When Robert Frost met Khrushchev
This genre-bending bio-novel considers Frost's life through the lens of his last year and his 1962 trip to Russia.
Robert Frost, wrote one of his biographers, was "a loner who liked company; a poet of isolation who sought a mass audience; a rebel who sought to fit in."
A people's poet – and a rebel to boot. Perhaps it was this aura – plus the crustiness of Frost's manner and the careful beauty of his language – that enticed the Kennedy administration. Did they perhaps imagine that Robert Frost and Nikita Khrushchev, two curmudgeonly country boys, left in a room together, might talk their countries to peace?
If so, it was a dream that did not come true and his 1962 trip to Russia became yet one more dark disappointment in the life of Robert Frost.
It's hard to know whether to call Fall of Frost a novelistic biography or a biographical novel. Either way, Brian Hall has created a careful, haunting, bittersweet portrait of America's most loved poet. He takes Frost's journey to Russia – made in the last year of his life, at a moment of poor health and failing strength – as both his beginning point and one of the themes that threads its way throughout this narrative.
Split into 128 chapter-fragments, Hall makes a collage of the various sides of Frost as he sees them: meticulous craftsman, failed farmer, heartbroken father, disappointed husband and son, yearning friend, spoiled celebrity.
In so doing, Hall draws rich connections between Frost's language and the seminal events in his life, liberally sprinkling the book with the verse of Frost and references to that of others. (As Hall teases in his afterward: "Poetry lovers: Happy hunting.")
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