John Berryman & the Thirties

E. M. Halliday, Author University of Massachusetts Press $37.5 (240p) ISBN 978-0-87023-584-9
Except for 50 letters written by Berryman to the author during their university days (which, incidentally, provide a fascinating account of the poet's rapid growth under the influence of mentor Mark Van Doren from prep school lout to intellectual), the bulk of this memoir is, unfortunately, more Halliday than Berryman. Milt Halliday was Berryman's best friend at Columbia in 1933-34a time in which the poet's inattention to his books in favor of partying nearly got him booted from the university. Halliday's nostalgic recapitulation of their sophomoric escapades is singularly unenlightening. Their regular correspondence began with Halliday's transfer to the University of Michigan and remained strong till Berryman's return from the University of Cambridge in 1938. The two friends were reunited in Ann Arbor, but it is clear that by then Berryman had outgrown the relationship. Although some of Halliday's anecdotes may be of interest to scholars as footnote material, his memoir is so trivial, pedestrian and skewed in focus (to include such matters as the loss of his own virginity, a fire at his boarding house, or the circumstances of his vasectomy) that one must conclude that, in any real sense, he hardly knew John Berryman. (December)
Reviewed on: 02/01/1988
Release date: 02/01/1988
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-87023-585-6
Open Ebook - 227 pages - 978-0-585-17880-6
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