John Berryman and the Thirties

A Memoir


E. M. Halliday has written a graceful, relaxed, and very personal memoir of his association with the poet John Berryman during the decade 1933-43, when the two men were in their twenties. Based on vivid recollections of the author's intimate and extended friendship with Berryman, the memoir is supported by diaries and letters of the period and includes excerpts from fifty letters Berryman wrote the author, as well as half a dozen unpublished poems. The material is unique and is enhanced by a collection of period photographs, nearly all of them previously unpublished.

The overall story is one of an intense and somewhat tumultuous friendship which gradually grew more difficult as Berryman evolved from a charming, brilliant, and gregarious youth into rather cantankerous young poet who eventually became a Pulitzer-prize-winning literary celebrity. Richly imbued with the atmosphere and color of collegiate life in the 1930s, and involving an interesting cast of characters (including Mark Van Doren and Arthur Miller), the book offers good entertainment for the general reader as well as valuable insights for those interested in modern American poets and poetry. The field of action ranges from Columbia University to the University of Michigan and Cambridge University, with many lively off-campus scenes as well.

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