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Best known for a critical biography of Pater (Lover of Strange Souls) and for the lucid canon defense The Practice of Reading, New York University English professor Donoghue offers what he describes as an intellectual memoir of his ever-growing interest in the work of T.S. Eliot. Light on memoirAhe states that he was born in Ireland, but omits any mention of the yearADonoghue mainly focuses on a lot of literary analysis. Seekers of insights into the ever-hot topic of Eliot's anti-Semitism may be disappointed by Donoghue's approach, which is to list at length varying views from different critics, as if to paralyze the reader and defuse this potentially inflammatory subject. Concluding that there is "a range of respectable judgments available on the anti-Semitic aspects" of the blatantly nasty poem "Burbank with a Baedeker: Bleistein with a Cigar," Donoghue ignores the question of whether his own book respects too many judgments by others, rather than advancing anything original in a crowded field. The intellectual memoir conceit degrades into a recitation of which book by which critic had appeared by a given year of Donoghue's early academic employment, and there are few things duller to read than that. Whether readers consider Eliot to be a dry and overrated anti-Semitic horror or a great modern poet, or even both, few will find this attempt at a generalist's overview satisfying. (Nov.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"A timely, accessible, and courageous revaluation of Eliot
strewn with phrases that possess epigrammatic wisdom." -- Gregory Wolfe, Commonweal
"Eliot's [made] palpable the vanity of human wishes. . . . Donoghue's achievement . . .is to help us enter more fully into that expression." -- William H. Pritchard, Boston Sunday Globe
"Superb. . . . Words Alone bears the stamp of someone who has lived with this poetry, not merely studied it." -- Steven Moore, Book World
"[Donoghue] has given us the best book written so far about Eliot [Words Alone is] a work of art." -- Jeffrey Hart, National Review
Donoghue has found a new way of combining autobiography and criticism, and the justification for the experiment is the maturity - the wisdom - of his commentary on Eliot's poetry. -- Frank Kermode --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.