Publishers Weekly, 1996-07-15 "I am a poet not a dirty old man," Robert Graves insisted in his 70s, but his pen seemed then to be driven by a thwarted passion for the exploitative or adoring young women in the village on Majorca where he spent much of his last 40 years. An apostle of the female principle that he celebrated in his White Goddess (1948), he seemed to owe his devotion to an authentic bitch-goddess. The tyrannical American poet Laura Riding enslaved him sexually and emotionally in the 1920s and 1930s, wrecking his first marriage. (She was the focus of the second of the three volumes of his nephew's biography, which with this book is now complete in 1385 pages of gossipy chronicle.) With a second wife and new family to support, Graves wrote potboilers for money and masochistic love poetry to imaginary, compliantly loyal and bullyingly disloyal "muses." More a log than a life, this biography is Graves's fever chart both as suffering acolyte and as senior poet of his generation. A literary rebel under Riding, after her he settled into ironic historical fiction as well as classical criticism and translation, while keeping a separate emotional compartment for the erotic torments his verse required. At 80, with 10 more years of life to come, he lapsed into senile silenceŠan awkward matter for his biographer. At some point the reader may be too word-weary to care about the errors carried over in this British import, errors in everything from the names of American universities to ordinary geography. Photos. (Sept.)
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