14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Blissful biography of much-loved US poet,
This review is from: E.E. Cummings: A Biography (Hardcover)
Before reading this great slab of a book, I had little idea of who E.E. Cummings was, besides knowing he had an unconventional attitude towards punctuation. Thankfully, Sawyer-Laucanno manages to shed much light on the poet and his work in a way which is both accessible to newcomers and meaningful to more seasoned Cummings enthusiasts.
In particular, I liked the way in which the author juggles so many competing demands. He had access to a wealth of archive material and Cummings had a long and eventful life. Yet S-L manages to give play to all aspects of Cummings' activities whilst maintaining the pace and flow of his narrative.
I especially appreciated the almost equal weight given to critiquing Cummings' work as opposed to describing his life. An analysis of how "Buffalo Bill's defunct" came into being, based on early drafts of the poem, gives a particularly rare and precious glimpse of how a fully-formed poem is grown from a few choice phrases.
Another dilemma which L-S addresses, is the fact that Cummings was an enthusiastic and successful painter. It would have been easy to overlook or underplay this aspect but here the paintings are seen as an integral part of Cummings' artistic achievement.
I spotted one or two faults. I don't think Dylan Thomas would relish being called an English poet - as opposed to a Welsh one -and I noticed a misplaced bracket (horror!) on p.533.
I think E.E. Cummings would have appreciated the way this biography manages to find space for a number of small anecdotes aside from the great sweep of the life story. For example, I loved the description of the humming birds bobbing goodbye before migrating south from Joy Farm. This was both heart-warming and highlighted Cummings' love of natural history.
Overall, I found "E.E. Cummings: A biography" to be absolutely compelling. At first daunted by its length I soon found myself regretting it was so soon coming to an end. Christopher Sawyer-Laucanno more than meets the challenge of enlightening us about Cummings' life. He is no mean story-teller and this work is a masterful achievement.