James Merrill's Apocalypseby Timothy Materer
The first book to cover this major American writer's complete career, James Merrill's Apocalypse is at once a sophisticated work of criticism and an inviting introduction to Merrill's poetry and fiction. Timothy Materer observes that, while Merrill gained fame as a creator of finely crafted lyric poems, he was obsessed with the violence of the modern era and with the threatening reality that underlies everyday experience--themes found throughout his work. Merrill, winner of the National Book Award, Bollingen Prize, Pulitzer Prize, and National Book Critics Award, was a longtime resident of Connecticut who also lived in Athens, Greece, and Key West, Florida. He died in Tucson, Arizona, in 1995.
Materer interprets Merrill's body of work from the perspective of his epic, The Changing Light at Sandover, and shows that in his earliest poems and in the volumes preceding The Changing Light, Merrill repeatedly expressed his fear of nuclear holocaust and his sense that some momentous revelation was near at hand. Materer demonstrates how apocalyptic motifs continued to inspire the works Late Settings, The Inner Room, and A Scattering of Salts. In these final volumes, Merrill characterizes himself as "waiting companionably for kingdom come."
James Merrill's Apocalypse is the first book to treat systematically the autobiographical novels, The Seraglio and The (Diblos) Notebook, in which Materer perceives the genesis of Merrill's themes. Making extensive use of the collection of the poet's letters, journals, and papers at Washington University, Materer's appealing and revelatory volume illuminates James Merrill's secure place in American letters at the turn of the century.
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