... this fascinating study from Rosenblitt sheds new light on elements of [Cummings'] life previously underexamined ... With grace and intelligence, Rosenblitt brings the worlds of Harvard, Cambridge, and 'the Front' to vivid life. The horrors of gas warfare, mass slaughter, and syphilis linger as you turn the pages. The historical analysis is powerful and profound, yet Rosenblitt has her focus on much more than politics, battles, and mud. Reading Cummings through the lens of her insight is revelatory, and the brilliance of this work may reestablish his place as a poet of towering importance ... Placing Cummings in the context of the 'War Poets,' Rosenblitt breathes new life back into poems too often anthologized and too little read. Highly recommended.
During those first weeks in Paris, [Cummings] fell in love with a prostitute, Marie Louise Lallemand. On the intensity of his feelings and his later self-reproach for 'cruel”'treatment of her (the details of which remain obscure), Rosenblitt writes some of her most original and interesting pages ... Rosenblitt doesn’t attempt a general assesment of his autobiographical war novel, The Enormous Room; an odd omission, since that book is the main reason people associate him with the war at all. From evidence in the notebooks, however, she does confirm many details of Cummings’s descriptions of the men who filed into and out of the Enormous Room.
... well-researched ... richly detailed passages ... Rosenblitt occasionally gets bogged down in minor details: the cost of Harvard lab fees, the features of classmate John Dos Passos. But she convincingly argues that, in this period, Cummings 'shaped a vision of the world that was both caustic and deeply human' and developed his 'radical ideas about the physical presentation of texts' ... She presents one indelible image after another, as when she notes that, long after the war, he would still “light his cigarette by picking up a live coal out of the fireplace grate with his fingertips, as he had learned to do in prison when out of matches.' The Beauty of Living is a welcome addition to the field of Cummings scholarship.