Adams, Don. James Merrill’s Poetic Quest. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1997. A comprehensive look at Merrill’s often difficult symbolism. Adams sees Merrill’s life as a “quest to save his life through his art” and considers specific works in this light. Provides a close reading of The Changing Light at Sandover.
Bloom, Harold, ed. James Merrill. New York: Chelsea House, 1986. Harold Bloom’s introduction to this collection of essays is especially valuable. There is a chronology and an index.
Labrie, Ross. James Merrill. Boston: Twayne, 1982. Contains separate chapters on Merrill’s life and art, his plays, his fiction, and his poems of the 1940’s and 1950’s, and a chapter that analyzes the Divine Comedies. Includes an interesting section on Merrill’s view of art.
Lurie, Alison. Familiar Spirits: A Memoir of James Merrill and David Jackson. New York: Viking, 2001. Lurie was a longtime friend of Merrill and Jackson, and this memoir provides an intimate view of the two. Lurie especially illuminates the interpersonal dynamics underlying the pair’s interest in the ouija board.
Materer, Timothy. James Merrill’s Apocalypse. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2000. Covers Merrill’s entire career, novels as well as poetry, and focuses on the poet’s preoccupation with the violence that threatens us in reality. Places the moral and religious themes found in The Changing Light at Sandover in context with the tradition of apocalyptic literature and with Merrill’s earlier poetry and prose.
Polito, Robert. A Reader’s Guide to James Merrill’s “The Changing Light at Sandover.” Foreword by James Merrill. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994. Polito’s purpose is to make Merrill’s work more accessible by unifying, in an alphabetical reference, characters and events that appear in widely separated passages or under different names in the trilogy. This guide functions as an annotated index with cross-references to related terms, and also includes critical reaction and analysis.
Vendler, Helen. “James Merrill.” In Part of Nature, Part of Us: Modern American Poets. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1980. The section on Merrill provides informative commentary on Braving the Elements, Divine Comedies, and Mirabell: Books of Number.