Resident Bill Tilles will review Fall of Frost by Brian Hall on Tuesday, September 17, 2019 at 7 PM in the Auditorium.
Fall of Frost , a novel by Brian Hall, is an up close and personal story of the life of the great poet, Robert Frost. Brian Hall was born in 1959 and graduated from Harvard summa cum laude in 1981. This is his fourth novel, published in 2008. In Brian Hall’s words, “Although this work is properly called a novel, I’ve approached it in the spirit of a biographer who wanted to stretch his usual form to accommodate more speculation than non-fiction generally allows.” He lets us know that his personal contribution was the selecting of the events that he considers “important contours of Frost’s extraordinarily lush and difficult mental landscape”.
The novel begins in 1962 when Frost was 88 years old. It opens with him visiting the Soviet Union as a result of an invitation to visit Nikita Khrushchev by Russian ambassador, Antonin Dobrynin, after meeting at a dinner party. President Kennedy thought it was a good idea. Frost anticipated that he and Khrushchev would resolve issues that would save the world.
From the first pages of chapter one we gain insight into the inner Frost as he ruminates about his presence in Russia and the likelihood of his success with Khrushchev and with his mission. Over the next 128 chapters and 334 pages, Frost’s life is opened to us. We can only wonder, as we witness the evolution of his brilliant career, how he managed the loss of his father at 11, his only sister being institutionalized, the death of his wife, Elinor, and three of his five children pre-deceasing him. The tragedies he faced introduced a lifetime of psychological distress.
Poetry was Robert Frost’s reason for being and the source of his sustenance. Poetry came first, although he loved his family deeply. But in each phase of his life his writing influenced his self-image, his self-confidence and his sense of self-worth, either because he was unsure of his ability to survive as a poet or because he was unsure about the strength of his reputation once it was established. Even as one of the most famous poets in the world he wondered whether people understood him or understood his poetry,
Like many other great artists Frost was creating constantly. Poetry, whether his own or the work of others, was always flowing through his mind. Each personal experience, whether positive or negative, was a source of inspiration for him. Brian Hall uses a style of writing that sets up the opportunity to witness, seemingly first-hand, what such extraordinary creativity looks like as it mixes with real life. Rarely, does one have such a first-hand look into the world of a genius.
Janet Neer and Jane Backstrom, Book Review Co-Chairs