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Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay (2001)

by Nancy Milford

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1,7082510,139 (4)83
"If F. Scott Fitzgerald was the hero of the Jazz Age, Edna St. Vincent Millay, as audacious in her love affairs as she was in her art, was its heroine. She embodied, in her reckless fancy, the spirit of the New Woman, and gave America its voice." "The first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, Millay was dazzling in the performance of her self. Her voice was an instrument of seduction, and her impact on crowds, and on men, was legendary. Young women styled themselves in her image - fairylike, taunting, free. Yet beneath her studied act, all was not well." "Nancy Milford was given exclusive access to Millay's papers, and what she found was an unimaginable treasure. Hundreds of letters flew back and forth between the three sisters and their mother - and Millay kept the most intimate diary, one whose ruthless honesty brings to mind the journals of Sylvia Plath."--Jacket.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
Fascinating and very readable biography. ( )
  lschiff | Sep 24, 2023 |
After stumbling across Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem Renescence in an anthology in school I've been a fan of her poetry. This was an excellent biography of one of America's best-loved poets and a look at the wild side of life in the twenties. Milford did extensive research and includes a lot of poetry and letters in the book. ( )
  auldhouse | Sep 30, 2021 |
Nancy Milford captured the family of emotions that surrounded Millay . ( )
  Chrissylou62 | Aug 1, 2020 |
The author seems to have tip-toed through a minefield without losing any major body parts. Millay burnt her candle at both ends, for sure! There was enough of her poetry here to keep the story grounded. Plus lots of letters. I don't know this whole world at all so whether the books is fair or complete, I can't judge based on any outside knowledge. The book coheres internally. It does a good job of presenting all sorts of wild facts without being judgmental. ( )
2 vote kukulaj | Jan 9, 2020 |
http://tinyurl.com/y6r6qs35

I expect my book club is going to hate this book.

There are several reasons for this, but chief among them is its length. I understand that it's difficult to write a biography of a celebrity without including everything about their life - and especially if it's an author so you want to include samples of their writing - but this book just drags on forever. It's a fascinating life at a fascinating time in US history, but Milford makes odd choices at times on what she includes and what she doesn't include.

She doesn't explain a lot about Millay's life. Meaning, she details and describes it, but doesn't provide context and milieu except when absolutely necessary. At times, that leaves us adrift (such as when Millay struggles with an illness, we're expected to understand the context with very few clues as to what it was).

However, it is fair to say that what Milford is trying to do here is to write a biography that Millay herself would appreciate - in her style and with her panache. Millay was an outstandingly excellent writer and this shows in every poem and every letter showcased in this book. She was also damn snarky, pushed the feminist and anti-war agendas hard, and lived a pretty wild life. I understand why Milford is trying to match that, but it doesn't always work - it leaves us adrift again.

I admit that I was a bit depressed to read about her struggles in the 1920s-1940s to get her work appreciated as a poet, not as a woman poetess. She struggles with some of the same things we still struggle with today, and it's utterly frustrating that the needle is still moving imperceptibly.

On a happier note, I will definitely be using Scramoodle and Skiddlepins in my conversations with my hubby from now on! ( )
2 vote khage | Sep 17, 2019 |
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Camden, with its ring of mountains rising behind the white clapboard houses facing Penobscot Bay, made the most of its view.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The correct author of this books is Nancy MILFORD, not Mitford.
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"If F. Scott Fitzgerald was the hero of the Jazz Age, Edna St. Vincent Millay, as audacious in her love affairs as she was in her art, was its heroine. She embodied, in her reckless fancy, the spirit of the New Woman, and gave America its voice." "The first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, Millay was dazzling in the performance of her self. Her voice was an instrument of seduction, and her impact on crowds, and on men, was legendary. Young women styled themselves in her image - fairylike, taunting, free. Yet beneath her studied act, all was not well." "Nancy Milford was given exclusive access to Millay's papers, and what she found was an unimaginable treasure. Hundreds of letters flew back and forth between the three sisters and their mother - and Millay kept the most intimate diary, one whose ruthless honesty brings to mind the journals of Sylvia Plath."--Jacket.

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