"Something Urgent I Have to Say to You": The Life and Works of William Carlos Williams

Herbert Leibowitz. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $35 (528p) ISBN 978-0-374-11329-2
William Carlos Williams was an uneven figure: controversial as a modernist seeking a plainer American idiom; a trusted physician to untold women of Rutherford, N.J., yet a flagrant philanderer who somehow remained married for 50 years; an artist belonging to no school, imagist or otherwise, who is regarded, in the words of one poet, as "a dumb ox." He was one of the few modernist champions of liberal ideals. This is likewise an uneven biography. Leibowitz supplements Paul Mariani's towering work of 30 years ago, but he does not supersede it. His title is taken from one of Williams's greatest poems, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower," and indicates how the author of Kora in Hell, In the American Grain, and other masterpieces of disheveled elegance sought to confess and justify his actual and imaginative lives to his wife, Floss, as well as to all readers. Leibowitz is no apologist, but he does cut Williams considerable slack, and the book circles round Williams's life by seeking it through liberal quotes from his work. With decidedly mixed success, the book is an uneasy attempt at mingling psychobiography with literary criticism. Photos. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 08/01/2011
Release date: 11/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 528 pages - 978-1-4668-0647-4
Paperback - 528 pages - 978-0-374-53350-2
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