... brilliant ... [other artistic] giants dominate the book, very often stealing the limelight from the deep intellect, mordant wit, and tortured psyche of Jacob himself ... His life is an extremely well-documented mystery, and Warren’s narrative everywhere glows with the ease and compassion of having lived with her research for many, many years. Jacob will never be as well-known to French or English-language readers as all of his friends were, but Warren’s account does more than any previous life in English to convey why so many people were his friends in the first place. She has sifted through that enormous trove of letters, and she’s extensively consulted the best French books on the subject...and the result is a hefty biography that shimmers with the sharpest chatter from the Lapin Agile ... Max Jacob: A Life in Art and Letters will likely stand as the definitive English-language life of this perennially enigmatic figure.
The level of detail [Warren] marshals is impressive, if sometimes overwhelming in its granularity. Her greater achievement, however, is her portrait of the tension among art, faith and sexuality in the life of a man Gertrude Stein once said had a 'poet soul' ... Over the course of Max Jacob, Warren wears many hats — translator, critic, chronicler — to resuscitate a richly contradictory figure and to give him a seat at the table.
Who was Max Jacob? That’s the question poet and University of Chicago professor Rosanna Warren circles around in this detailed, nearly 600-page biography, a project she has worked on for over 30 years ... Being a distinguished poet herself, Warren pays particularly close attention to the richness of Jacob’s language and what she neatly calls his 'controlled phonetic delirium.' .... Given its length and scholarly detail, Max Jacob: A Life in Art and Letters isn’t sprightly, but it is definitive and chockablock with entertaining anecdotes.