a blog so you can keep with him

SBR 5: The Magic Maker

Charles Norman’s biography of E.E. Cummings has been patiently waiting my time for almost exactly a year now – if we look back into the archives of this blog, we can see Cummings’ pipe peeping up alongside Woolf, Oe, and Blackmur.

Well, unfortunately the wait has meant that Cummings has faded a bit in my mind – I haven’t had much time for casual obsessive readings of poets this year as when I first became enamored with Cummings’ writing, meaning that his poetry felt distant with this book for the first in a very long time. This is, of course, exciting news for when I have more of a chance to rediscover his work, but in the meanwhile The Magic Maker provided a somewhat esoteric picture of a man who’s work I either can’t entirely recall or never knew. Cummings still cuts quite the entertaining figure, and his biography takes him from his childhood home near Harvard through Paris, New York, and much of the literary world. Something that seemed out-of-reach even in this biography about Cummings is the impact and work of his paintings, which I am still unfamiliar with. Norman synthesizes the dual role of “The Poet as Painter” that Cummings carefully balances, but I never get a sense of Cummings in his visual work alone. This is possibly because I haven’t experienced it before – I might be saying the same things about Cummings’ work as a poet had I not read it (regardless of how unfortunately my memory is already dimming of some of his oeuvre).

The Magic Maker provides insight and commentary into a man I am very interested in still, and Norman does make use of his own role as both a close friend of Cummings and as a member of literary circles – the work is peppered with asides from many others in The Dial gang. This level of proximity can never be reached again in biography work around this period and people, and for this reason as well The Magic Maker is of value.

I hope to revisit this book when I feel more prepared for it again – and hopefully this review as well.


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