Thomas Hardy once said that America had two great attractions: the skyscraper and the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay. The most famous poet of the Jazz Age, Millay captivated the nation: She smoked in public, took many lovers (men and women, single and married), flouted convention sensationally, and became the embodiment of the New Woman.
Thirty years after her landmark biography of Zelda Fitzgerald, Nancy Milford returns with an iconic portrait of this passionate, fearless woman who obsessed America even as she tormented herself. Chosen by USA Today as one of the top ten books of the year, Savage Beauty is a triumph in the art of biography. Millay was an American original—one of those rare characters, like Sylvia Plath and Ernest Hemingway, whose lives were even more dramatic than their art.
Let's set the scene...
Rory is having a tough time fitting all of her books in her backpack.
Lorelai: Just take your schoolbooks and leave some of the other books.
Rory: I need all of my other books.
Lorelai: You don't need all of these.
Rory: I think I do.
Lorelai: Edna St. Vincent Millay?
Rory: That's my bus book.
Lorelai: Uh huh. What's the Faulkner?
Rory: My other bus book.
Lorelai: So just take one bus book.
Rory: No, the Millay is a biography, and sometimes if I'm on the bus and I pull out a biography and I think to myself, 'Well, I don't really feel like reading about a person's life right now' then I'll switch to the novel, and then sometimes if I'm not into the novel, I'll switch back.
Here is where I admit that I know nothing about poetry. I'm not even sure if I like it. It's not something I ever gravitate towards. And I will also admit that I knew nothing about Edna St. Vincent Millay aside from "she's a poet... or something".
So I went into this biography with absolutely no idea of who this woman was. And I was pleasantly surprised. This woman, why kind of an arrogant ass, was a super fascinating woman. I'm not sure I'd want to be friends with her. But I also like the fact that, in a time where women weren't seen as anything worth consideration, she KNEW she was awesome. I wish I had that kind of confidence.
Nancy Milford is clearly an excellent biographer. She delves so far into the lives of her subject that her work comes across as more of a memoir. I could hear EStM in every word. We had a unique glimpse into the life of an amazingly talented woman... and Milford gave that to us. Not like I don't have enough on my to-be-read list, but I'll definitely be picking up Milford's bio on Zelda Fitzgerald. Now that's a bucket o' crazy I can't wait to dive into!
Who do I see reading this in the Stars Hollow gazebo?
I know it was her book that made me read this, but... this is so Rory. She would love the look into the lives of the greats. And she probably has a better appreciation of poetry than this Philistine.