The Climate Talks

Ground seen from the sky on top of the clouds

It’s Christmas with a high of 70 in Connecticut. It’s been that way all month. In South Florida sea water rises from the storm drains built to carry it away. A protester outside the Paris Climate Talks says to the TV camera: “It won’t matter. They’re just deciding which decade we’re going to become extinct.” […]

In Case You Missed It 3

Gil Roth, servant of literature and culture, hosts audio interviews with authors to discuss their new work and careers in a series he calls Virtual Memories. Here is our conversation.

In Case You Missed It 2

Stephen Yenser brought me to Los Angeles to talk with him about the book in the Hammer Museum’s reading series in June. Stephen has I think real SNL potential.

In Case You Missed It

Langdon Hammer presented with Laurels at James Merrill House Committe

On May 15, the James Merrill House Committee invited me to lecture on James Merrill: Life and Art. Here is a link to a video of the event. The introducer is my friend, Stuart Vyse, Professor of Psychology Emeritus at Connecticut College. The toddler you hear in the background, pleading to go outside, is my […]

Against Formalism

James Merrill's Ouija Board

Formalism—it sounds like formaldehyde. Merrill never called himself a formalist. But reviewers and critics routinely use that term to categorize him and his work. Merrill didn’t believe that “writing in form” (that is, using rhyme and meter) was the only way to do it. He had a cunning sense of the contingency, the rhetoricity, of […]

Footnote To History!

That was the subject line in an email from a friend of JM’s mentioned on page 600-something in the biography. He was modestly delighted to see his name in the book. But probably there are others who would have liked to find more of themselves in it. Sandy McClatchy is funny on the subject. When […]

Too Many Charles E. Merrills

Charles Merrill Senior and junior, Palm Beach

Digging around for information about James Merrill’s father, I found an article by Stephen Gillers that related a wonderful fact (“A Tendency to Deprave and Corrupt: The Transformations of US Obscenity Law from Hicklin to Ulysses II,” Washington University Law Review 85, no. 2 [2007]). In the course of making the landmark legal decision that […]

One More Missing Piece

Claude Fredericks, Author and wife in Claude Frederick's front yard

I cut the manuscript of James Merrill: Life and Art many times. Although I may have labored hours, even days, over certain passages that eventually were left on the floor, I don’t miss any of them particularly. On the other hand, there are stories I wish I had been able to get in but couldn’t—because […]