Poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892), raised by a blunt, taciturn father who failed as a housebuilder and by a penny-pinching, barely literate mother, identified with working-class culture as he pursued a job-hopping, insecure career as printer, schoolteacher and journalist. A New Yorker, he projected his inner demons into gory, sensationalistic fiction, then turned to bitter political invective and slashing political verse before blossoming as the democratic populist bard of Leaves of Grass. In an engrossing biographical study that roots Whitman firmly in his time and makes him more relvant to ours, Reynolds (Beneath the American Renaissance) investigates and celebrates a poet of rapidly urbanizing America, of women's equality, of sexual energy and of a ``physical spirituality'' that yoked the mundane and the mystical. Reynolds balances the familiar image of the visionary optimist against the disillusioned social critic who became increasingly pessimistic about an American society rife with corruption, class division and spiritual emptiness. Illustrated. BOMC, QPB and History Book Club selections. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/27/1995 Release date: 03/01/1995 Genre: Nonfiction
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