Cover image for No other book : selected essays
No other book : selected essays
Jarrell, Randall, 1914-1965.
First edition.
Publication Information:
[New York] : HarperCollins, 1999.
Physical Description:
xx, 376 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
"Michael di Capua books."
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library PS3519.A86 A6 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



"He always seemed more alive than other people," Elizabeth Bishop once said of Randall Jarrell, "as if constantly tuned up to the concert pitch that most people, including poets, can maintain only for short and fortunate stretches." And in no area of his diverse writing career was Jarrell more full of life--more "tuned up"--than in his brilliant essays.

As a critic, Jarrell was chiefly interested in poetry, but his wide and avid circle of readers extended well beyond poets and students of verse. He attracted fans who wanted to hear what he had to say about anything--which was precisely what he offered them: he wrote about music criticism and abstract painting, about the appeal of sports cars and the role of the intellectual in modern American life, about forgotten novels and contemporary trends in education. His essays, too, seemed more alive than other people's: brighter and funnier, more energetic and unpredictable, wiser and more penetrating.

Jarrell was only fifty-one at the time of his death, in 1965, yet he created a body of work that secured his position as one of the century's leading American men of letters. He saw himself chiefly as a poet, but in addition to a number of books of poetry he left behind a sparkling comic novel (Pictures from an Institution), four children's books, numerous translations, haunting letters. And he left four collections of essays, from each of which the present volume draws. No Other Book is a reminder that Jarrell the poet was also, in the words of Robert Lowell, "a critic of genius." And that he was--as few Americans have ever been--a truly two-handed writer: a master of both poetry and prose.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Poet, critic, novelist, translator, children's author, and teacher, Randall Jarrell (1914^-65) flickers in the skies of American letters like a planet best seen at certain seasons. Just like 1990, when a biography and a collection of his poems were published, this is a time of high visibility, rewarding Jarrell watchers with his widow's affectionate and compelling memoir and a fine collection of his essays. Mary von Schrader Jarrell met Randall when they were both 37 and clear of their first marriages, and their union was an exceedingly close one. So involved was she in his work, she is able to illuminate each facet of his complex creative life in essays that feel leisurely yet convey a wealth of information and insights. She relishes memories of their sojourn in Washington, D.C., when Randall was poet laureate; explicates his fascination with Goethe; and chronicles his love of music, teaching, sports cars, and tennis. Mary also reveals Randall's struggle to write poetry, the most elusive and cherished of his engagements, and the serious depression he suffered just before his untimely death. By weaving some of the best of his poems into her gracefully orchestrated memoir, she leaves her readers with vivid impressions of her beloved's personality and art. Jarrell's lucid and witty criticism filled four volumes, and editor Leithauser, himself a poet, novelist, and critic, has chosen wisely for this selected collection. He also paves the way for Jarrell's mettlesome literary analyses with a smart and admiring introduction. Jarrell's style has the velocity, timing, and accuracy of a tennis match, yet his flair for metaphor, analogy, and leaps of thought and intuition makes his criticism far more resonant than a mere game. Jarrell writes with intensity about Frost, Williams, Stevens, and Auden, and, searingly, about criticism itself. Frank, canny, and learned, Jarrell revered creativity above all and dedicated his life to celebrating it. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Few have written as compellingly or as memorably about the topics and writers they loved best as American poet, critic and essayist Jarrell (1914-1965). This important collection of 24 essays (plus snippets from over a dozen others) restores much of Jarrell's best nonfiction to print. Jarrell's own poetry still occasions debate, but his essays about poets won admiration from the start. He gained his reputation in the 1940s as a killingly witty reviewer of current verse; some of his most famous barbs get included here. But his real work was detailed, enthusiastic praise. Jarrell taught his peers to appreciate first the young Robert Lowell and W.H. Auden, then Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, Elizabeth Bishop, Walt Whitman and Robert Frost. Moore "not only can, but must, make poetry out of everything and anything"; a love poem by Frost "expresses... the transfiguring, almost inexpressible reaching out of the self to what has become closer and more personal than the self." The later Jarrell divided his prose between appreciations of poets, digressions on idiosyncratic passions, and funny or sad indictments of 1950s-style popular culture. Leithauser quite rightly devotes the first three-quarters of his book to Jarrell's essays on poets, the last quarter to those on other topicsÄon fiction by Kipling and Christina Stead, on grade school education, on sports-car races. As a convincing, above all personal, guide to modern poets, and as a captivating writer of criticism, Jarrell has no obvious 20th-century equal: his essays charm readers coming and going, even as they divert us from their own delights, back to the poems and other art works they describe. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

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