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The Waste Land
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2004
It truly saddens me to see someone flaunt their idiocy like the previous reviewer ranting about how writers cannot write about social ills; meanwhile, second rate philosophers turned literary Critics can whenever possible.
Simply stated, the poem is one the true benchmarks for twentieth century literature. It is rather difficult in that it is highly allusive, some allusions fall on the rather obscure side (Middleton, Weston) but mostly they are rather well known (Augustine, Dante, the Bible, Baudelaire, Wagner). The experience will prove to be as didactic as well as expressive due to all these allusions in the text. As far as the poem itself goes, it has a definite effect on you when you read it. I remember the first time I read the lines, "I think we are in rats' alley where the dead men lost their bones," and although I couldn't really understand what was going on just yet in the poem, that line as well as many other lines and images, had an affect on me. On the whole the emotional tone of the poem (not to do it injustice and say what it is about) is the spiritual alienation and degradation everyone felt after WWI. It's a quest of sorts, taken on by a persona of Eliot to find meaning amidst "the stony rubbish" that is the world. It sets the philosophy of Buddha and Augustine side by side as it does with the Rg Veda and the Bible in a collage of different voices and arresting images.
A good guide though is imperative for undertaking this task and this edition is, to my knowledge, the best one out there. It gives many of the primary texts alluded to by Eliot in this poem as well as serving as a good introduction to the mountains of criticism that this poem has birthed. All in all, the book is a great buy for those who are interested in gaining a true appreciation and understanding of this poem and for twentieth century poetry which it influenced so much.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2001
Simply put, THE WASTE LAND is one of the strangest, most complicated, and interesting poems ever written. Try reading an unannotated version of the poem and you will see why even TS Eliot scholars need a little help with some of the images and literary references Eliot uses. This NORTON CRITICAL EDITION of THE WASTE LAND is an essential book for any Eliot fan, new or old. It provides you with practically every single piece of literature, history, and music that inspired Eliot to write his manifesto of the Lost Generation. If you have any questions concerning THE WASTE LAND, this is the book you need...this is the book you want. Buy it and realize how well-read you are not.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2003
Do I really need to say how important Eliot is? Simply put, this is the dividing line. Poetry has never been the same since. Beyond that, the Norton Critical edition does an excellent job assisting us by providing the reader with many of the sources this excellent poem was based on, as well as many responses to this poem in one neat and nifty book! Plus the poem is thrown in just for kicks. Buy the book! Love the book!
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on May 13, 2001
The Waste Land is undoubtedly the most contentious and possibly the greatest poem of the 20th century. The reactions to and interpretations of the poem are as diverse as the multiple voices Eliot conjurs throughout the work. This edition is useful because it presents the variety of critical responses to the poem; historical and contemporary. The extensive bibliography points the reader to other important critical material. The edition is ultimately successful because of these virtues.
North's emphasis on source materials is the edition's greatest liability. In his introdution, North alludes to the controversy over Eliot's notes, but the edition never discusses the problem that the critical reliance on the notes pose. It takes Eliot's notes as a reliable and critically uncontroversial guide to source material and spends a considerable part of the book elaborating these sources. Sometimes the source material that the notes point to provide insight into the poem and oftentimes they reveal a misplaced credulity in Eliot's ultimate critical authority.
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on April 15, 2001
Literature scholars universally recognize Eliot's "Waste Land" as one of the most influential poems of the 20th century. The poem draws on a wealth of images, everything from classics of Western literature to Tarot cards, from anthropology to Eastern sacred texts. The title refers to the barren land of the Fisher King in Arthurian legend; both the king and the land eventually find redemption through the Holy Grail. Through a masterful use of language and symbols, Eliot brilliantly portrays the problem of meaning in the modern world --- and the way to deeper meaning!
Unfortunately, many of Eliot's references are arcane, and not easy for the lay reader to pursue. For example, few modern readers happen to have a copy of Webster's play "White Devil" or excerpts from Shackleton's account of the Antarctic expedition readily available on their shelves. Hence, the virtue of this particular edition: in addition to Eliot's original poem and original notes, this book includes the relevant passages from every single work Eliot quotes in the "Wasteland", all translated into English. For the first time I have seen in print, this book allows the reader to understand this magnificent poem in light of the full scope of its allusions. A triumphant achievement!
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One of T.S. Eliot's bestknown poems. What I am feeling is more an impression than a meaning. The world is old, like coming to its end, decaying. The poet sees and only sees. It is soundless and yet it is music. He brings together all sorts of recollections, experiences and small vignettes of the world, and a whole array of references to all kinds of cultures to show how the past is foregone and the future is not there. There remains only the thunder that speaks unaudible sounds of farewell on a road we cannot even see, nor follow as for that.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
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on May 13, 2001
The Waste Land is undoubtedly the most contentious and possibly the greatest poem of the 20th century. The reactions to and interpretations of the poem are as diverse as the multiple voices Eliot conjurs throughout the work. This edition is useful because it presents the variety of critical responses to the poem; historical and contemporary. The extensive bibliography points the reader to other important critical material. The edition is ultimately successful because of these virtues. Mr. North's emphasis on source materials drawn directly fr
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 20, 2003
Let's be honest here. You have spent most of your life reading Grisham and Crichton and to think that you will be able to penetrate a single line of this, the most wonderfully difficult poem in the English language, is pure folly. My advice is to press the back button on your personal computer screens and preorder the new Harry Potter. Please leave the serious reading to those of us able to do it. Thank you, and good day.
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2004
Williams was right. Eliot has taken poetry twenty years into the past with this poem. While others are experimenting with their poetics, Eliot falls back on an Old World school of writing that would be better obsolete. What's worse is his poems just get worse from here on out (less help from Pound on the editing, maybe?). He should have kept his day job his only job.
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0 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2003
The Wastleland epitomizes the elitist and reactionary undertones prevalent in much of early modernism--by which I am referring to that vague (retrospectively designated) "school" of modernism orginating in or drawing its adherents from the British Isles. Of course, Eliot was born in America, a geographic misfortune for which this certified Anglophile would repent, however implicitly, during much of his life.
In The Wasteland, Eliot is nostalgic for classicist or, at least, early Enlightenment values, which he contrasts with the decaying values and moral degradation of modern society. As might be expected, his viewpoint was informed by the era of the so-called Great War, the war--it would have seemed--to end all wars. But Eliot naively fails to address the reiteration of moral crises, destructiveness, and war throughout human history and the definitively human propensity to glorify the past, out of proportion with its more prosaic realities, and to assign past works with nearly religious devotion. The works to which Eliot tirelessly alludes throughout The Wasteland--and the poem, it should be noted, is comprised of a great deal of often-obscure allusions--are not inherently better than, say, the works of the subsequent and more forward-looking American modernist "movement" (consisting of Stein, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Dos Passos, et.al.).
The Wasteland gives voice to the myth that tradition is validated by virtue of the fact merely that it is tradition. This is the conservative viewpoint par excellence. But the past is inherently undesirable simply because it is the past, and life and art are "progressive" ventures. Derrida and other desconstructionists would certainly have problems with the use of the descriptor "progressive" (in this, an endlessly derivative and deferential society), but by progression all that is suggested is not an aversion to the past, but an aversion only to duplicating the past and its traditions verbatim because tradition has seemingly legitimized itself.
The world Eliot seeks, however implicitly, is the representation of the Old World in which--accurately or not--obscurant, elitist, and sedentary intellectualism prevails, while revolution and populism, in all of its genres, is stifled. Or perhaps that isn't the intention at all. Perhaps more privately, Eliot preferred a continuance of "vulgar" modernity in which reactionary elites (Joyce, Yeats, and Pound, for example) might feel themselves exceptional and the most insightful diangosticians of social ills--imagining they have, to whatever extent, evaded them.
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