Randall Jarrell

William H. Pritchard, Author
William H. Pritchard, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $25 (352p) ISBN 978-0-374-24677-8
Reviewed on: 03/31/1990
Release date: 04/01/1990
Pritchard ( Frost: A Literary Life Reconsidered ) here seeks to give Jarrell (1914-1965) his due and offers a searching, spry elucidation of the poet-critic's complex character. Born in Tennessee, Jarrell was circulated among an extended family on the demise of his parents' marriage; after an abortive try at secretarial and accounting studies, he found his way to Vanderbilt University in 1932. Under the wing of such poets and critics as John Crowe Ransom, Robert Penn Warren and Allen Tate, who all taught at Vanderbilt, he published his first poems. He also developed a formidable critical acumen, exercised later in devastatingly intelligent rebuffs and appreciations of poetic peers. Plumbing Jarrell's oddly narcissistic personality (his second wife, Mary, noted that ``to be married to Randall was to be encapsulated with him''), Pritchard, though ``no single-minded admirer of Jarrell's verse,'' convincingly praises poems as ``performances, cunningly staged by an artist who knows how far to go in his rhetorical demands on a listening audience.'' Photos not seen by PW. (Apr.)
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