A Serious Character (Magill's Literary Annual 1989)
“The biographer,” Leon Edel has said,is a presence in life-writing, in charge of handling the material, establishing order, explaining and analyzing the ambiguities and anomalies. Biography is dull if it’s just dates and facts: it has for too long ignored the entire province of psychology and the emotions. Ultimately, there must be a sense of the inwardness of human beings as well as outwardness: the ways in which we make dreams into realities, the way fantasies become plays and novels and poems . . . the strivings and the failings.
These words of Henry James’s outstanding biographer are noteworthy here because, in A Serious Character: The Life of Ezra Pound, Humphrey Carpenter proves himself to be in Edel’s rank as a biographer, even though he clearly does not admire Ezra Pound—as man and artist—nearly as much as Edel does James. Not only for his strong opinions, which he is subtle but determined in conveying, Carpenter’s presence is a certain, engaging, and provocative one in this study. He narrates Pound’s life with the fluidity and grace of an excellent novelist, never allowing his narrative to become lock-step according to the study’s suprastructure of chronological order, but rather implementing frequently an associative organizational approach, with flashes forward or backward in time, in his admirably realized effort to analyze and posit explanations for the myriad ambiguities and anomalies related to Pound’s...
(The entire section is 2003 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of A Serious Character Characters. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!