on 28 March 2014
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.
on 8 March 2015
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.
on 26 October 2013
...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.
on 21 November 2013
Greatly enjoyed and gave me some real insights into a man I new little about.
I had read a book about his first wife, but that made him seem to me a rather dark character. Also some insights into his poetry, I'll be looking to buy some books of his poetry in the near future.