Books: Mortal Play

FROST: A LITERARY LIFE RECONSIDERED by William H. Pritchard

Oxford; 286 pages; $15.95

It has not always been easy to make the case for Robert Frost as one of America's greatest poets. His younger colleague Randall Jarrell tried in the 1950s and ran smack up against the self-created public figure, the "Only Genuine Robert Frost in Captivity": a singer of homely New England scenes, "full of complacent wisdom and cast-iron whimsy." Then, shortly after Frost's death in 1963 at age 88, his friend Lawrance Thompson began publishing a three-volume biography; inadvertently or not, it replaced the cracker-barrel sage with a monster. Thompson...

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