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A Serious Character: The Life of Ezra Pound

by Humphrey Carpenter

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1161207,429 (3.92)None
Ezra Pound's greatness as a man of letters - poet, translator, critic, editor, pedagogue, universal correspondent - made him a central figure in the literature of the twentieth century. He was an exotic and controversial character throughout his life, and his public career achieved melodrama in l945 when he was indicted on a charge of treason, for broadcasting Axis propaganda on Rome radio during the war. He was eventually confined to a Washington psychiatric hospital for thirteen years. The final period of his life, after his release and return to Italy, was as dramatic - and tragic - as anything that had gone before. In this vigorous and fully documented biography Humphrey Carpenter carefully scrutinizes and often takes issue with the accepted valuation of Pound's achievements and his personality. He had access to Pound's vast correspondence - including highly revealing letters to his parents - and to medical records and confidential American government memoranda relating to Pound's indictment and trial. A Serious Character is rich in fascinating detail and acutely challenging in its judgements and commentary. Its title is taken from one of Pound's favourite sayings (first recorded in 1913): 'Are you or are you not, a serious character?'.… (more)
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A model biography, in my opinion. Only one, very tiny, concern -- more of a question, really. Carpenter just doesn't seem to like Pound as a poet very much. Towards the end, he ticks off a list of poems that he, a bit grudgingly, admits to be of the first order; and it's a very short list, including "The Return", parts of Cathay, some of the Pisan Cantos, "Mauberley", "Homage to Sextus Propertius", and not much else. So how could Carpenter sustain the energy and motivation to continue with a 1K+ page book on somebody who didn't shiver his timbers? Regardless of why he did, I guess I should be grateful that he did, and did so well! ( )
1 vote jburlinson | Jan 16, 2009 |
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Ezra Pound's greatness as a man of letters - poet, translator, critic, editor, pedagogue, universal correspondent - made him a central figure in the literature of the twentieth century. He was an exotic and controversial character throughout his life, and his public career achieved melodrama in l945 when he was indicted on a charge of treason, for broadcasting Axis propaganda on Rome radio during the war. He was eventually confined to a Washington psychiatric hospital for thirteen years. The final period of his life, after his release and return to Italy, was as dramatic - and tragic - as anything that had gone before. In this vigorous and fully documented biography Humphrey Carpenter carefully scrutinizes and often takes issue with the accepted valuation of Pound's achievements and his personality. He had access to Pound's vast correspondence - including highly revealing letters to his parents - and to medical records and confidential American government memoranda relating to Pound's indictment and trial. A Serious Character is rich in fascinating detail and acutely challenging in its judgements and commentary. Its title is taken from one of Pound's favourite sayings (first recorded in 1913): 'Are you or are you not, a serious character?'.

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