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Robert Lowell, Setting the River on Fire: A Study of Genius, Mania, and Character
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Robert Lowell, Setting the River on Fire: A Study of Genius, Mania, and Character

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  157 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
In this magisterial study of the relationship between illness and art, the best-selling author of An Unquiet Mind, Kay Redfield Jamison, brings an entirely fresh understanding to the work and life of Robert Lowell (1917-1977), whose intense, complex, and personal verse left a lasting mark on the English language and changed the public discourse about private matters.

In his
Hardcover, 404 pages
Published February 28th 2017 by Knopf Publishing Group
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Fred Svoboda Actually, Jamison's book includes several of Lowell's poems, and those others mentioned in it would be your best reading guide. It's probably best to…moreActually, Jamison's book includes several of Lowell's poems, and those others mentioned in it would be your best reading guide. It's probably best to read the poetry as you read the book, as it illuminates and is illuminated by the poetry. (less)

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Jeffrey Hatcher
Feb 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
The public, the student, and even health-care practitioners need more biographical exposure to people with mental illnesses. The only way to really grasp the nature and diversity of mental illness is via empathy. Brains have no moving parts and x-rays, MRI's and autopsies come up decidedly short for imparting understanding. More importantly, mental illnesses frequently need an intimate, real - world perspective to be best understood. Kay Redfield Jamison helps fill this gap with a study of Rober ...more
Julie Ehlers
Mar 24, 2017 marked it as tossed-aside
Ugh, the writing is just deadly. I've been constantly looking for other things to do so I don't have to pick this up. That means it's time to move on.
My review of this book is now up at Literary Matters:

And here are a few Lowell quotes from the book that I enjoyed and jotted down but was unable to work into the review, to tantalize you further:

"My disease, alas, gives one a headless heart...."

"Such a narrow fierceness, so many barbed quills hung with bits of skin."

"Why don't they ever say what I'd like them to say?...That I'm heartbreaking."

"To live a life is not to cross a field.... We cannot cross th
Apr 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
My only complaint is that it got a little long and tedious, but this is a brilliant portrait of a complicated, talented man. Jamison's prose is gorgeous. I listened to the audio book and at times couldn't tell if she was quoting Lowell's poetry or writing her own descriptions. It was often the latter.
Beverly Hollandbeck
Mar 23, 2017 rated it liked it
I once had a college professor for a poetry class who believed that the explication of a poem should not involve the poet's life at all. She believed that when a poet wrote, he/she took on a "persona" that was not necessarily the poet. This book about the relationship between Robert Lowell's poetry and his bipolar disease blows up that theory. Lowell is his poetry. It's as much Robert Lowell as his nose. So. Dr. Hunt, you need to go back and rethink that grade you gave me for my Sylvia Plath com ...more
Very excited about this one.
"I have a nine-months' daughter,
young enough to be my granddaughter.
like the sun she rises in her flame-flamingo infants' wear."
"What can the dove of Jesus give
You now but wisdom, exile? Stand and live,
The dove has brought an olive branch to eat."
"When the Lord God formed man from the sea’s slime
And breathed into his face the breath of life,
And blue-lung’d combers lumbered to the kill.
The Lord survives the rainbow of His will."

A new book is the first
Lynda Archer
May 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Robert Lowell was a Pulitzer prize winning poet, extremely bright and he suffered from bipolar illness / manic depression. Jamison does an amazing job of taking us inside the life , from birth to death, of someone who is brilliant, creative and suffers from a major mental illness. She makes an exhaustive examination of the connection between mania and creativity. I have read other books by Jamison, in particular, The Unquiet Mind, in which Jamison writes about her own journey with bipolar illnes ...more
Aida Ghazar
Mar 27, 2017 rated it liked it
This is an interesting book .The author has done a very thorough research on Robert Lowell,his personal and literary life and his poetry and prose.
Robert Lowell was a gifted poet who was suffering from mania and depression while creating very original and beautiful works of art .Ms. Jamison had explored deep in these issues and had tried hard to explain why and how the disorder had affected Lowell's work.Yet one wonders why such an exhaustingly detailed study on mania and depression? This is not
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Seventeen years ago I retired from my academic career as a scientist to immerse myself in poetry: in reading it, in writing it, and in studying it and poets.

Along the way I did encounter Robert Lowell and his poetry and specifically liked a couple of them: Skunk Hour and For The Union Dead. As for the poet himself I came away with the impression that he was a bit of an oddball, but no sense or perspective on what he contributed to poetry until I read Adam Kirsch's The Wounded Surgeon.

But I still
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Kay Redfield Jamison (born June 22, 1946) is an American clinical psychologist and writer who is one of the foremost experts on bipolar disorder. She is Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and is an Honorary Professor of English at the University of St Andrews.
More about Kay Redfield Jamison...