The Monster Loves His Labyrinth offers a fascinating glimpse into the mind of the poet. Passionate, witty, tender, and curious, these notebook entries from the 2007 US Poet Laureate range from casual jottings to profound observations. Their subject is the vast array of ways in which we human beings try to make sense of our world.
“… a Pulitzer Prize winner, Simic is famous for his short, cryptic poems that draw on his eventful early life, which he describes in dramatic detail here, in notebooks he has kept for decades but never published in book form. The young Simic and his family lived in Serbia, as bombs fell on it, during World War II; later, they fled to difficult lives in Chicago, where the poet’s high-spirited father was often penniless. The first of the notebooks’ four sections collect compelling autobiographical reminiscences, of Serbia, of Chicago, and of the young adult poet’s time in New York. The second collects the sort of images and juxtapositions that Simic might well have wanted to use in a poem—the best are, in effect, prose poems: ‘Snow arriving this morning at my door like a mail-order bride’… Simic’s stature as a maker of poems still makes all of his prose worth reading, and the autobiographical sections make this book a keeper.” —Publishers Weekly
“Inside is a selection of undated memories, aphorisms, observations, fragments and dreams from Simic’s notebooks. The entries afford us a glimpse of Simic’s preoccupations and passions, in a more elemental form than in his finished poems. There are moments of rare beauty and insight throughout.” —New Pages
“Nabokovian in his caustic charm and sexy intelligence, Simic perceives the mythic in the mundane and pinpoints the perpetual suffering that infuses human life with both agony and bliss… And he is the master of juxtaposition, lining up the unlikeliest of pairings and contrasts as he explores the nexuses of madness and prophecy, hell and paradise, lust and death.” —Booklist
“As one reads the pithy, wise, occasionally cranky epigrams and vignettes that fill this volume, there is the definite sense that we are getting a rare glimpse into several decades worth of private journals—and, by extension are privy to the tickings of an accomplished and introspective literary mind.” —Rain Taxi
“The Monster Loves His Labyrinth identifies its author as a vital member of an international, ever-dwindling club of secular humanists, that worldly, cosmopolitan, mildly hedonistic, fiercely agnostic generation of writers for whom a devotion to the arts is both a religious and political calling…” —West Branch