Books May 2017
A review of Robert Lowell, Setting the River on Fire: A Study of Genius, Mania, and Character by Kay Redfield Jamison.
Kay Redfield Jamison, a MacArthur Fellow and author of the standard text on manic-depressive illness and many other studies on the subject, begins her book by denying that she has written a biography. Since she is dealing with an individual and with the major episodes of his life, how is this not a biography? She does not say. But I presume she is thinking of biography as a chronological narrative that includes not just the major, but also many of the minor details of a subject’s life as part of a complete account. She does not say anything, really, about biography as a genre, except implicitly in her attack on Ian Hamilton’s Lowell biography, which many of Lowell’s friends, according to Jamison, dislike, and which she represents as having done a disservice to its subject.
The brief against Hamilton is that he makes too much of Lowell’s mental...
A Message from the Editors
Support our crucial work and join us in strengthening the bonds of civilization.
Your donation sustains our efforts to inspire joyous rediscoveries.