Evan's Reviews > Leaves of Grass: The "Death-Bed" Edition

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
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There are a lot of bullshit abridged editions of "Leaves of Grass" out there, some just over 100 pages, which is just a joke. A lot of them are listed here at GR. I'm reading the complete unabridged version with "posthumous" additions, and it runs about 700 pages.

I was feeling kind of lonely and lowdown today and Bret Easton Ellis' "Less than Zero" was kind of making me feel less than zero and not helping. I picked Whitman up on a complete lark and became completely absorbed; he was picking up my spirits with his unfettered, exalted exhortations.

I've tried to read this in the past and bailed, but for some reason today I was really in the mood and digging it.

So the lowdown is that Whitman wants to hump everything that moves, male or female, and finds a million ways of saying, prefacing and restating as a variation on a theme that all is poetry---including the body and its passions---and he is the poet, and thus free to access and experience all. And very cleverly, he makes the soul and body inseparable so that sating the body is sating the soul: a nice monkey wrench to throw in to confound the religionist moral types.

I'm not sure that Whitman is really the most skillful poet, per se, but I don't read "Leaves of Grass" strictly as a piece of technical poetry, but as a grand effusion, a masterpiece of description and alliterative savoriness.

I remember how in college I struggled to interpret passages from this to satisfy the demands of the crusty old English professor. I just didn't get it then. I get it now. I imagine my *now* brain in my *then* self standing up in class and wowing everybody with my interpretive insight. It only took a few decades...

So the odd congruency of reading this and "Less than Zero" simultaneously is that the latter seems suggest a possible less-than-ideal trajectory that Whitman's freelove, follow your bliss espousals could follow.

Just an idea.

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Reading Progress

03/22/2009 page 175

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