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Killing Monster Frost

from The New York Times

The Road Back: Frost’s Letters Could Soften a Battered Image

By JENNIFER SCHUESSLER

Few figures in American literature have suffered as strangely divided an afterlife as Robert Frost.

Even before his death in 1963, he was canonized as a rural sage, beloved by a public raised on poems of his like “Birches” and “The Road Not Taken.” But that image soon became shadowed by a darker one, stemming from a three-volume biography by his handpicked chronicler, Lawrance Thompson, who emerged from decades of assiduous note-taking with a portrait of the poet as a cruel, jealous megalomaniac — “a monster of egotism” who left behind “a wake of destroyed human lives,” as the critic Helen Vendler memorably put it on the cover of The New York Times Book Review in 1970.

Ever since, more sympathetic scholars have tried, with limited success, to counter Mr. Thompson’s portrait, which was echoed most recently in a short story by Joyce Carol Oates, published by Harper’s Magazine last fall, depicting Frost as repellent old man angrily rebutting a female interviewer’s charges of arrogance, racism and psychological brutality to his children.

But now, a new scholarly work may put an end to the “monster myth,” as Frost scholars call it, once and for all. Later this month, Harvard University Press will begin publishing “The Letters of Robert Frost,” a projected four-volume edition of all the poet’s known correspondence that promises to offer the most rounded, complete portrait to date.

[ click to continue reading at NYTimes.com ]

Posted on February 5, 2014 by Editor

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