Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tuesday Intro: Savage Beauty by Nancy Milford


"Camden, with its ring of mountains rising behind the white clapboard houses facing Penobscot Bay, made the most of its view. Nowhere else on the coast of Maine was there such dramatic natural beauty. The houses were like weathered faces turned to watch the sea. The upland meadows of ox-eyed daisies, timothy, and sweet fern, the dark green woods of balsam and fir swept to the gentle summit of Mount Megunticook, and the rock face of Mount Battie rose from the edge of the sea as if to hold it. But it was a far less generous time than the early days of shipbuilding, upon which the town's wealth had been founded. Now even the great woodsheds along the wharves were mostly abandoned, permanent reminders of the long death of shipbuilding. The wool mills looming behind the town offered scant wages and long hours. Later in her life Edna St. Vincent Millay would say she was "a girl  who had lived all her life at the very tide-line of the sea," but in the fall of 1904, she moved with her family into 100 Washington Street on the far edge of town, in a section called Millville because it was near the mills. It was the smallest house in the poorest part of town, but it was one their mother could afford when she brought her girls to Camden after her divorce."
Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay
by Nancy Milford

I've long appreciated Edna St. Vincent Millay's poetry, but only became curious about her life after discovering this marker on Mount Battie during a family trip to Camden, Maine in 2010.


Now, almost three years later, I've finally started her biography. My plan is to read it slowly over the next couple of months.

Our view of Camden from Mount Battie:


Have you read Millay's poetry? What do you think of the intro?



Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening paragraph(s). Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

21 comments:

  1. Yes! I love Millay, and this bio was just incredibly interesting. Plus, I thought the writing was lovely. It's still one of the few bios I truly enjoyed. Often, they're too dry or biased, and I end up not finishing.

    Hope you enjoy it!

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    1. Picky - I know what you mean about bios often being dry and biased, and am happy that this seems to be one of those rare exceptions. My favorite literary bio is A Tragic Honesty: The Life and Work of Richard Yates by Blake Bailey... absolutely loved that one!

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    2. This was one of the first bios I read in which I felt like the biographer 'identfied' herself as a biographer -- rather than pretending she had some kind of impartiality or distance, Milford discussed how it was to write the bio -- I just loved that. I have to echo Picky -- the writing was lovely -- a good match for Millay, I think. Enjoy!

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  2. This one sounds lovely...and I enjoyed how the author portrayed the setting....especially this snippet: "The houses were like weathered faces turned to watch the sea." And how could one do better than a book about Edna St. Vincent Millay?

    Thanks for sharing...and for visiting my blog.

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    1. Laurel-Rain Snow - I loved that line, too! It paints such a vivid picture in my mind.

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  3. It looks like you've already connected with her, which makes a biography that much more fun. Here's Mine

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    1. Paulita - Yes, biographies are definitely better when you have some kind of connection with the subject. This one is off to a very strong start!

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  4. No I'm not familiar with Millay's poems. I do love the opening paragraph. Lush is the word that comes to mind as I was reading it. What is being described is lush and the writing itself is lush.

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    1. Margot - Lush is the perfect word to describe the writing!

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  5. How could you not become a poet living in such a magnificently beautiful place? This biography sounds fascinating.

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    1. Anbolyn - Exactly... there are few places as beautiful as the rocky Maine coast.

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  6. I haven't read her poetry but may have to at least dabble in it!! That view is so gorgeous!!! This one sounds really interesting!!

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    1. Staci - I finally treated myself to her complete works last year and love pulling it out from time to time.

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  7. Yes, keep reading (I'm a sucker for books set in Maine and New England!)

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    1. Booksaremyfavouriteandbest - I can't resist Maine, either.

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  8. This is really beautiful writing - I would continue. Enjoy, bet it's fabulous. Thanks for joining in JoAnn.

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    1. Diane - I noticed the author has also written a biography of Zelda Fitzgerald. Have a feeling that will end up on my wish list sooner or later, too.

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  9. I haven't read any of her poetry but I do enjoy memoirs that chronicle times past. I look forward to seeing your thoughts on it as you read.

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    1. Darlene - This is painting a lovely picture of Maine in the early 1900's.

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  10. There was an article in the NYT (last year?) about a tiny house (as in very narrow frontage) for sale in Greenwich Village that she had lived in -- I don't know anything about her but I'll look forward to hearing about her (and even reading this someday). Here's to biography binges!

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    1. Audrey - Now I'm going to have to google that house, lol. From what little I know, Millay lead quite a colorful life. It should be pretty interesting filling in the blanks.

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Thank you for taking the time to comment. These conversations are my favorite part of blogging. Please check back, I almost always respond to comments!

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