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Conrad Aiken: Poet of White Horse Vale

Conrad Aiken: Poet of White Horse Vale

by Butscher

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Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In the first installment of a projected two-volume psychobiography, poet and critic Butscher ( Sylvia Plath ) examines the youth and early maturity of a leading American writer (1889-1973): Aiken's early childhood in Savannah, Ga., and his move to Massachusetts at the age of 11, after his insane father shot and killed his wife and himself; his years at Harvard, where he was a friend of T. S. Eliot; his involvements with Ezra Pound, Amy Lowell, John Gould Fletcher and Harriet Monroe; his first love affairs; and his deep-rooted mother complex, which petrified into a persistent Don Juan syndrome characterized by the sadistic urge to punish women. Dreams and their hidden wellsprings exerted a hypnotic power over Aiken, and he developed an interest in psychoanalytic theoryalso manifested in Butscher's approach to Aiken's life and poetry. The poet's obsession with the psyche is reflected in the long verse Ushant ``a revised history of individual consciousness on the trail of an ambitious art that would illuminate and illustrate mankind's mental evolution, thus legitimizing the stance of its creator as subject.'' Photos not seen by PW. (August)
Library Journal - Library Journal
In this first of a projected two-volume biography, Butscher focuses on the years 18891925, concerning himself especially with the young Aiken's conscious and unconscious struggles to absorb the horrific trauma of his father's murder of his mother and subsequent suicide. Butscher's tendency is to view Aiken's writing as both the prime reflection and the central arena of those struggles, relegating schooling, friendships, marriage, dalliances, etc. to a somewhat secondary or validating positionperhaps justifiably, for Aiken consistently reserved the most intense of his energies for his pen. Though somewhat reductive and heavy-handed, this psychological study is a conscientious and often illuminating look at a significant writer who has been a little neglected.Earl Rovit, City Coll., CUNY

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University of Georgia Press
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