Rundell shares some of her subject’s daring, which likely contributes to the freshness of her take on Donne ... She is especially good on Donne’s efforts to express ideas in novel ways ... Rundell’s own style can dazzle, though at times the wit feels a bit strained ... Rundell is keenly aware of the misogyny of a good number of these poems, and defends Donne without excusing him, pointing out that it’s a mistake to conflate the poet with the poem’s speaker ... Far more than previous (and male) biographers, Rundell is alert to Anne’s travails ... Those who write about Donne tend to gravitate either to the libertine poet and secretly Catholic Jack Donne or to the sober Protestant preacher, Dr. Donne ... One of the great achievements of this impressive biography — which rises to the challenge of introducing Donne and his world to the next generation of readers — is that it shows how these two Donnes were always one and the same.
Erudite, entertaining ... Super-Infinite is an attempt to crack Donne’s code ... Super-Infinite hardly reads like an academic work. Ms. Rundell does not attempt a feminist defense of Donne’s love poetry...she adores much of it despite any reservations. There is little analysis of his artistic influences, and less of his posthumous reputation. Instead she ransacks his poetry and prose for insight into the man himself ... As a meditation on 'love, sex and death'” as the book’s jacket copy has it, and as a guide to how John Donne’s mind worked, Super-Infinite is a wonder. The account leaves a few questions, mostly concerning Donne’s religious development ... Ms. Rundell, like all literary biographers, cites many phrases from her subject’s writing, suggesting how they shed light on episodes from life. At times, this means transposing a passage composed during one period into a quite different chronological context. Can the words of the dashing young clerk or struggling scribbler really illuminate the thoughts of the grandee of St. Paul’s? Super-Infinite almost convinces you they can.
Rundell is right that Donne...must never be forgotten, and she is the ideal person to evangelise him for our age. She shares his linguistic dexterity, his pleasure in what TS Eliot called 'felt thought', his ability to bestow physicality on the abstract ... It’s a biography filled with gaps and Rundell brings a zest for imaginative speculation to these. We know so little about Donne’s wife, but Rundell brings her alive as never before ... Rundell confronts the difficult issue of Donne’s misogyny head-on ... This is a determinedly deft book, and I would have liked it to billow a little more, making room for more extensive readings of the poems and larger arguments about the Renaissance. But if there is an overarching argument, then it’s about Donne as an 'infinity merchant' ... To read Donne is to grapple with a vision of the eternal that is startlingly reinvented in the here and now, and Rundell captures this vision alive in all its power, eloquence and strangeness