Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The art of precis

"Lowell, it turns out, was the guy you can see just behind Zelig's shoulder: He corresponded with Eliot, hung out with Jackie and Bobby K., and traveled around with Eugene McCarthy in '68. He also beat up his own father, had endless strange, possibly sexless extramarital affairs with innumerable young women, and endured terrible periods of psychosis, frequently accompanied by alarming rants about Hitler. In other words, it's one of those books you thrust on your partner with an incredulous cry of 'This is me!'" -- Nick Hornby condenses Ian Hamilton's biography of Robert Lowell in The Polysyllabic Spree. This is from the first essay, and representative.

[The Polysyllabic Spree, by Nick Hornby, Believer Books, 2004. Puts its author next to Clive James on the list of people who ought to give up their lucrative careers pleasing millions and become full-time comic literary critics for an audience of a few thousand including, importantly, me. We're selfish, but we want you more.]

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