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Not Recommended

In response to:

Last Testament from the August 9, 1973 issue

To the Editors:

In John Thompson’s review of Recovery by John Berryman [NYR, August 9, 1973] he praises highly the TLS article of the poet [February 23, 1973], and recommends that it be used as an outline for future studies and for a critical biography.

An alarming recommendation: the biographical material is riddled with errors. The most serious one among them, because Anon makes much of it, is that “the mother [JB’s] seems to have preferred the younger, less volatile son.” John never questioned—nor did his brother or anyone else intimately connected with the family—that he was his mother’s undisputed favorite.

What, then, are we to make of Anon’s “His feelings toward his brother were transformed into a rivalry with other young poets, screened by a quasi-fraternal affection”? Or, “Meanwhile, it seems, he had conferred on Robert Lowell the part of the younger brother whom he wished to excel”?

Amateur psychoanalyzing is a tempting but risky activity for literary critics. Before embarking on it, it is essential to get the facts straight. This Anon has failed to do.

Eileen Simpson [Berryman]

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