Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Hollywood. Southern California home of the young movie industry, as well as of Randall Jarrell’s grandparents. In 1926 Jarrell’s parents separated and sent Jarrell to live with his grandparents and great-grandmother in Hollywood. In 1962 Jarrell’s mother returned to him the letters he had written to her during that period, and they opened a world of memory—a lost world that became the subject of this series of poems.

The opening lines of “The Lost World” recall a “camera man on a platform on the bumper of a car,” a movie lot that used wind machines to create a blizzard, and the papier-mâché dinosaurs used in the making of the fantasy film The Lost World (1925). Another poem recalls a friend of Jarrell’s aunt whom Jarrell visited often who owned the famous Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer lion.

The poems’ juxtaposition of Hollywood images and Jarrell’s childhood memories reminds readers that the past, like the movies, is a strange compilation of image, memory, imagination, and symbol. A movie is a way of representing a world that exists nowhere but in the filmmaker’s mind. Likewise, a poem about an event from childhood is a way of representing a world that exists nowhere but in the poet’s mind. Thus, the past is truly the “lost world” Jarrell traverses in these poems, made particularly potent by the connection with the illusion and reality of Hollywood.

The Lost World Bibliography

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Bryant, J. A., Jr. Understanding Randall Jarrell. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1986. A good introduction to all of Jarrell’s work. Treats The Lost World in chapter 5.

Ferguson, Suzanne. The Poetry of Randall Jarrell. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1971. The first book-length critical study of Jarrell’s work. Includes an extensive analysis of The Lost World.

Flynn, Richard. Randall Jarrell and the Lost World of Childhood. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1990. Detailed analysis of poems from The Lost World. Considers all of Jarrell’s work in the context of his interest in childhood.

Pritchard, William H. Randall Jarrell: A Literary Life. 1st ed. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1990. The first biography of Jarrell. Discusses the interaction of Jarrell’s life and work. Chapter 10 treats The Lost World.

Quinn, Mary Bernetta. Randall Jarrell. Boston: Twayne, 1981. Contains useful information about Jarrell’s childhood and provides analysis of “In Galleries” and “The Old and the New Masters.”