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The Concise Whitman

In response to:

Love and Walt Whitman from the September 22, 2005 issue

To the Editors:

J.M. Coetzee concludes his review of my new book Walt Whitman [NYR, September 22] with what is evidently meant as a criticism. He writes, “Reynolds’s claim that ‘the current book is the first to describe concisely [Whitman’s] transformation of cultural materials into poetry’ holds only if one places inordinate emphasis on the word ‘concisely.’”

Concisely”? Precisely! Actually, I don’t want to put inordinate emphasis on the word; I want complete emphasis on it. Having already put my stamp on “voluminous” with my 671-page Walt Whitman’s America: A Cultural Biography, I want in my 152-page Walt Whitman to make my mark on “concise.” Oxford University Press’s Lives and Legacies series, of which my Whitman book is the second volume, has a strict page limit for a reason: it is designed to provide scholarly but readable, compact coverage of major literary figures.

I, along with many of my reviewers, believe that Walt Whitman succeeds in doing so.

David S. Reynolds

Distinguished Professor

Baruch College, CUNY

New York City

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