“If Dickens was one model for the “generous anger” in Wright’s poems, then Orwell himself was another. Blunk announces this parallel at the outset, praising both authors’ “moral shrewdness.” Wright admired Orwell “not only for his matchless prose style,” but also because, as Franz puts it, Orwell “had so thoroughly immersed himself in a real dedication to other human beings.” Blunk’s triumph is to show the fusion of these moral and stylistic concerns throughout Wright’s career. If Orwell could declare that “one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane,” then Wright’s uncluttered medium gave him an instant rapport with strangers and outcasts no less than flora and fauna.”
—Sunil Iyengar, “The poet as windowpane,” The New Criterion, April 2019
"[An] engrossing biography . . . Wright comes through vividly on almost every page. Blunk began working on the book in 2002, and it's clearly the better for that long gestation . . . Blunk makes judicious use of Wright's papers, including important letters that only recently came to light . . . It's in the extensive endnotes that Blunk really shines, illuminating his sources and his resourcefulness . . . Literary biography at its fine-grained finest."
―Eric McHenry, The New York Times Book Review
“[A] fluent biography … Adopting a clear, novelistic style, Mr. Blunk’s narrative is both cogent and thoroughly informed … With his lucid portrait of Wright, Mr. Blunk has performed a major service. Wright holds an honored place in mid-twentieth-century poetry. His best poems—marked by ‘the pure clear word’ and an ability to convey gut-punching emotion—are now fortunately lodged (in Robert Frost’s phrase) where they will be hard to get rid of.”
—David Yezzi, The Wall Street Journal
“Jonathan Blunk, the authorized biographer, shows considerable empathy for his subject, and his sensitivity to the poetry shines through this long and detailed work … Blunk concentrates on Wright’s intense devotion to poetry, and he fleshes out the genesis and development of various poems and collections … All the while the poet’s great intelligence, volubility, generosity and humor are on display … Altogether, Blunk provides a sweeping and eye-opening account, for which readers will be grateful.”
—Mark Gustafson, Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Jonathan Blunk’s book is a lucid, provocative, and supremely absorbing story of a most vivid literary creation: the poet James Wright, person of American letters, an exuberant, tortured, generous, and deeply human phenomenon. ... Blunk engages his reader in the close reading of Wright’s poems, contextualizing them with Wright’s letters and following their evolution through Wright’s drafts and journals."
—Robert Henriques, Poetry Northwest