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Frank Kermode: American Books, 1 April 1983

... After many vicissitudes the Library of America was launched, under the direction of Daniel Aaron, Richard Poirier and Jason Epstein, who had worked with Wilson on the original abortive project. These people and their associates raised $600,000 from the Ford Foundation and then $1.2 million from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Then they went to ...

Transcendental Criticism

David Trotter, 3 March 1988

The Renewal of Literature: Emersonian Reflections 
by Richard Poirier.
Faber, 256 pp., £14.95, March 1988, 0 571 15013 6
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... difficulty in Our Mutual Friend, is also likely to be the chief difficulty facing the reader of Richard Poirier’s ambitious and eloquent plea for the ‘renewal’ of literature and criticism through a better understanding of Emerson. Believing all may involve something close to a conversion. Believing none will do scant justice to the work of one of ...

On Douglas Crase

Matthew Bevis, 5 December 2019

... The most interesting book of first poems in many years’, Richard Howard proclaimed in 1981. James Merrill, John Hollander and John Ashbery spoke in similarly emphatic terms, while Anthony Hecht saluted an ‘extraordinarily fine’ debut and Harold Bloom hailed the arrival of a great original. ‘I think I speak for many,’ David Kalstone wrote, ‘in saying it appeared with that sense of completeness of utterance and identity that must have come with the first books of Wallace Stevens (Harmonium) and Elizabeth Bishop (North and South ...

Kick over the Scenery

Stephanie Burt: Philip K. Dick, 3 July 2008

Four Novels of the 1960s: ‘The Man in the High Castle’, ‘The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch’, ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’, ‘Ubik’ 
by Philip K. Dick.
Library of America, 830 pp., $35, May 2008, 978 1 59853 009 4
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Five Novels of the 1960s and 1970s: ‘Martian Time-Slip’, ‘Dr Bloodmoney’, ‘Now Wait for Last Year’, ‘Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said’, ‘A Scanner Darkly’ 
by Philip K. Dick.
Library of America, 1128 pp., $40, August 2008, 978 1 59853 025 4
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... That is what happened to rock music in the late 1960s, when sophisticated critics decided, as Richard Poirier put it, to start ‘learning from the Beatles’. It is what happened to comics, too, in the early 1990s, when the Pulitzer Prize committee invented an award for Art Spiegelman’s Maus. And it has happened to science fiction, where the ...

That was another planet

Frank Kermode, 8 February 1990

by Thomas Pynchon.
Secker, 385 pp., £14.95, February 1990, 0 436 39866 4
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... history of the V2 rockets in the seven-hundred-page fantasia of Gravity’s Rainbow promote, as Richard Poirier remarked in a review, ‘the persistent paranoia of all the important characters’, which ‘invests any chance detail with the power of an omen, a clue, to which, momentarily, all other details might adhere.’ The shortest of the ...


Philip Horne, 30 August 1990

Henry James and Edith Wharton: Letters 1900-1915 
edited by Lyall Powers.
Weidenfeld, 412 pp., £25, May 1990, 9780297810605
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... is perhaps what makes James, in his late Prefaces, refer to the novelist as ‘the Poet’. For Richard Poirier in A World Elsewhere, James’s concern with form marks his concentration on the mind; Edith Wharton’s ‘satisfaction with the simple and sequential ordering of events’ in the chronicle-novel reflects her sense that experience is ...

Dark and Deep

Helen Vendler, 4 July 1996

Robert Frost: A Biography 
by Jeffrey Meyers.
Constable, 424 pp., £20, May 1996, 0 09 476130 2
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Collected Poems, Prose and Plays 
by Robert Frost, edited by Richard Poirier and Mark Richardson.
Library of America, 1036 pp., $35, October 1995, 9781883011062
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... the Age, 1953), and subsequently sympathetically commented on in books by Reuben Brower (1963), Richard Poirier (1977) and William Pritchard (1984). None of these books takes a sustained inventory of Frost’s technical feats of genre, metrical means and literary revisionism, though he was very proud of his work in such respects. As he said of poetry ...


Denis Donoghue, 21 June 1984

Selected Essays 
by John Bayley.
Cambridge, 217 pp., £19.50, March 1984, 0 521 25828 6
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Collected Poems: 1941-1983 
by Michael Hamburger.
Carcanet, 383 pp., £12.95, March 1984, 9780856354977
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Poems: 1953-1983 
by Anthony Thwaite.
Secker, 201 pp., £8.95, April 1984, 0 436 52151 2
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... of a theory to be found readily enough, in several forms, as in Stevens, Empson, Blackmur, and Richard Poirier. Poirier’s A World Elsewhere is a typology of American literature consistent with the acceptance of Emerson as its prophet. Empson didn’t write a theory of American literature, but he thought James’s ...

My Heart on a Stick

Michael Robbins: The Poems of Frederick Seidel, 6 August 2009

Poems 1959-2009 
by Frederick Seidel.
Farrar, Straus, 509 pp., $40, March 2009, 978 0 374 12655 1
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... should take them at face value.’ The de rigueur response to such a claim is provided by Richard Poirier: ‘Fred’s created a character named Frederick Seidel that has little to do with who he is.’ In a review of The Cosmos Poems, Calvin Bedient obligingly clears his throat before contending with the unpleasant poetry: ‘However fictive and ...

Kermode and Theory

Hayden White, 11 October 1990

An Appetite for Poetry: Essays in Literary Interpretation 
by Frank Kermode.
Collins, 242 pp., £15, November 1989, 0 00 215388 2
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... criticism, and he aligns himself with similarly inclined critics (Hugh Kenner, John Hollander, Richard Poirier, Lionel Trilling, and above all Empson) who use theory, when they use it at all, for the most part to clear the ground for attentive reading. The phrase which serves as the title of the collection is taken from Paul Valéry’s remark about ...

Arctic Habits

Tony Tanner, 25 May 1995

Emerson: The Mind on Fire 
by Robert Richardson.
California, 668 pp., £27, June 1995, 0 520 08808 5
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... the enthusiastic re-evaluation of Emerson by Stanley Cavell, Harold Bloom and, most importantly, Richard Poirier, Emerson’s stock has probably never stood higher. He seems, temporarily, to have moved into a privileged place beyond criticism. But I wonder if that is good for him. In 1887 Henry James reviewed a Memoir of Emerson written by James Elliot ...

How not to get gored

Edward Said, 21 November 1985

The Dangerous Summer 
by Ernest Hemingway.
Hamish Hamilton, 150 pp., £9.95, June 1985, 0 241 11521 3
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... impressive. As a result, in no other literature is the writer so much a performing self, as Richard Poirier has observed, and in no other literature is such a premium placed on raw data and its virtuoso delivery. The American interest in ‘fact’ derives from the same complex of attitudes. One can see it not only in the regularly contemptuous ...

Even paranoids have enemies

Frank Kermode, 24 August 1995

F.R. Leavis: A Life in Criticism 
by Ian MacKillop.
Allen Lane, 476 pp., £25, July 1995, 0 7139 9062 7
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... long removed from the immediate circle of Leavisians: for example, Karl Miller in this country, Richard Poirier and (perhaps surprisingly) Norman Podhoretz in New York. They fanned out into their own careers, but most, even if alienated or excommunicated, freely allow that he made his mark on them. He had his own idols or ...

Hate, Greed, Lust and Doom

Sean O’Faolain, 16 April 1981

William Faulkner: His Life and Work 
by David Minter.
Johns Hopkins, 325 pp., £9.50, January 1981, 0 8018 2347 1
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... sophisticated seekers after the purely indigenous origins of American fiction, as in the work of Richard Poirier (A World Elsewhere) or R.W.B. Lewis (The American Adam). One can see how smoothly Faulkner’s concentration on one obscure corner of Mississippi fits into this regionalist-patriotic pattern. His latest biographer says on his first ...

The Unstoppable Upward

James Wolcott: ‘The Life of Saul Bellow’, 24 January 2019

The Life of Saul Bellow: Love and Strife, 1965-2005 
by Zachary Leader.
Cape, 864 pp., £35, November 2018, 978 0 224 10188 2
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... the ones that penetrated the hull, were by intellectual formidables such as the critic and editor Richard Poirier, who methodically dismantled Bellow in this paper (after a patronising observation from Atlas about Bellow’s unsure footing when he ventures into ‘the realm of ideas’, Poirier dryly ...

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