THE VIRGIN OF BENNINGTON ~
Book review and technical detail THE VIRGIN OF BENNINGTON ~ Kathleen Norris
|Technical detail of THE VIRGIN OF BENNINGTON ~|
|Title||THE VIRGIN OF BENNINGTON ~|
|Publishing Date||1st January, 1970|
Poet and nonfiction author Norris (The Cloister Walk, 1996, etc.) focuses in this autobiography on her years at Bennington College in the mid-1960s and a subsequent period of maturation in New York City.Notorious for its atmosphere of sexual promiscuity, drugs, and bohemian liberalism, Bennington seemed a bad fit for a shy girl from Honolulu whose most cherished entertainments consisted of reading and singing in the church choir. Dubbed by her college mates “the Virgin of Bennington,” Norris spent four years in self-imposed isolation, composing verse largely out of a need for “protective coloration” in a world that seemed to have little place for her. Poetry was a defense mechanism against the intrusion of coarse reality, claims Norris, who had her first sexual experience with another girl and later became the lover of a married professor. Moving to New York after graduation, she took a job at the Academy of American Poets, performing menial secretarial tasks but benefiting from the opportunity to attend poetry readings and meet stars of the literary demimonde. Persistently describing herself as too bashful to venture out to a Manhattan grocery store, in the same breath the author portrays all-night binges in the bars and poets’ lofts she frequented, sometimes to the detriment of her daytime responsibilities. More interesting than her panorama of New York’s unbridled bohemian lifestyle is Norris’s tribute to mentor and friend Betty Kray, executive director of the AAP. Committed to helping struggling writers through grants and awards, Kray nourished many native talents while also promoting foreign celebrities. Convinced of Kray’s decisive role in her own creative development, Norris mulls over their friendship and Betty’s selfless devotion to the verbal art.There just isn’t anything unusual enough about the author’s experiences and perceptions to make this more than a near-stereotypical tale of a provincial American emerging from a sheltered, small-town environment to confront the dangers and temptations of a big metropolis.
The book her devoted readers have been waiting for. At last, New York Times bestselling author Kathleen Norris's first continuous narrative . . . a story of sex, drugs, and poetry.After spending her sheltered high school years in Hawaii, Kathleen Norris was woefully unprepared for Bennington College in the 1960s, with its culture of drugs, sex, and bohemianism. But it was also at Bennington that she discovered her great love of poetry, which carried her to New York City at a time when a new generation of poets was emerging and shaking up the establishment. Working at the Academy of American Poets for her beloved mentor, Elizabeth Kray, and hanging out at clubs with Andy Warhol's crowd at night, Norris found herself immersed in an exciting and emotionally turbulent new world. Her memoir of that time-of her friendships and encounters with poets, including Jim Carroll, Denise Levertov, Gerard Malanga, Erica Jong, James Merrill, Stanley Kunitz, and James Wright, as well as of her own development as a poet-is an inspiring tribute to poetry and a stunning evocation of a time and place. Her tenuousbalancing act on the bridge between naive experimentation and indirection and the more focused responsibilities of adulthood makes for a dramatic and illuminating account of coming-of-age at a tumultuous moment in our history.
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