J. Alison Rosenblitt’s new book, The Beauty of Living: E. E. Cummings in the Great War, is scheduled to be published by W. W. Norton July 21, 2020. The publisher’s description reads in part:

“In The Beauty of Living: E. E. Cummings in the Great War, writer and historian J. Alison Rosenblitt reexamines the formative early years of Cummings’s life, from his idyllic childhood and complex relationship with his father, to his education at Harvard where he began to write poetry, up through his time in France during World War I as an ambulance driver and his subsequent imprisonment in a French camp.”

As Rosenblitt details on her personal page for the book, the title comes from one of the thousands of pages of notes found in the Cummings collection at the Houghton Library at Harvard University:

“When you and I consult these hearts and minds of ours, what do we learn? That there actually exists a deeper beauty even than the beauty of death–the beauty of living.”

from “Armistice,” E. E. Cummings Additional Papers, 1870-1969, MS Am 1892.6 (9), Houghton Library (Harvard)

Rosenblitt notes that even though “Cummings grew up in a world that aestheticized death and glorified war,” his response to a world of war, death, and imprisonment was “to choose to be alive.”

Pre-publication reviews of the book have been positive. Publisher’s Weekly writes that “Rosenblitt argues that Cummings’s exposure in France to a new artistic atmosphere and to wartime brutality indelibly shaped his poetry and pacifism.” In a starred review, the Library Journal states that “with grace and intelligence, Rosenblitt brings the worlds of Harvard, Cambridge, and ‘the Front’ to vivid life.” And in another starred review, Kirkus Reviews says that the book is a “perceptive, captivating portrait. . . . A graceful, sympathetic biography of an innovative
American poet.”

Link: Rosenblitt’s “Photo Gallery” of archival images from the Houghton Library at Harvard University. The Gallery is divided into three sections:

1. E. E. Cummings in France.
2. E. E. Cummings — Sketches, Paintings, and Poetry.
3. E. E. Cummings and Scofield Thayer.

J. Alison Rosenblitt is also the author of Rome after Sulla (Bloomsbury Academic, 2019) and E. E. Cummings’ Modernism and the Classics: Each Imperishable Stanza (Oxford UP, 2016).

like & share: