Throughout these essays, ThomasrnMcGuane’s prose prances and capersrnHke a I.ippizaner staUion. His next bookrn(The Longest Silence) will be a miscellanyrndevoted to another of his passionsfishingrn—whose component pieces willrnshine, I’m sure, like freshly caught brookrntrout.rnAll well and good, but wliere is this accomplishedrnsportsman-novelist’s nextrnnovel?rnBill Crake writes from Cody, Wyoming.rnThe Seven-LeaguernCrutchesrnby ].0. TaternNo Other Book: Selected Essays byrnRandall JarrellrnEdited by Brad LeitluniserrnNew York: HarperChllins;rn376 pp., $27.50rnRemembering Randall: A Memoir ofrnPoet, Critic, and TeacherrnRandall Jarrellrnby Mar)’ von Schrader JarrellrnNew York: HarperChllins;rn171 pp., $22.00rnSideswiped by a car, Randall Jarrellrndied 34 years ago at the age of 51.rnThat he has remained a presence as arnwriter and even as a man is vividly testifiedrnto bv these books, which bring back arnlot of memories, and different kinds ofrnmemories. Randall Jarrell was a force,rneven a star of the literar)’ firmament, andrnwhen his books came out they were readrnand the were reacted to, though not alwaysrnwith precision. I remember an undergraduaternpoet asking me, in 1964,rn”Hae ‘ou read The Owl by John CrowernRansom?” I was able to return, “Are yonrnreferring to The Bat-Poet by Randall Jarrell?”rnSince then, I bcliexe, that onceyoimgrnpoet, a disciple of Yvor Winters,rnhas been a political scientist.rnRandall Jarrell’s death in 1965 was arngreat loss, a particular and even peculiarrnone. Because of a mental breakdown hernhad suffered before the disaster, there liasrnbeen a w idespread conviction that actnal-rn1 he committed suicide. Jarrell’s widow.rnin her memoir, has argued effectivelyrnthat the circumstances show his death tornhave been an accident, not self-destruction.rnJarrell’s biographer, William II.rnPritchard [Randall jarrell, A Literary Lifern[1990]), declared that the exact nahire ofrnhis death remains unknowable. Howeverrnthat may be, Jarrell’s death entangledrnhim forever in the context of the 60’s,rnconfessional poetry, and the unambiguousrnsuicides of other poets, such as SvlviarnPlatli, John Bcrryman, and Ann Sexton.rnBut I believe that there was anotherrnproblematic aspect of Jarrell’s deathrnwhich has not been explored, and that isrnthe matter of its “timing” in the largerrncultural context. I find it hard to believernthat Jarrell could hae remained his oldrnself (not that there was only one of them),rnbodi poised and open, in the coarseningrnthat was mega-magnified in the 60’s: rantingrnagainst the Vietnamese war, AllenrnGinsberg, “howling poetry,” Woodstock,rnand all the rest of it. If we had RandallrnJarrell around today at the age of 85,rnwould he be feebly directing his walkerrntoward a hip-hop poetry slam? I somehowrndoubt this.rnWell, these two books remind us ofrnwhat all the ftiss was about. Marv’ Jarrell’srnmemoir gives us an intimate portrait ofrnthe man, the poet at home, the writer, thernfriend. Her book is a fine example of itsrnkind, and it will make its way onto manyrna shelf beside her own edition of Jarrell’srnLetters (1985) and Pritchard’s biographv.rnThrough her book and others, wc dornhave Randall Jarrell available to us today,rnand that is an enrichment of possibilityrnthat is both welcome and needed.rnBrad Leithauser’s edition of Jarrell’s essavsrnwill stand as the collection for ourrntime of Jarrell’s statements on poetr- andrnculture. In the I95()’s, Randall Jarrellrnwas the preeminent reviewer of poetr)’ inrnthis country, and he was probably thernbest we have had since Edgar Allan Poe.rnBut he was more than that. Certain of hisrnessays are unforgettable statements aboutrnthe cultural situation of America: “A SadrnI leart at the Supermarket,” “The Obscurih’rnof the Poet,” “The Age of Criticism,”rnand others are as exciting to read today asrnthey were when they first appeared.rnMore specificalb focused pieces, likern”To tlie Laodiceans” on Robert Frost,rn”Some Lines from Whitman,” and hisrnspeculative remarks on T.S. Eliot inrn”Fifty Years of American Poctr’,” remindrnus of a remarkabh simple truth: RandallrnJarrell did more to establish our understandingrnof Frost and Whitman and Eliotrnthan any other critic did.rnNot everything is as we would wish it,rnperhaps. Jarrell did not quite go farrnenough on Wallace Stevens (R.P. Blackmurrndid); his essays on Kipling don’trnquite get to the point, and sometimes Jarrell’srnenthusiasms were excessive. At others,rnindeed, his lack of enthusiasm wasrnequally so. I thiirk he was wrong aboutrnRichard Wilbur and he was unjust to RoyrnCampbell, who was a great translator andrnoccasionally “struck by lightning”—Jarrell’srndefinition of poetic success. Nevertheless,rnfor wit, for perception, for passion,rnJarrell’s essays can’t be beat. Theyrnare so good they can be read for the sheerrnpleasure of the experience, regardless ofrntopic. Is it possible that his essays on poetr}-rnare better even than his poems? So itrnseems. In addition to which, Jarrell’s onernirovel. Pictures From an Institutionrn(1954), remains a delightful satire and arnbrilliant performance that makes us wonderrnnot so much at what Jarrell coiddrnhave done as at what he did.rnToday, something of Jarrell’s role isrnperformed by people as various as DanarnGioia, Helen Vendler, and Brad Leithauserrnhimself; Daniel Hoffnran is an utterlyrnaccomplished poet and critic andrnacademic. Looking back at the parabolarnof Hie career of Randall Jarrell, we canrnsee that his function was necessary, comingrnout of the 30’s and the background ofrnthe New Criticism as he did, writing warrnpoems in the 40’s, attacking Eisenhower’srnAmerica in tiie 50’s for its complacencyrnand philistinism, beating tiie drumrnfor poetr- itself, writing poetry all the way,rnand, in the 60’s, losing his edge beforernthe end. He was as nccessar}’ as he wasrnornamental, and his career, which includesrnself-contradictions and shortcomings,rnwas a register of the American imaginationrnand of American possibility.rnOnly an American could have gone asrnga-ga over Europe as he did, because onlyrnan American would have needed to.rnTranslating Rilke and Goethe, RandallrnJarrell instinctively flinched from the implicationsrnof his own celebrations ofrnWhitman and William Carlos Williams.rnJarrell’s stressed sensibility, like that ofrnJames and Twain and Faulkner, showedrnonce again tiiat to be an American is arncomplex fate. That’s only one reasonrnwhy, more than three decades after hisrnpassing, we still need him.rnJ.O. Tate is a professor of English atrnDowling College on long Island.rn34/CHRONICLESrnrnrn