Millen Brand

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Brand, Millen

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Brand, Millen 1906–

Brand is an American poet, novelist, and screenwriter. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 21-24, rev. ed.)

In one of her cunning little jackets blurbs which are as much caveat as come-on, Marianne Moore describes Millen Brand's Dry Summer in Provence as 'poetry,' just like that, within inverted commas, and acknowledges the presence of "an occasional line of plain prose—which does no harm." There are no lines of verse at all (Miss Moore shrewdly calls them "phrases": "if the phrases sound right to you," she ventures, "read it all"), and only a very occasional line of plain prose, for most of the phrases are, for all their intent transcription of a countryside within a season, desperately poetical: "the unheard stitches of thyme/flowing through/the hem of the hill." The texts themselves, as they trickle down the page, poetically marshalled on the left, are mostly inventories of sensations, accurately registered but without care for the design of the words among and therefore upon each other; they require no stature of response from the reader. (pp. 88-9)

Richard Howard, in Shenandoah (copyright by Shenandoah; reprinted from Shenandoah: The Washington and Lee University Review with the permission of the Editor), Autumn, 1968.

[In "Savage Sleep," a sensitive and] engrossing book, Millen Brand uses a novelist's insight and intuition to penetrate the world of the unconscious. The result is both a major work of literary art and, though fiction, a medical document of considerable importance.

Like Martin Arrowsmith, with whose story this powerful novel bears favorable comparison, Dr. John Marks [seeks] the essential cause of disease. He [probes] deeply into minds long since given up as hopeless by his confreres….

In turbulent sessions of interpretation and dynamic formulation, Dr. Marks literally forces himself into the tortured Unconscious. There, at last, he recognizes the presence of a fear so deep it can destroy life through the temperature center of the brain and other vital areas. Case after case follows, as the works out a method of "ego injection" to cure the hopeless….

In portraying the evolution of a psychiatrist, the author draws upon his previous research for "The Outward Room" (itself an early classic of psychiatric fiction), his co-authorship of the screenplay "The Snake Pit," years of training as a psychiatric aide and long friendship with leading doctors. Most of all, however, he relies upon intense personal perceptiveness. The reader will meet it on every page of this gripping book, an exploration of a field that, because of its difficulties, has been largely neglected by the novelist.

Frank G. Slaughter, "The Night of Psychosis," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1968 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), October 27, 1968, p. 64.

"Local Lives"… turns from mainstream America and sympathetically embraces certain parts of rural Pennsylvania. There the Mennonite, Amish, Quaker, and Brethren groups derive from so strenuous a background and manifest so sharp a cleavage from the rest of the world that the dress, talk, beliefs, [and] manner of family [life that the] book dwells on [are] distinctions, in the surrounding rush. This makes them understandable—and humanly compelling.

The means is through "poems" that are glimpses of individuals and places and incidents. By holding his material to short lines, and maintaining specifics, Millen Brand has counters like little frames in photography, from which comes a kind of collage panorama: there are wide, slow openings but all lighted with glittering close-ups of feeling.

"Spoon River Anthology" suggests itself as a related effort, but "Local Lives" contains separate historical sections, glances aside at landscape, and a great sweep outward; for the tradition of suffering for religion, as a Mennonite medic writes home from Vietnam or Biafra, or from a mission in an inner city, or as a family's history extends back to the Sun King's scorched earth...

(The entire section is 1,737 words.)