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The Imperfect Life of T. S. Eliot Paperback – 1 Nov 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Virago (1 Nov. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844088936
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844088935
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 4.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 334,799 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Book Description

The most authoritative life of Eliot ever written, acclaimed biographer Lyndall Gordon brings into focus a flawed yet brilliant man.

From the Back Cover

T. S. Eliot once spoke of a lifetime burning in every moment. He had the mind to conceive a perfect life, and he also had the honesty to admit he could not meet it.

'He was a man of extremes whose deep flaws and high virtues were interfused,' writes Lyndall Gordon in this perceptive and innovative biography of the great poet. She brilliantly explores his poetry, drama and essays in relationship to the four quite different women in his life and to his time in America and England. The Imperfect Life of T.S. Eliot follows the trials of a searcher whose flaws and doubts speak to all of us whose lives are imperfect.

'Writing with judicious sympathy and an intimate knowledge of his poetry and plays, Ms Gordon artfully moves back and forth between the life and the work, creating a subtle portrait of Eliot as a Jamesian hero torn between memory and desire, worldly happiness and a more rarefied world of the spirit' Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

'Always revealing and interesting' Stephen Spender

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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have only read a few chapters but the incredible detail only goes to illuminate and explain the complexity of Eliot as a person which is manifestly obvious in his poetry. He didn't want people to know about his life, just his work, but the two are inseparable. This book is quite a revelation. No wonder he wanted to keep his imperfect life a secret.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this after attending a lecture by Lyndall Gorden at the 2013 T S Eliot Festival at Little Gidding. She is a very impressive speaker and her biography I found to be very insightful about a complex man.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Gordon gives the reader a lengthy but insightful perspective on understanding Eliot's achievement. For her his personality can only be understood by reference to the whole body of his poetry.
She interprets Eliot as striving towards modern sainthood. A person who hid his true spiritual inner self behind a mask of congeniality and English gentlemanly manners.
But saints can be hard to live with. He spent most of his lifetime regretting an impulsive marriage, unable to console his first wife or to acknowledge her illness. He was incapable of visiting her in the asylum where she had been locked away. He idealised another woman but when the opportunity finally arrived found he had no real desire to consummate the relationship. He finally came to a happy second marriage to a much younger woman who was a disciple as much as a wife.
Gordon is convincing in showing us how his poetry was influenced by these relationships. She explains though how it ultimately transcended them, in a way that speaks to poetry lovers for all time not just to Eliot's contemporaries.
The book makes no concessions to the general reader; getting to grips with it involves having to learn about the literature of New England and Puritan America. But if the reader perseveres they will get a valuable insight into the mindset behind some of the greatest literature of the twentieth century.
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Format: Paperback
...and, glory be, what a wonderful book it is. Prof Gordon is a penetrating, fascinating and infinitely helpful guide to this tremendous figure, so appalling most of the time as a man, so endlessly rewarding as a poet. Perhaps a shame to call it the imperfect life of...which would be suitable for virtually everyone: what perfect life would ever produce poetry worth reading? Here, she portrays him mainly in relation to the three most important women in his life - plus the fourth who nips in briskly at the last moment just in time to, ah, safeguard his heritage, so to speak - and the suffering they underwent to various degrees, poor loves - only the bottomless generosity of the female heart can explain a desire to offer it to such a pernickety and unpromising recipient. The descriptions of his composition of his two era-warping masterpieces are seriously absorbing, so by the time he's flexing his muscles to get to grips with Little Gidding it's rather like reading a thriller: have Xanax within easy reach. All in all, brilliantly readable, beautifully written, absolutely recommended.
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