Slavitt, David 1935–
Slavitt is an American poet, novelist, editor, translator, and critic. His poetry is rich in classical and historical allusion, and differs radically in character from his novels. These novels, written under the pseudonym of Henry Sutton, are admittedly produced by Slavitt for the income they guarantee and are calculated to exploit current taste in popular fiction. (See also CLC, Vol. 5, and Contemporary Authors, Vol. 21-24, rev. ed.)
Jerome Carpenter, male lead among the itinerant literati whose campus readings form a basis for the plot of Anagrams, is a poet: David Slavitt, try as he might, is not. From the moment we first encounter Carpenter a-quiver with 'plane phobia and poetic gestation en route to his first reading, it is clear that we are to get an episodic and all too fanciful view of the poetic process in full burgeon: or, at least, Mr. Slavitt's version of it. Worse, we are going to get the poem—in various stages of completion until, on the last page, we are presented with the finished article, a paradigm of the poet's emotional journey through the events in the novel, and approved by Carpenter, but in fact a tenth rate piece of work (and why not, it having been whipped up for no other reason than to lend credence to Carpenter's creativity?). This being so, it's well nigh impossible to think of Mr. Slavitt's bunch of writers as anything but Mr. Slavitt's version of a bunch of writers; the sexual hangups, the streams of consciousness, the timidities and the roaring boyishness—to say nothing of their impish word-games—seem like parts of a tailored script written for habitually type-cast actors. Carpenter's only human moment comes when the just-widowed wife of one of the group mistakes his poem for her husband's last work: he keeps quiet and surrenders the poem. The only flaw, here, is that it is presented as a selfless rather than selfish act.
"Lionized," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1970; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 3584, November 6, 1970, p. 1291.