Humphrey Carpenter was born and educated in Oxford, and attended the Dragon School and Keble College. He was a well-known biographer and children's writer, and worked previously as a producer at the BBC. He wrote biographies of J. R. R. Tolkien, W. H. Auden, Benjamin Britten, Ezra Pound, C. S. Lewis and Dennis Potter. Among his many books for children were the best-selling Mr Majeika series. He also wrote several plays for the theatre and radio. A keen musician, he was a member of a 1930s-style jazz band, Vile Bodies, which was resident at the Ritz Hotel in London for a number of years. He died in 2005.
Here in massive, and for the average reader perhaps excessive, detail is a comprehensive biography of a man variously regarded , often by the same critic, as crackpot, ass and major poet with an incomparable ear for language. Carpenter, biographer also of Tolkien and Auden, does a superb job of bringing us what might be called the whole Pound: his generosity and blindness, his failures and achievements as poet and critic, his often strained friendships with the likes of Eliot, Hemingway and William Carlos Williams, his early impact on literary London. Also examined are the poet's pro-Fascist and virulently anti-Semitic World War II broadcasts from Italy, which earned him confinement in a Washington mental institution, and the final, sad Italian years. Carpenter's approach is fair, his prose cool, crisp and lively, and his narrative laced with shrewd comment on Pound's work, in particular the Cantos, which Pound finally deemed a ``botch''a judgment that most readers of this book will probably not share. Photos. (Dec.)