Xpress Reviews: Nonfiction | First Look at New Books, February 14, 2014

Week ending February 14, 2014

Creeley, Robert. The Selected Letters of Robert Creeley. Univ. of California. (Simpson Bk. in the Humanities). 2014. 512p. ed. by Rod Smith & others. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780520241602. $60; ebk. ISBN 9780520956612. LIT
robertcreeley021414Novelist, essayist, short story writer, and member of the Black Mountain Poets group (Charles Olson, Denise Levertov, Robert Duncan, et al.), multi-award-winning poet Creeley (1926–2005) was an important and influential figure in U.S. contemporary poetry from the 1950s until his death. He was also an extremely prolific letter writer (his collected correspondence with Olson alone runs ten volumes). Editors Smith (editor, Aerial; publisher, Edge Bks.; manager, Bridge St. Bks.; Deed), Peter Baker (English & cultural studies, Towson Univ.; Detecting Detection), and Kaplan Harris (English, St. Bonaventure Univ.) compile here for the first time a single volume selection of his letters (spanning 1945–2005) that offers a fine sampling of the scope and level of his correspondence. Several missives to 20th-century literary luminaries including William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Louis Zukofsky, as well as Kurt Vonnegut and LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), reveal the personal dynamics of this highly impressive group of writers (including the backbiting and interpersonal politics), but others demonstrate Creeley’s intuitive eye and ear for the structure of a poem in quick capsule critiques. And, of course, there are the personal struggles that plagued Creeley, such as trials with his art, marriage, and ego. It is fascinating to see a collection like this that now includes emails and faxes. One can witness not only the progress of a literary generation but the evolution of a literary form: the letter.
Verdict Because of the light it shines on an era of American poetry, this volume is an essential addition to any academic collection, but it lacks the personal drama or charm to appeal to general readers.—Herman Sutter, St. Agnes Acad., Houston

Roach, Edward J. The Wright Company: From Invention to Industry. Ohio Univ. Feb. 2014. 226p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780821420508. $69.95; pap. ISBN 9780821420515. $22.95; ebk. ISBN 9780821444740. BUS
We’ve all heard about Orville (1871–1948) and Wilbur (1867–1912) Wright. About what is less well known is the airplane manufacturing firm they founded, the eponymous Wright Company. Written by local historian Roach (Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park), this work focuses on the short-lived Dayton company (1906–15) and fills in many of the details. Entrepreneurs and inventors are often not good managers, and that unfortunately appears to be the case with the Wright brothers. The book outlines the early successes and later management missteps that led to an eventual buyout. It also outlines other early aeronautical companies of the time, such as Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company, and how they managed to succeed where the Wright Company failed. Wilbur’s death from typhoid in 1912 probably hastened the business’s demise, as did Orville’s focus on litigating Wright Company patents rather than continuing to work to improve the planes, something their competitors had achieved. Overall, a well-researched and fascinating look into an often forgotten chapter in aviation history.
Verdict This detailed biographical, corporate, and industrial history is nicely illustrated with historical photos and advertisements. Purchase where there is interest.—Susan Hurst, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH