in Memphis, next at Vanderbilt (wherernhe hoped to settle permanently), and finallyrnat LSU, where, with CleanthrnBrooks, he helped found the SouthernrnReview. Warren’s association with Brooksrnturned into a long-term collaborationrnthat resulted in the classic texts UnderstandingrnPoetry, Understanding Fiction,rnand Understanding American Literature.rnCleanth Brooks once referred to Warrenrnwriting textbooks as “Pegasus at thernplow.” While his contributions to classroomrninstruction as a professor and as anrninnovator are considerable, Warren’srnwriting life began and ended with poetry.rnHe placed his first poem at 16 and byrnhis mid-20’s was publishing poetry, fiction,rnbiography, and essays. His last twornpoems appeared in the New Yorker inrn1985, four years before his death.rnAlthough Robert Penn Warren’s lifernwas punctuated by “crisis” (a word Mr.rnBlotner finds useful), even in the direstrnof circumstances he continued to write,rnvoluminously—through the escalatingrnhardships of his first marriage and thernpersistent professional and financial difficultiesrnthat culminated in what hernpainfully regarded as his “exile from thernSouth.”‘ With the advent of World WirrnII, LSU shifted its support from the artsrnand literature to a greater investment inrnathletics. The transfer of funding fromrnthe Southern Review to an enlarged budgetrnfor the team mascot, Mike the BengalrnTiger, was a bitter betrayal Warrenrnnever forgot. In consideration of bothrnhis salary and his dignity, he accepted arnteaching position at the University ofrnMinnesota.rnThe year 1947 brought a kind of vindicationrnfor Warren when he receivedrnnot only a Guggenheim Fellowship butrnalso the first of two Pulitzer Prizes for hisrnsingle most enduring achievement, Allrnthe King’s Men. (His second came inrn1979 for a volume of poems, Now andrnThen.) Two years later he resigned hisrnposition at Minnesota and went to Yalernto teach, the move cast coinciding with arnlong overdue divorce from the now uncontrollablernCinina. But just as the publicationrnof All the King’s Men hadrnmarked a change in his professional andrnfinancial fortunes, Warren’s second marriagern—at age 47—signaled a dramaticrnturning point in his personal life.rnEleanor Clark, a writer herself, gave Warrenrnthe children he had long wanted,rnwhile offering a degree of domestic tranquillity,rncompanionship, and love he hadrnnot hitherto enjoyed. Warren delightedrnin travel, especially enjoying long sojournsrnabroad, but the Connecticut andrnVermont homes he acquired with hisrnsecond wife remained constants, as didrnhis allegiance to the region of his birth.rnWhile Warren spent most of hisrnadult life in the North and elsewhere,rnhe never considered himself anythingrnbut a Southerner, and he had thernaccent, courtliness, and dispositions ofrnthought to prove it. Blotner’s account ofrnWarren reading Uncle Remus in Italyrnto his godchild, the daughter of R.W.B.rnLewis, is a small but revealing detail.rnSimilarly, his love of recitation isrndistinctly Southern. One of the mostrnmemorable scenes in the book describesrnlong summer afternoons in which Warren,rnhis father, and various Vanderbiltrnfriends (including Tate, Lytic, and Ransom)rnrecited and read aloud poems onrnthe lawn under the trees at the Warrenrnhome in Guthrie. As Ransom readrnThomas Hardy’s “Wcssex Heights,”rnWarren experienced an “absolute momentrnof transfiguration and vision” thatrnaltered him for life. Later, as an Oxfordrnstudent visiting friends in Paris, Warrenrnwas heard reciting verse as he fell asleeprnat night and again in the morning, beginningrnhis recitation where he had leftrnoff the night before. Many years afterward,rnon a trip to Mexico City, he recalledrnwaking at 3:00 A.M. to the murmuredrndrone of his sleeping father, nowrnan old man, reciting “The Burial of SirrnJohn Moore” in the next bed. It can bernargued that Warren’s love of (and beliefrnin) memorization eventually caused himrnto fall out of favor at Yale, where herntaught for a number of years. His habitrnof beginning a course by asking eachrnmember of the class to recite a poem orrngive the plot of a story drew greater andrngreater silences as the years passed, butrnhe never yielded to fashion. The Southrnlay deep in him, and even in old age hisrnwife’s epithet of exasperation for himrnwas “You old Agrarian!” Shortly beforernhis 75th birthday he remarked, “I lovern[the South]. My house in the North isrnreally just a big hotel to me. A place Irnstay. The South will always be myrnhome.”rnThe Agrarians, a group comprisedrnmostly of Vanderbilt Fugitives, had rejectedrnNew South industrialization in favorrnof the rural values of the Old South.rnThough Warren returned from Oxfordrnwith an altered perspective that evolvedrnby degrees into a full-fledged support forrnintegration, the “separate-but-equal”rnstance of “The Briar Patch” (his contributionrnto I’ll Take My Stand) earned himrnthe label of “racist.” Writing about thernrace issue at various junctures in his life,rnWarren remained sensitive to the particularrncomplexities of the racial dilemmarnin the South. Ultimately, he said, his regionrnwas best positioned to set a moralrnexample for the entire country.rnIn “To the One-Eyed Poets,” X.J.rnKennedy writes:rnGreeley, Penn Wirren, andrnJames Seay,rnDid sight hold sway, and mind,rnThe likes of you might wellrnbe kingsrnIn this country of the blind.rnNaturally, vision and the visual were ofrnprimary concern to Warren, who lovedrnto read and write, draw and paint. Afterrnthe accident that left him one-eyed,rnsight became at times an obsession.rnWarren continued to have problems withrnthe blind eye, which eventually had to bernremoved altogether, and there was alwaysrnworry that he would lose sight in hisrnother eye as well. Described as a “ycarner,”rnWarren was a spiritual man, but notrna religious one. Growing up in a householdrnthat eschewed formal religion, hisrnreligious temperament never overcame arnstubborn skepticism. Ultimately, hernsought consolation in the physical—especiallyrnthe visual—beauty of the worldrnaround him.rnThe central theme of Robert PennrnWarren: A Biography is gargantuanism.rnWarren was a prodigious intellectual andrnvigorous athlete who astounds with thernsheer quantity of his achievement. Byrnthe time he was 14, he had read the Biblernthree times. As an undergraduate, hernmemorized 3,000 lines of poetry to fulfillrnan assignment requiring 800. As anrnadult, he used to swim so far out in thernocean as to alarm spectators on thernbeach. Such physical and intellectual pyrotechnicsrnwere habitual with him.rnThroughout his career, Warren wouldrnhave multiple projects going simultaneouslyrn—poems, a novel or biography, andrnoften critical or pedagogical articles orrnbooks. In addition to drawing and painting,rnhe also loved gardening and woodworking.rn”Red” Warren was part of an entirernculture based on volume. Gregarious asrnwell as intellectual, his generation ofrnwriters loved socializing. Thev not onlyrn26/CHRONICLESrnrnrn