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Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass (150th Anniversary Edition) Hardcover – April 15, 2005
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"I celebrate myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease....observing a spear of summer grass."
So begins Leaves of Grass, the first great American poem and indeed, to this day, the greatest and most essentially American poem in all our national literature.
The publication of Leaves of Grass in July 1855 was a landmark event in literary history. Ralph Waldo Emerson judged the book "the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom America has yet contributed." Nothing like the volume had ever appeared before. Everything about it--the unusual jacket and
title page, the exuberant preface, the twelve free-flowing, untitled poems embracing every realm of experience--was new. The 1855 edition broke new ground in its relaxed style, which prefigured free verse; in its sexual candor; in its images of racial bonding and democratic togetherness; and in the
intensity of its affirmation of the sanctity of the physical world.
This Anniversary Edition captures the typeface, design and layout of the original edition supervised by Whitman himself. Today's readers get a sense of the "ur-text" of Leaves of Grass, the first version of this historic volume, before Whitman made many revisions of both format and style. The
volume also boasts an afterword by Whitman authority David Reynolds, in which he discusses the 1855 edition in its social and cultural contexts: its background, its reception, and its contributions to literary history. There is also an appendix containing the early responses to the volume,
including Emerson's letter, Whitman's three self-reviews, and the twenty other known reviews published in various newspapers and magazines.
This special volume will be a must-have keepsake for fans of Whitman and lovers of American poetry.
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About the Author
David S. Reynolds is Distinguished Professor of English and American Studies at Baruch College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Among his many books are Walt Whitman (part of Oxford's Lives and Legacies series), Walt Whitman's America: A Cultural Biography, which won the
Bancroft Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Beneath the American Renaissance, winner of the Christian Gauss Award. A regular contributor to The New York Times Book Review, he lives in Old Westbury, New York.
- Publisher : Oxford University Press; 150th anniversary edition (April 15, 2005)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 192 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0195183428
- ISBN-13 : 978-0195183429
- Item Weight : 15.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 9.52 x 0.75 x 6.42 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #27,949 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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It's extremely unfortunate that Amazon has combined the reviews for so many different editions of this and other books. While they may sell more books, it makes it very difficult for customers to find a good edition to buy, and it makes me much less likely to buy from Amazon in the future.
Whitman's poems catalog his transcendentalism-inspired view of... everything. From scenes across the world, with particular focus on America, to anecdotes of dying soldiers and copulating couples, Whitman emphasizes the interconnectedness of humanity and nature.
While Whitman's enthusiasm is infectious, he lacks brevity. He repeats his philosophy like a club over the head. The final product could've been cut in half and still have gotten across the message.
But darn if there aren't moments of beauty. Particularly in the later poems which were added in his later years, Whitman tempers his enthusiasm with more brief, succinct, thoughtful, and hopeful words in the face of impending death. And I think that is the best occasion for Whitman's leaves: when one needs comfort that there is indestructible purpose and beauty in every human's life.
This sweeping arrogance extends to his ‘free verse” in which he ignores all pre-existing conventions of style, even grammar and replaces it with a sort of overly contrived disorder. By creating sensation and appearing to correct conventional wisdom, he attempts to establish himself as some kind of visionary.
He uses made-up words like “elderhand” or ‘fatherstuff” to serve as motifs for his new secular religion- a worship of the self and of nature. He also makes frequent attacks on scriptural concepts and tries to up-end biblical laws. Yet for an atheist, he is strangely obsessed with God.
The overall effect of this self-absorbed diatribe is rather tedious. His language lacks charm and beauty, and basically amounts to yet another 1800’s assault on Christianity.
By alternative Travel Press on March 7, 2021
Top reviews from other countries
In terms of the book itself, its very good quality and well worth the money.