Legends of the Slow Explosion: Eleven Modern Lives

by Baron Wormser

$19.95

Available in April!

“Wormser’s intimate and engaging portraits … offer new ways to reflect on the shaping forces of history, the mystery of human agency, the nature of wisdom … an unnerving interrogation …” —Christopher Merrill

 

Format: paperback

ISBN: 978-1-946482-10-5 Categories: , , , , Tag:

 

Multi-genre literary master Baron Wormser’s new book is about people from the mid-twentieth century whose lives created ripple effects beyond their individuality. Including electrifying portraits of Rosa Parks, Hannah Arendt, Miles Davis, Audrey Hepburn, Willem de Kooning, among others, these are not conventional “biographical” essays. Wormser has created a molten, multi-dimensional prose that brings a reader into the visceral presence of these human catalysts.

from the Preface

I do not offer these legends as strict accounts. What interests me is the sense that something both larger and deeper than an individual life transpired. It is easy to lose that sense in the forests of detail, however important each of those details is. I respect those details and have evoked many of them in these pages but at some point we have to ask the larger question: What was that about? If we cannot trust the bold outlines an exceptional life creates then we have little to go on as we move blankly forward in the modern times of another century. To query a series of lives lived within the same era is to ask what stature was present and what wisdom a life could obtain. We seek to cloak ourselves in reason but exaltation and strangeness, insult and desire, all beggar that reason.

 

Additional information

Weight .4 lbs
Dimensions 6 x .5 x 9 in

 

Baron Wormser is the author of fifteen books, including the novel Tom o’ Vietnam and the memoir The Road Washes Out in Spring. He has been poet laureate of the state of Maine (2000–2005) and received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He offers workshops throughout the United States, teaches in Fairfield University’s MFA Program, and lives in Montpelier, Vermont.

 

 

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“Wormser (Unidentified Sighting Objects), a poet, memoirist, and novelist, offers an unusual take on the Cold War through 11 loosely connected biographical sketches of significant midcentury figures. Though only a few of the lives detailed concern the U.S.-Soviet standoff directly, Wormser finds each representative of how people in the 1950 and ’60s responded to the anxieties of their age. Included are political activists (Rosa Parks and Philip Berrigan), musicians (Miles Davis, Anita Day, and George Harrison), and writers (Hannah Arendt and Richard Yates), as well as diplomat George F. Kennan, painter Willem de Kooning, and CIA official James Jesus Angleton. Even Audrey Hepburn gets a turn, in an essay memorializing her unique charm as a protest against wartime despair. Wormser offers no new research on his subjects but inventively illustrates the artistic concerns of de Kooning and Yates and the troubled mind-sets of Kennan and Angleton as they tried to outsmart the Soviets. Essays on Arendt, Berrigan, Davis, and Harrison, however, meander into abstractions that fail to expose new insights. Often it is difficult to discern to what degree the interior monologues Wormser employs throughout are based on fact. Wormser’s imagination is one of the book’s foremost pleasures, but readers may find it obscures the line between myth and reality.” Publishers Weekly

“Baron Wormser puts lives on paper in a way I’ve never seen before . . . There are so many insights about the human imagination …” —Deborah Baker

“Stylish and penetrating … eloquent, incisive and revelatory …” —Askold Melnyczuk

“… provocative and subtle — a latter-day version of Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans, about people who swore allegiance only to the cultural forms they loved.” —Tom Sleigh

“Wormser’s intimate and engaging portraits … offer new ways to reflect on the shaping forces of history, the mystery of human agency, the nature of wisdom … an unnerving interrogation …” —Christopher Merrill

“Wormser writes about an eclectic range of major figures, each of whom lived under the ‘annihilating strength of the shadow’ of nuclear war … They made their lives into works of art, and ‘what goes into the making is boundless.’” —Jay Parini