William Palmer

Manunkind

E E Cummings: A Biography

By

Methuen 606pp £25 order from our bookshop

It is something of a surprise to see the name of the subject of this book printed in a conventional way: for most of his appearances in print it was resolutely ‘e e cummings’, all of a piece with the lack of capitalisation, the experimental layout and the visual idiosyncrasy of his writings.

Despite the seemingly avant-garde nature of his work, Cummings was, at the end of his life, famous and widely read, probably because he was a relatively simple poet whose meaning is usually plain once his manner and methods are understood. The man revealed by the work is impulsive, obsessed by beauty, disgusted by cruelty, and not afraid to be sentimental occasionally. The man in Christopher Sawyer-Lauçanno’s book, written with the aid of Cummings’s own papers and journals, is more complex and rather less attractive.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • The mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity has long been agonised over. But what do we know about his victims?… ,
    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,
    • 'Munch’s later works show us a man liberated from the torments that gave rise to some of the best-known early works… ,