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Author of AGAINST A DARKENING SKY, THE EMPTY ROOM, OUR DAILY BREAD, and others. Find out more at www.LaurenBDavis.com. I read as if my sanity depended upon it.. . . oh, wait, it does! Snort.

Hope and Despair (and booze, of course)

Poets in Their Youth: A Memoir - Eileen Simpson

A fascinating yet tragic memoir. The parade of famous poets and novelists before they became famous, or just as their stars were rising is staggering.  Living in Princeton as I do, I'll never look at the streets quite the same way.  


Written by Berryman's first wife (who went on to become a psychiatrist, perhaps not surprisingly), the book offers a clear-eyed yet compassionate insight into Berryman's influences, aspirations and struggles. Knowing what happened to him in the end, of course, tinges the work with layer upon layer of pathos. 


I've also just finished reading "The Trip to Echo Spring: On writers and drinking" by Olivia Laing, which I'm reviewing for Canada's The National Post.  I'll post that review when it's up, but I'll say here that where Simpson goes for depth, Laing goes for breadth -- looking at Berryman, Cheever, Raymond Carver, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Tennessee Williams.  Although I read them simultaneously by coincidence, they make good companion pieces.