*A BOOK TO LOOK FORWARD TO IN 2021 IN THE TIMES, FINANCIAL TIMES, DAILY MAIL, SUNDAY TIMES AND GUARDIAN*
The epitaph John Keats composed for his own gravestone – ‘Here lies one whose name was writ in water’ – seemingly damned him to oblivion. When he died at the age of twenty-five, having taken a battering from the conservative press, few critics imagined he would be considered one of the great English poets two hundred years later, though he himself had an inkling.
In this brief life, Lucasta Miller takes Keats’s best-known poems – the ones you are most likely to have read – and excavates their backstories. In doing so, she resurrects the real Keats: a lower-middle-class outsider from a tragic and dysfunctional family, whose extraordinary energy and love of language allowed him to pummel his way into the heart of English literature; a freethinker and a liberal at a time of repression; a human being who delighted in the sensation of the moment; but a complex individual, not the ethereal figure of his posthumous myth.
Combining close-up readings of his writings with the story of his brief but teeming existence, Lucasta Miller shows us how Keats made his poetry, and explains why it retains its vertiginous originality and continues to speak to us across the generations.
Outstanding... [Miller's] knowledge of all things Keatsian is formidable... For newcomers to Keats, Miller's is the best short introduction I have come across. -- John Carey * Sunday Times * Miller disrobes the myth, while helping us to appreciate what she calls Keats's "vertiginous originality". As a wittily perceptive introduction to (or reminder of) the poet and his work, her book is unlikely to be surpassed any time soon. -- Miranda Seymour * Financial Times * Lucasta Miller's task, which she carries out very successfully, is to strip away what we think when we think about Keats... This excellent book... enters an already crowded market of Keats biographies, but earns its place through its firm basis in precise reading. Miller is empathetic, and relishes Keats's best phrases. -- Philip Hensher * Spectator * Lucasta Miller's brilliant life of Keats, told through a close reading of "nine poems and one epitaph", reminds us more than once of the way in which Keats can deploy Shakespearean techniques to stop us in our readerly tracks. A timely and fresh re-appropriation of Keats... satisfying, engaging and accessible. -- Rowan Williams * New Statesman * Excellent... [Keats] challenges us to make up our own minds about the self-styled 'chamelion poet'. -- Claire Harman * Evening Standard * A readable guide to the poet's life. -- James Marriott * The Times * Creates a vivid picture of Keats's writing process. -- Conrad Landin * Islington Tribune * [A] lively book. -- Helen Brown * Daily Mail, *Books to Look Out For 2021* * Miller reveals the life of a pugnacious, energetic, free-thinking poet. -- James Marriot and Robbie Millen * The Times, *Books of the Year* *
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