Book Report: Robert Frost by Lawrance Thompson (1959, 1963)

Well, this book has certainly held up its cover price well. Sold in the middle nineteen sixties for a cover price of 65 cents, I bought it last weekend at a small book fair in the gymnasium of a small local Catholic church/school for fifty cents because it’s a paperback (hardbacks were a whole dollar). Aside from cars and homes from 1959, there’s probably not much that would have retained resale value like this volume.

Did I say volume? I meant pamphlet. This particular item represents #2 in a series by University of Minnesota Pamphlets on American Writers. Its chapbook (5.5″ by 8″) format comprises 41 pages of text, saddle-stapled. So don’t think I labored over it for weeks. A couple of nights at 20 pages per night. I probably spent more time on Robert Frost’s In the Clearing when I read it (Two years ago? Already?).

Essentially, this volume presents one critical essay that includes some of Frost’s life and an interpretation of his work through 1959 (which did not include In The Clearing) in terms of its inherent contradictions between a heretic and his Puritanical upbringing who believes in the design of an angry God. Or at least a God whose workings are limited and inconsistent to the understanding of Man.

A good pick up for fifty cents, particularly if you like or read Frost. As any bit of criticism, it’s a level removed from what you get if you directly read the poetry, but if you’re like me, you encounter the poetry amongst the maelstrom of daily life and daily stresses–two years ago sometimes. A brief critical interlude, from someone who’s only life’s work was to read Frost’s material in its obra and to comment on it, can provide some additional food for thought. Not that I think it should replace your reading of the original or supplant your interpretations thereof. But it’s grist for the mill, or some other metaphor more relevant to the twenty-first century.

Apparently, this Thompson guy (the author) is the real deal, too. A quick perusal on Amazon of his works indicates a large body of work in covering Frost. Most came after this work, but it’s the same guy.

It’s only this particular volume that came out during the Eisenhower administration and was reprinted until Kennedy got shot. A later edition came out in the Johnson years. Sorry, sometimes I measure these books in their historical context for my own amusement.

Worth fifty cents? Why not? I’m a special sort of consumer for used books, and I don’t think I wasted my time or energy on this book. I bought three others in the series, so time will tell what I think of them. But this book did not discourage me.

Books mentioned in this review:


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