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Great Poem, Great Edition
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.