An Autobiographical Novel is shaped by no overriding thematic message. It is simply the record of the development of one young man in middle America during the first quarter of the twentieth century, with emphasis on the years between 1919 and 1927. “I suppose that’s the point of an autobiography,” Rexroth says. “It shows the pattern of events that have made you what you are.” That he was a very precocious, highly independent young man was crucial to his development, for these traits opened him to the burst of experimentation in art and politics that characterized the new bohemia of those years. His youthful exuberance (he was only fifteen years old when he set out on his own) led him to a varied, almost motley group of people who became over the years his teachers, protectors, benefactors, and friends.
Art, literature, politics, people—these four elements, along with science and religion, constitute the historical and autobiographical “theme” of this “novel.” Rexroth maintains that he was not “a self-educated antiorthodox precocity,” but all the evidence indicates that that is exactly what he was. He refused to attend high school classes, though he would attend lectures and concerts at the University of Chicago and he sat in, uninvited, on classes at the art museum. He was an omnivorous reader, devouring history, science, philosophy, and literature in great chunks, reading everything that was mentioned even in passing by...
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