God's Scrivener: The Madness and Meaning of Jones Very

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Product Details
University of Chicago Press
Publish Date
6.33 X 9.24 X 0.86 inches | 1.39 pounds

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About the Author
Clark Davis is professor of English and literary arts at the University of Denver. He is the author of After the Whale: Melville in the Wake of Moby-Dick, Hawthorne's Shyness: Ethics, Politics, and the Question of Engagement, and It Starts with Trouble: William Goyen and the Life of Writing.
"God's Scrivener is a thoughtful, moving, and deeply researched portrait of the otherworldly mystic and poet Jones Very. Clark Davis reveals that, far from being the punchline of an old joke, the unjustly forgotten Very was nothing less than the stillness at the heart of Transcendentalism, joining Thoreau and Whitman as one of the era's great poet-prophets who articulated a powerful and innovative response to the pressures of modernity. Davis's biography radically deepens our understanding of the movement's potential and its limits, a message with surprising resonance today. This is essential reading for anyone who cares about Transcendentalism, the poetry of faith and doubt, or the place of Christian mysticism at the heart of America's longing for a better world."-- "Laura Dassow Walls, author of "Henry David Thoreau: A Life""
"Massively well researched and well argued, God's Scrivener benefits from Clark Davis's informed attention to a trove of documents not available fifty-six years ago when the last biography of Jones Very was published. By showing how the life, times, and works illuminate each other, Davis restores to us an author once considered one of the best sonnet writers in the language. Even as he establishes Very's historical importance, Davis clearly explores both the strengths and dangers of his example."-- "Robert Daly, author of "God's Altar: The World and the Flesh in Puritan Poetry""
"Jones Very has been the lost Transcendentalist for decades, but Clark Davis has recovered him as a superb poet and penetrating spiritual mind in his remarkable God's Scrivener. This is the story of a moving and enlightening life, artfully told."-- "David M. Robinson, author of "Natural Life: Thoreau's Worldly Transcendentalism""
"God's Scrivener, the first biography of the enigmatic and fascinating Transcendentalist poet Jones Very in more than half a century, is a masterful revaluation of both Very's life and work. Davis's careful analysis of Very's sometimes ecstatic poetry and surviving accounts of his unconventional behavior help to make sense of Very's state of mind during the period when he came to public attention in the intellectual, religious, and literary circles of Salem and the greater Boston area. Mining the poet's neglected 'commonplace books' to great effect, Davis builds the most complete picture yet of the poet's intellectual and spiritual development in his formative years."-- "Helen R. Deese, editor, "Jones Very: The Complete Poems""
"In God's Scrivener: The Madness and Meaning of Jones Very, Clark Davis doesn't spend much time on his subject's spectacular breakdown. Instead, relying on new research, he painstakingly reconstructs everything that came before and after. . . . Mr. Davis wonders, at the end of his fine biography, if the world really needs 'the strange purity' of Very's voice. But if you like your poems plain and unfussy, written as if every word mattered and were meant for you and no one else, give Very's poetry a try. You will even get the occasional piece of useful life advice. Feeling too wrapped up in your own concerns? 'Open thy window, gaze abroad / Go forth and walk an hour.'"
-- "Wall Street Journal"
"Davis . . . enthusiastically argues for a 'reevaluation of the existing biographical evidence' in his sympathetic God's Scrivener. . . . To Davis, Very in the end is a kind of hero devoted to his vision and voice, a maverick committed to something like the beatitudes. He emerges as a kind of protomodern figure, resolute and true, who casts 'a strong light on the compromises and half-truths of others.'"-- "New York Review of Books"
"Very is the subject of a meticulously researched, erudite, and patient new biography, God's Scrivener. . . . One of God's Scrivener's many strengths is how it uses light reflected from the history of Transcendentalism to fix a fine-grained portrait of Very. He seemed unstable, but then, so did many of the transcendentalists. If there was madness in Very, it was perhaps only in taking Transcendentalism's wildest ideas seriously enough to put into practice."-- "Poetry magazine"
"Davis presents an extensive and thorough narrative of the complexities and incisive writings of poet Jones Very. He brings out the influence of Jones's unique experiences and states of mind, on his development of his various forms of poetry and Christian-mystical transcendentalism. . . . Valuable for those interested in 19th-century New England culture and literature--poets, literary critics, theologians and philosophers, and historians."-- "Choice"
"Scholars of the period. . . who want a well-written, meticulously researched investigation of all the available evidence of [Very's] family life and the controversies in which he figured, will certainly find God's Scrivener rewarding." -- "Times Literary Supplement"