Friday, February 17, 2017

Robert Lowell: Setting the River on Fire, by Kay Redfield Jamison on reserve at NYPL

Library Journal Reviews
MacArthur Fellow Jamison, a Johns Hopkins professor of psychiatry whose best sellers include An Unquiet Mind, chronicles major American poet Robert Lowell's forthright showdown with bipolar illness by drawing on unprecedented access to Lowell's medical records, previously unpublished drafts and fragments of poems, and conversations with his daughter. Clarifying the relationship between mental illness and creativity.. Copyright 2016 Library Journal.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
Jamison (An Unquiet Mind), a psychologist and honorary professor of English at St. Andrew's University, is uniquely qualified to pursue the connections between creativity and mania—in this case, through the brilliant example of American poet Robert Lowell (1917–1977). He was born into a prominent New England family from which he inherited both deep Puritan roots and a legacy of manic depression. Jamison's study is a "narrative" of his illness. She is not interested in biography per se, but does place Lowell's mental health in the context of his life and show his illness's influence on his poems. Jamison paints a sympathetic but brutally honest portrait of what manic depressive disorder can do to both sufferers and the people around them—her depiction of Lowell's second wife, critic and fiction author Elizabeth Hardwick, is especially compelling. She is able to draw on medical records from his various hospitalizations, released by Lowell's family to Jamison, and bring her own medical expertise to bear. Some judicious editing would not go amiss—this is a long read with some repetition—but Jamison has constructed a novel and rewarding way to view Lowell's life and output. (Feb.) Copyright 2016 Publisher Weekly.

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