Dreams in the Mirror

by Richard S. Kenedy. Liverright, $19.95. It is possible for a biographer to have too much material and that problem has afflicted Mr. Kennedy in writing about E. E. Cummings. Cummings’s mother began preserving her son’s artistic endeavors, both poems and drawings, from their earliest emergence. Cummings himself rarely threw out anything, for along with a child’s love of experiment he retained all his life something of a child’s uncritical pleasure in the outcome of experiment. Confronted with the resulting mass of papers, Mr. Kennedy has quoted too much trifling juvenile verse, overpraised mediocre adult work, and obscured his own worthwhile findings about Cummings’s relations with his illegitimate daughter in a forest of needless detail. The author frequently points out that Cummings was a delightful fellow, but what emerges from the text is a notably self-centered, cantankerous, rather tiresome Peter Pan. It takes a vast enthusiasm for Cummings’s poetry to carry the reader through all this. Illustrations, notes, index.