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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

May 19, 1996|CHRIS GOODRICH

ROBERT FROST: A Biography by Jeffrey Meyers (Houghton Mifflin: $30; 424 pp.). Jeffrey Meyers, who produces a major literary biography almost annually, trumpets numerous new findings in this volume--Frost's expulsion from Dartmouth, genuine friendships with other poets, above all his important, long-lasting affair with secretary Kathleen Morrison--but these revelations are pretty small beer.

That said, "Robert Frost" is a well-written, engaging volume, Meyers demonstrating an eye for the telling detail--Frost training his cows to accept midnight milking, arriving for his Amherst teaching position with a carful of cooped chickens, having his honorary degree silks sewn into a quilt, setting a fire to disturb a reading by the patrician Archibald MacLeish.

Yet Meyers' interpretation leaves one significant question unanswered: how such a grandfatherly figure, famous for his storytelling and informality, his leisurely pace and closeness to nature, could have produced four deeply unhappy children (two daughters were institutionalized, one permanently, and the only son killed himself)?

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