Richard Poirier

Richard Poirier, founding editor of Raritan, was chairman of the board of the Library of America. He died in 2009.

“[Eliot’s] lifelong sexual preoccupations and obsessions with the consequences of the sexual act did not emerge from the marriage but were only greatly intensified by it. And it is this intensification, felt in the rhythms, the visionary grandeur and abruptions in his poetry, that went on to make him one of the most culturally challenging and controversial figures in the history of Anglo-American letters.”

All My Truth: Henry James Memoirs

Richard Poirier, 25 April 2002

Published in 1913, when Henry James was 70, A Small Boy and Others is the first of three late volumes that taken together have sometimes been called the ‘autobiography’ of Henry James. The focus of A Small Boy is on the years of his infancy and boyhood up to the age of 15, and it was soon followed by the publication in 1914 of Notes of a Son and Brother, which takes him to the age...

This is the first comprehensive biography of Saul Bellow and the first to receive his co-operation over the complete, ten-year span of its writing. The author, James Atlas, whose biography of Delmore Schwartz appeared in 1977 and who is the general editor of the Penguin Lives Series, was given full access to Bellow’s letters and unpublished manuscripts and final permission to quote all...

Big Pod: How Podhoretz Dumped His Friends

Richard Poirier, 2 September 1999

This book is ostensibly about six literary figures with whom Norman Podhoretz, for 35 years the editor-in-chief of Commentary, was closely involved from the early Fifties until the early Seventies: Allen Ginsberg, Lionel and Diana Trilling, Hannah Arendt, Lillian Hellman and Norman Mailer. It was in the early years of this same period, the first five years of the Sixties, that what was often called the Family, a closely allied group of mostly New York intellectuals who published largely in Partisan Review and Commentary, came to prominence in the United States and when, as a consequence, it began also to disperse. Its members found themselves invited to write for other and much higher paying national magazines like the New Yorker, Esquire, Vogue, even Playboy. As a result, the Family’s cohesiveness was gradually disappearing as the national prestige of some of its members was markedly increasing. This was the world that Podhoretz entered in the late Fifties when he came onto the New York literary scene as a writer and editor.

In Praise of Mess: Walt Whitman

Richard Poirier, 4 June 1998

With the publication of Volumes VIII and IX, some ninety years after the appearance in 1906 of the first volume, all two and a half million words of Horace Traubel’s Walt Whitman in Camden are now in print. Altogether the volumes cover the last four years of Whitman’s life, from 1888 to 1892, and consist of nearly day by day renditions of Whitman’s conversations, correspondence, and such activities as he was still up to, along with reports of his last illnesses and lingering death. Traubel constructed this record from notes sometimes taken in the half-light of Whitman’s sickroom in the little house Whitman owned on Mickle Street in Camden, New Jersey, or jotted down later from memory, when he returned home to his wife and family or to his desk at the bank that employed him.

Dark and Deep

Helen Vendler, 4 July 1996

‘It would be hard,’ Robert Frost wrote, ‘to gather biography from poems of mine except as they were all written by the same person, out of the same general region north of...

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Grandfather Emerson

Harold Bloom, 7 April 1994

Richard Poirier, now in his middle sixties, seems to me perhaps the most eminent of our living literary critics, at least in the United States. He has a central position in contemporary American...

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Transcendental Criticism

David Trotter, 3 March 1988

‘What to believe, in the course of his reading, was Mr Boffin’s chief literary difficulty indeed; for some time he was divided in his mind between half, all, or none; at length, when he...

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