Prufrock, Lewinsky, and the Poetry of History

December 7th, 2015 | Posted by admin in Uncategorized

How T. S. Eliot's lovelorn classic still sways us.

By Austin Allen

One of the more striking literary essays in recent memory appeared this summer to zero fanfare. That in itself is no surprise: most literary critics could reveal the nuclear codes without even the NSA noticing. Still, you might have expected some buzz around a splashy Vanity Fair tribute to "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," penned by a longtime fan named Monica Lewinsky.

The occasion of the essay was the "Prufrock" centenary; the author's guiding impulse was sheer enthusiasm. Lewinsky writes that she was "smitten" by T. S. Eliot's lovelorn classic as a teenager and that after "more than 20 years, these feelings have not waned." She's a connoisseur of "Prufrock" allusions, from the pop to the highbrow; one "personal favorite" comes from Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris: "Prufrock is my mantra!" Even her e-mail address contains a "Prufrock" reference--a fruitful conversation starter, she says, with fellow lovers of the poem.

As it turns out, this isn't the first revelation of her fandom. The 1999 biography Monica's Story, which Andrew Morton wrote in collaboration with his subject, mentions her "life-changing" love of poetry and of "Prufrock" in particular.

Read the full essay on the Poetry Foundation website.

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