Pictures from an Institution: A Comedy
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1954. Octavo, original green cloth stamped in blind and gilt, top edge stained red, original unclipped dust jacket. Small dampstain to bottom corner of front board, light rubbing to jacket, spine slightly faded.
First edition of poet Randall Jarrell's only novel, a comedy of manners set at a progressive women's college, inspired by his experience teaching at Sarah Lawrence. “Most of the people of Benton would have swallowed a porcupine, if you had dyed its quills and called it Modern Art; they longed for men to be discovered on the moon, so that they could show that they weren't prejudiced towards moon men." The calculating character of Gertrude Johnson, a writer-in-residence on the prowl for material, was widely taken to be a portrait of critic Mary McCarthy. This copy is inscribed by Jarrell to fellow scholar and professor Cleanth Brooks and his wife. One of the most important twentieth-century American critics, Brooks co-founded the Southern Review with Robert Penn Warren. He is best remembered for The Well-Wrought Urn, the key New Critical text on the reading of poetry, and for his pioneering later work on William Faulkner. Both Jarrell and Brooks were graduates of Vanderbilt, and influential teachers of poetry, although their interpretive approaches differed: as professors, they were well acquainted with the academic politics satirized in Pictures from an Institution. A near-fine copy, with an excellent literary association.