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Savage beauty : the life of Edna St. Vincent Millay
Nancy Milford
Adult Nonfiction PS3525.I495 Z72 2001

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Milford hit the New York Times bestseller list 30 years ago with her acclaimed biography of Zelda Fitzgerald; she now seems poised to do it again with this outstanding biography of the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. Like Fitzgerald, Millay (1892-1950) was a Jazz Age phenomenon, causing a sensation wherever she went; lines from her brief poem, "First Fig" ("I burn my candle at both ends/ It will not last the night... ") would become the rallying cry of a generation. She was notorious for her sexual unconventionality and (as Edmund Wilson put it) "her intoxicating effect on people... of all ages and both sexes." How a lyric poet could have achieved such celebrity is the conundrum at the heart of Savage Beauty. Millay, as Milford depicts her, was a troubled genius who used her prodigious gift to propel herself out of rural poverty and into the center of her age. She carefully cultivated the reporters and patrons who took the "fragile girl-child" under their wing. But her delicate image masked a force of nature whose incendiary wit and insatiable ambition took the public by storm. Milford deftly links the lyric intensity of Millay's work with her ravenous appetite for life. Whether tracing her ghoulishly close relationship to her mother and sisters, her years at the center of cosmopolitan life or her morphine addiction and untimely death, this account offers its readers a haunting drama of artistic fame. A true paradigm of literary biography, this finely crafted book is not to be missed. (Sept. 11) Forecast: Zelda, a finalist for the Pulitzer and the National Book Award, sold 1.4 million copies. In addition to a nine-city author tour and first serial publication in Vanity Fair, Mitford will be interviewed in the September issue of Harper's Bazaar. Expect lots of excellent reviews and return trips to the printer once the 75,000 initial run sells out. Along with this bio, Modern Library will issue a new edition of Millay's poetry, edited by (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

In 1923, Edna St.Vincent Millay (1892-1950) became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for POETRY. To write her biography, Milford whose one other major publication is a highly praised and best-selling biography, Zelda persuaded Millay's younger sister and sole heir, Norma, to give her access to hundreds of Millay's personal papers, letters, and notebooks. Selecting from "this extraordinary collection," Milford meticulously integrates Millay's major poems, letters received and sent, reactions of friends, and comments from extensive interviews with Norma into an orderly and affecting narrative. The result is an intimate look at a complex, charismatic, imperfect woman, someone who evokes both admiration and sympathy. Among the less glamorous revelations are the sometimes damaging intertwining of the poet's life with that of her mother and two sisters, Millay's promiscuity and uncanny seductiveness, and the dynamics of her 27-year marriage to a man who adored and promoted her while enabling her infidelities and addictions. Milford's lengthy portrait is a testimonial to her scholarship, stamina, and commitment to her craft. This should serve as a model of a highly readable biography, as well as a standard source for future Millay studies. Recommended for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/01.] Carol A. McAllister, Coll. of William & Mary Lib., Williamsburg, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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