J.M. Coetzee concludes his review of my new book Walt Whitman [NYR, September 22] with what is evidently meant as a criticism. He writes, “Reynolds’s claim that ‘the current book is the first to describe concisely [Whitman’s] transformation of cultural materials into poetry’ holds only if one places inordinate emphasis on the word ‘concisely.'”
“Concisely”? Precisely! Actually, I don’t want to put inordinate emphasis on the word; I want complete emphasis on it. Having already put my stamp on “voluminous” with my 671-page Walt Whitman’s America: A Cultural Biography, I want in my 152-page Walt Whitman to make my mark on “concise.” Oxford University Press’s Lives and Legacies series, of which my Whitman book is the second volume, has a strict page limit for a reason: it is designed to provide scholarly but readable, compact coverage of major literary figures.
LINK to the letter in NYROB.