To the typical person of middle age or younger with any interest at all in American literature, the name of Conrad Aiken is likely to be familiar, but probably little more than that. It may be a name that one has skipped past once or twice in the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry on one’s way to Wilfred Owen or Hart Crane; or one may recognize Aiken as the author of one or more widely anthologized short stories. Or perhaps one’s first thought upon hearing Aiken’s name will be of T. S. Eliot, with whom Aiken studied at Harvard College and in the now almost mythic story of whose career he played a modest supporting role as percipient critic, occasional contributor (to Eliot’s magazine The Criterion), and admiring (if somewhat patronized) friend. Even if one knows a bit about Aiken’s life and work, his name will probably tend to evoke vague thoughts of his versatility,...

 

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