Stephen Crane in the News: NY Times Review of Stephen Crane: A Life of Fire

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Stephen Crane, circa 1895. CreditPhotoQuest/Getty Images

Stephen Crane, whose likeness appears on the album cover of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” was America’s first rock-star writer. He self-published his realist novella “Maggie: A Girl of the Streets” at 21, losing so much money that he took to starving himself and wearing rubber boots because he couldn’t afford shoes. By the time he was 23, he had imagined “a creature, naked, bestial, / Who, squatting upon the ground, / Held his heart in his hands, / And ate of it. / I said, ‘Is it good, friend?’ / ‘It is bitter — bitter,’ he answered; / ‘But I like it / Because it is bitter, / And because it is my heart.’ ”

Crane worked on “The Black Riders,” his first book of poems, while he wrote “The Red Badge of Courage.” Internationally famous after newspapers serialized “Red Badge” in 1894, he still struggled to make a living as an investigative reporter, hounded by gossip and conventional morality. The poet Hamlin Garland, an early Crane supporter and the president of the American Psychical Society, suspected Crane of automatic writing, a popular idea in an era fascinated by spiritualism. According to Paul Sorrentino’s evocative new biography, “Stephen Crane: A Life of Fire,” Garland “tested Crane by having him write a new poem on the spot. Without hesitation, out came the memorable ‘God fashioned the ship of the world,’ a bitter parody of Genesis in which ‘at fateful time’ humanity was doomed to drift ‘forever rudderless’ while ‘many in the sky / . . . laughed at this thing.’ ”

[Read the rest at the link above]

About Donna Campbell

Professor of English, Washington State University. Late nineteenth- and early 20th-century Americanist and digital humanities. http://www.wsu.edu/~campbelld/ and http://www.donnamcampbell.wordpress.com
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3 Responses to Stephen Crane in the News: NY Times Review of Stephen Crane: A Life of Fire

  1. L.O. Gabriel says:

    This is what passes for book reviewing at the New York Times these days? What on earth does the fact that Stephen Crane’s “likeness appears on the album cover of ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’” have to do with Paul Sorrentino’s new biography of Crane? Is it an example of the unique and interesting kind information that Sorrentino has uncovered, for example? And what is the point of retelling the well-known highlights of Crane’s life and career, and recounting the gossipy digs aimed at of Cora’s professional life, while shelling out only a meagre paragraph to Sorrentino’s current work — the work in question, by the way?

    Paul Sorrentino is probably the world’s leading authority on Stephen Crane. He has spent his academic career studying, writing about, editing others’ efforts focused on Crane. His efforts have been slighted here.

  2. Thank you for your comment. I completely agree about Paul Sorrentino’s fine work on Stephen Crane. The “Stephen Crane in the News” feature is designed to repost parts of what’s appearing in the news media about Crane, without adding additional comment, for the benefit of those who might be interested in Crane and not see it otherwise.

    • L.O. Gabriel says:

      Thanks, Donna. It seems that you and I are the only ones to have read the Times review and Sorrentino’s biography, and to have found not much overlap.

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