anything you have not heard before - major difference from academic biographies is that he seldom indicates his authorities but for some it may be a plus: there are no boring footnotes. Which, however, does not indicate that it is the result of original research. It is not.
If White is fascinated with Rimbaud he fails to convey this fascination completely. The quality of translations he included is rather doubtful - unless you have a penchant for a vista translations which have little ambition beyond grasping the meaning precisely leaving the form aside (or to be described separately).
If you are in love with White... Well... Hasn't he published a novel recently? Read it instead.
My impressions were eerily similar to those White's Proust left me with - both books could be summed up in the following manner: nothing much happens, nothing much happens, he writes something which when summed up sounds quite trivial, nothing much happens, he dies, some people whose names may ring a bell remember him afterwards, thank you all dear. Plus a bibliography which fails to provide basic data for further research (as if White was painfully aware of the fact that his presentation of the subject matter can hardly make anyone interested in any further research...) in which my favourite part was "most of these books are out of print anyway" - have you ever heard of libraries, honey?
Just one example of "originality". White goes on for a while trying to decide the issue of copulation - suggesting that Rimbaud was a top only to conclude some pages further that it is just as possible that they did not practice penetration at all. Charming but if we are talking about Verlaine and Rimbaud it is perfectly clear who was the dominating force when they started writing. What they did in bed is of secondary interest as our data is slim if not outright nonexistent.
If you have never heard of Rimbaud before and your French is not exactly up for the task the only useful part is the end of bibliography when White lists English translation of his poems. If you also fell under the spell of this noisy adolescent from the Ardeness, there are decent biographies of him to be found quite easily. This one comes short both as entertainment and as scholarship so don't bother.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A broad introduction to the man and his poetry. Not for in depth study or the serious student., 3 Oct 2014
This review is from: Rimbaud: The Double Life of a Rebel (Paperback)
Strictly speaking this is not a biography of Rimbaud nor does White claim it to be. In fact he recommends the best biographies in English and French in his bibliography. He also states clearly that he is indebted for his research to Graham Robb's biography. He makes no claim to original research or insights but he does put a few of Enid Starkie's wilder claims to bed as being nothing but wild speculation or a fruit of whatever psychological theory happened to be in vogue at the time.

It is a simple introduction to the poet's life and his relationship with Verlaine drawn with broad brushstrokes. What White does however is give lots of examples of Rimbaud's poetry in context and explores some of the meanings behind the words. It is basically an art critics appraisal of Rimbaud's work without going into too much detail. So if you want a broad introduction to Rimbaud and Verlaine's troubled relationship, his poetry, and why he is held in such high regard for such a small output over four years then this is the book for you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Founder of modern poetry, 2 Nov 2011
By 
Philip Herring "vaslav" (soudley, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Rimbaud: The Double Life of a Rebel (Paperback)
Although on my guard, I did find the assertions and digressions of Edmund White frank and refreshing. He begins the enchantment by describing a prodigious genius who was reading and writing Latin poetry as a school-boy. He found the influence of his strict,religious and ambitious mother, who never completely abandoned him, suffocating. He had a demonic urge to break all constraints. He used his precocious sexuality as a weapon on Verlaine and others to destructive effect. He developed a boorish grossness in defiance of bourgeois gentility and convention. He deconstructed his individual and social self with alcohol,absinthe and hashish. On the other hand he was a passionate supporter of material progress, science,and the pseudo-sciences.He was a voracious consumer of scientific,religious,classical,popular and exotic sources. His experiments with different metres,rhythyms and schools of poetry contributed to the genesis of modern poetry.However, by the age of nineteen, he felt that his search for the utopia of the new man with a new voice had failed and he turned his back on literature forever, abhorred even by his own literary coterie. His life from 19 - 37yrs. is covered concisely and adequately in a last section, the years of compromise and grubbing. For anyone interested in the enigma of Rimbaud, this little volume is still necessary reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An introduction to the poet, 29 Aug 2011
By 
Eleanor (Oxford, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Rimbaud: The Double Life of a Rebel (Paperback)
I haven't read much Rimbaud, but hearing fascinating snippets of his life and reading about Patti Smith's enthusiastic discovery of him in Just Kids made me want to find out more. White's short biography covers Rimbaud's life from childhood to death, focusing mainly on the short four-year period in which he was writing. Biographical details are interspersed with literary analysis and a few pages are devoted to his posthumous reputation.

I loved Edmund White's biography of Proust, but for some reason this work didn't grip me as much. White quotes extensively from Rimbaud's poems, giving his own English translations, but I would have preferred the French as well to get some idea of what made made his language so electrifying. As it was, the main impression I was left with on finishing the book was of an unpleasant man who led an unhappy life. This book would also have been improved by some photographs as several interesting ones are described.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK...-ish, 24 Feb 2011
By 
Mr. J. H. Owen "film lover" (Birmingham UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rimbaud: The Double Life of a Rebel (Paperback)
This book tells the basics of Rimbaud's life.
Rather than following a chronological timelime, it jumps around a bit, which distracts. If you can afford it, buy a better, more in depth version. In the end you get what you pay for.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining read about the most difficult genius, 2 Jan 2009
By 
Eric Anderson (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This is a carefully researched and entertaining biography of the vagabond poet Rimbaud's life. Beginning with a moving personal note about what Rimbaud means to the biographer, White goes on to describe the poet's early life, literary maturation and later frustrated drive for financial success with his typically warm and engaging writer's tone of voice. Rimbaud's intelligence and extremely difficult personality are brought alive with stories of his family life, literary associations and tumultuous relationship with the poet Verlaine. The evolution of Rimbaud's poetry which seems to take place in hyper-speed is intelligently explained with examples of the poet's work and how it relates to the poet's experiences and radical artistic vision. White is also careful to disentangle some of the popular myths about this mysterious poet's life.

It is mesmerizing reading about the quickfire creation of Rimbaud's ambitious output before his total withdrawal from art and the artistic community. Passages of the poet's work are sublimely beautiful and one can't help wonder what sort of literary works he would have created in his adult life if he had kept writing. That such a young man made such an enormous impact on his early champions speaks more about the bewitching influence of adolescent gusto, particularly from such a handsome and frustrated youth, rather than the quality of his writing. Nevertheless, the enduring influence the poet had on successive generations of artists is clear.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Well written, 5 Aug 2014
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This review is from: Rimbaud: The Double Life of a Rebel (Paperback)
Easy to read, well written biography of the legendary poet
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Rimbaud: The Double Life of a Rebel
Rimbaud: The Double Life of a Rebel by Edmund White (Paperback - 1 Aug 2009)
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