A Different Person: A Memoir

James Merrill, Author Alfred A. Knopf $25 (271p) ISBN 978-0-679-42317-1
Visiting his youth glancingly and elegantly in prose, Merrill ( Selected Poems 1946-1985 ) chooses to focus on the two and a half years he spent in Europe as a young man in his 20s, summoned to remember things past by themes that reverberated then and after: his munificent yet difficult heritage as the affluent son of ``the founder of the world's largest brokerage firm;'' the beginnings of his life as a poet; the facts of love for a gay man; the fickle, seductive flowering of adult friendships; and the needful challenge of aesthetic sensibility, gradually formed. The memoir is also filled headily with portraits of people whom Merrill knew at the time, from his passing romantic infatuations to his psychoanalyst, Dr. Detre, and also including memorable encounters with Alice Toklas and W. H. Auden. The main subject of any memoir is the search for self-knowledge, and Merrill applies a sophisticated, light touch to the story. Some will find him coy, occasionally--but that, too, is part of this well-dealt and amusing game. Photos not seen by PW. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/02/1993
Release date: 08/01/1993
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 978-0-517-15831-9
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