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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worthy tribute
If all you know of Edith Sitwell is a plumby voice on a recording of Facade or the arresting portrait by Wyndham Lewis then buy this book. Sitwell is a fascinating character, and Greene is well established as the editor of her letters and critic of the English literary scene in this period, and writes with authority and wit.
Greene argues that Sitwell has been...
Published on 26 Feb 2011 by Nicktomjoe

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17 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dud Poet Society
Avant Garde Poet? English Genius? Richard Greene tries very hard to convince us that Edith Sitwell was just these - or at least that she should be regarded as the great poet she liked to think and, more particularly, be thought she was. Regrettably he fails.

As a North American academic amply funded by institutions to plough through the various Sitwell and...
Published on 4 Mar 2011 by Andrew Davis


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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worthy tribute, 26 Feb 2011
If all you know of Edith Sitwell is a plumby voice on a recording of Facade or the arresting portrait by Wyndham Lewis then buy this book. Sitwell is a fascinating character, and Greene is well established as the editor of her letters and critic of the English literary scene in this period, and writes with authority and wit.
Greene argues that Sitwell has been neglected, perhaps overshadowed by her own persona, and this detailed and scholarly (and entertaining and well-paced)work goes some way to restoring her profile. But this is not a book simply to crusade for her restitution; Greene, whose edition of Graham Greene's letters were warmly received, is a good writer: insightful, engaging and with a fine style.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars avant garde poet, 17 May 2011
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Rollo (Isle of Wight England) - See all my reviews
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I found the book a very informative narrative about an extreemly enigmatic and intriging woman.The author`s attempt to explain Edith Sitwell by family and friends letters and diary comments has only begun to lift the veil to this complex woman.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Literary heroine; expert biographer, 17 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Edith Sitwell: Avant garde poet, English genius (Paperback)
The Ancient Mariner is endowed with the phrase `He prayeth best, who lovest best.' Equally truthful this reviewer attests, is he writeth best who lovest best. Astonishingly Richard Greene's absorbing biography is the tops, and succeeds despite the fact that Edith Sitwell just wasn't very loveable and on the personal level he's a bit matter-of-fact and could have dug deeper into her loves and sorrows. But he does give Sitwell her just deserts. He censures and praises objectively. He upholds her where support is deserved, as where he defends her gallantly from a particularly misogynistic attack from the poet Geoffrey Grigson. He shows how she bravely overcame setbacks to become one of the foremost poets of the twentieth century in a milieu that was still a man's world, in a book that gets better and better as one reads on.

One does wonder though whether he should have assigned more of Sitwell's letters to the notes, and freed more space to develop his own themes; and why footnotes haven't been used for some of the peripheral characters not profiled in the text. And here and there the outcomes of latent dispositions are frustratingly unexplained, such as a clarification of Rudolf Steiner's `idea of awakening from a mineral sleep.'

There's no doubt that Sitwell had some unpleasant traits: she had an acid tongue and quarrelled regularly; she was stiff and starchy; and she could be snobbish and spiteful even with her own close friends. For instance Greene mentions that she fell out with Nancy Cunard and subsequently hated her; no wonder, for the alluring Nancy had the beauty and social grace Sitwell lacked herself. Ironically when promiscuous Chilean writer Alvaro de Guevara fell in love with Nancy (as men were wont to do) Sitwell lost a potential lover that would have brought her nothing but trouble.

On the other hand she could be kind and considerate. She cared devotedly for Helen Rootham with whom she lived for many years, nursing her friend through cancer up to her death, although later she had to boast about her goodness in a letter to the Russian poet Pavel Tchelitchew. She cared for Helen's sister Evelyn too. During the Second World War when Evelyn was marooned in Paris she sent her hard earned money. Sitwell suffered unrequited love for Tchelitchew, but curiously her poetic genius is absent from her letters to him given in the biography, save one and that's not an expression of love (p338). She must surely have applied it in others. She worked devotedly to promote the next generation of poets, not the least Wilfred Owen. Generous too in her praise of worthy contemporaries, this trait manifests itself in the review she wrote of the Canadian poet Northrop Frye which induced a similarly laudatory reply.

So much for Sitwell's personality. Greene really gets going when he's assessing the poet's works and his enthusiasm is infectious. In the prologue she's `a writer who matters enormously,' and he goes on to promise an evaluation of her work. He fulfils it and he's at his best here, with a deft touch when it comes to extracting evocative passages from Sitwell's works. She produced poems of intense feeling, sometimes overreaching in her passion in poems subtly rhythmic and musical. Her prose can ascend into the sublime; consider this extract from I Live Under a Black Sun, set in the Great War where the lives of millions of young men of both sides were about to be sacrificed for national aggrandisement. `For there were plans to be made for to-morrow and the days to follow.........But in the darkness under the trees in the great cities, the young girls held the hands of dead men, pressed lips to lips that were already cold. For the two nations that alone inhabit the earth , the rich and the poor, walking to their death in opposed hordes, had found the only force that could bind them together, a cannibalistic greed, hatred, and fear.'

Richard Greene wrote on page six `Her conversation and her letters ring with an anarchic laughter, which will be heard in the later chapters of this book.' They are.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Who is Edith Sitwell?, 22 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Edith Sitwell: Avant garde poet, English genius (Paperback)
Well researched and comprehensive life of Edith Sitwell. An excellent introduction to a lesser known 20th century poet. I have enjoyed the book greatly and would recommend it to other poetry and literature fans.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Edith Sitwell: Avant garde poet, 3 Feb 2013
By 
Mr. John A. Ferguson "JFerg" (Northumberland UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Edith Sitwell: Avant garde poet, English genius (Paperback)
Speedy service. Would recommend this interesting book. Fills in many details of Dame Edith's life. Written by a great admirer of her work even though others would not place her in the genius category.
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17 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dud Poet Society, 4 Mar 2011
By 
Andrew Davis (London, England) - See all my reviews
Avant Garde Poet? English Genius? Richard Greene tries very hard to convince us that Edith Sitwell was just these - or at least that she should be regarded as the great poet she liked to think and, more particularly, be thought she was. Regrettably he fails.

As a North American academic amply funded by institutions to plough through the various Sitwell and related archives which now reside after purchase almost entirely in US and Canadian universities, Greene has certainly done just that job. Fourteen years ago he produced a volume of Edith's correspondence and now he tramps remorselessly through her often over-written poetry while largely ignoring her much underrated prose.

Moreover the biography that he now presents is as seemingly bloodless as the washed-out, etoilated features of its subject and there is little in his own text of the real verve and colour of the family, literary and finally celebrity intrigue or battles with which Edith was surrounded from her childhood - and which might, if we had had it, just have persuaded us that she was what he claims.

Much of the trouble is that Greene appears to have spent little time, apart from some phone calls and internet searches, anywhere else but in American archives. He displays little interest in or understanding of the places and people in England and Europe which shaped Edith and in which she lived until her late 70s. For example, he says rightly that she and her brothers made up most of their complaints about their father, Sir George, but does not say why or provide any considered analysis of her father, who actually was as good a prose writer as any of his children and who lived until Edith was 56, or of the family's two extraordinary castles, mock and real, at Renishaw and Montegufoni.

Certainly Greene displays a disturbing lack of familiarity with English social idiom and vocabulary that a good editor should have weeded out along with too, too many repeats of the same anecdotes on different pages. One story - about Edith asking what male homosexuals actually did to each other and not being told - even appears three time. Otherwise there is poor fact or relationship-checking, the index is particularly sloppy and, though this edition may be intended to be travel directly to North America, the text with its arch asides which might best have been confined to footnotes is couched in American English.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an intemate life history of Edith Sitwell, 7 April 2011
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this book is the definative of Dame Edith & her life.
from early troumers of her young life, endevouring to be "Herself" through family dissatisfaction .
Her Genius shines through the pages.
The book enlightens her thoughts on poetry and how she evolved with sound words.
A quite fascinating book well worth obtaining into the life of this 20th century poet and the Bloomsbury sect.
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Edith Sitwell: Avant garde poet, English genius
Edith Sitwell: Avant garde poet, English genius by Richard Greene (Paperback - 1 Mar 2012)
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