Cover image for Remembering Randall : a memoir of poet, critic, and teacher Randall Jarrell
Remembering Randall : a memoir of poet, critic, and teacher Randall Jarrell
Jarrell, Mary, 1914-2007.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins, [1999]

Physical Description:
173 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library PS3519.A86 Z7 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



When Randall Jarrell died in 1965, he left a critically acclaimed body of poetry, fiction, and criticism that has earned him a permanent place in the pantheon of American letters. A Library of Congress Poet Laureate and National Book Award winner, he had a formidable intellect and wit that endeared him to--or infuriated--the finest minds of his day.

Now, in the nine essays collected in Remembering Randall, his widow, Mary von Schrader Jarrell, offers a distinctive portrait of the esteemed poet-critic as only she could have known him. Capturing the essence of this complex, brilliant man, she writes knowingly about the wellsprings and character of Jarrell's poetry, particularly his last and best book, The Lost World; his courageous endeavor, after suffering from hepatitis, to create the celebrated children's books The Bat-Poet and The Animal Family; his lifelong friendships with fiction writer Peter Taylor and poet Robert "Cal" Lowell; his commitment during the last eight years of his life to completing his translation of Goethe's Faust, Part One; and, finally, their marriage.

From their home in North Carolina to Washington, New York, San Francisco, and London, Mary von Schrader Jarrell vividly describes the restless mind and free spirit they shared in their marriage. As she writes, "To be married to Randall was to be encapsulated with him." This engrossing, intimate collection could not serve as a better tribute.

Reviews 3

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

Mary von Schrader met Randall Jarrell at a writers' conference in 1951; they married a year later and remained inseparable for most of the 13 years until Randall's death in 1965. These nine essays record, admiringly and lovingly, aspects of Randall's work and of his life with Mary. One piece shows how Randall turned others' ideas and events into his own poems, beginning with his first love poem to Mary, a wonderful six-line exhortation called "The Meteorite." Another essay tracks the poet's deep friendship with the fiction writer Peter Taylor. Mary's analysis of Randall's "Lyric Ear" relates the aural effects in his poems to his actual speech. And a concluding essay tries hard to convey the ups and downs, the joys and difficulties, of Randall and Mary's odd and sometimes inspiring marriage: she follows and shares his successive enthusiasms, commiserates when his poet friends (like Robert Lowell) enter manic phases and tries hard to cope with the instability that marked the last year of Randall's life. Neither a critical study, nor a biography, nor a comprehensive memoir of the years it covers, this informal and amiable gathering of essays testifies first of all to Mary's deep love for her late husband, and to her persistent, cherishing attention to his work. Some of the best material (notably an essay on Washington, D.C., in the 1950s) is new, while a few of these essays appeared in literary journals in the 1970s. Readers seeking scandal will find none. Those who want to hear about happy marriages could do worse than discover Mary Jarrell's account. And no one who already cares for Randall's poetry or prose will want to miss Mary's recollections of its author. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Jarrell, an editor, essayist, and the widow of Randall Jarrell, paints a picture of her late husband as a mature and established writer, one of the figures who came to personify literary success in the 1950s. Her memoir is affectionate and carefully connected to the wellsprings and processes of Jarrell the poetÄthat's the later Jarrell, following his developmental years in Tennessee, California, Texas, and North Carolina and stints with the Air Force, Sarah Lawrence College, and the NationÄafter he had become Jarrell the recognized teacher. He lauded Freud and Eliot, had tennis trophies, wore Brooks Brothers, and drove a Mercedes convertible. He also wrote novels, criticism, children's books, and, at 43, translated Goethe. This is an interesting book that chronicles the productive years of a figure interested in "genuine literary style" as opposed to "the novelty coarseness of beat chic." A memoir on the light side with much appeal.ÄScott Hightower, New York Univ. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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