Critic, novelist, filmmaker, jazz musician, painter, and, above all, poet, Weldon Kees performed, practiced, and published with the best of his generation of artists—the so-called middle generation, which included Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, and John Berryman. His dramatic disappearance (a probable suicide) at the age of forty-one, his movie-star good looks, his role in various movements of the day, and his shifting relationships with key figures in the arts have made him one of the more intriguing—and elusive—artists of the time. In this long-awaited biography, James Reidel presents the first full account of Kees’s troubled yet remarkably accomplished life.
Reidel traces Kees’s career from his birth in 1914 and boyhood in Beatrice, Nebraska, to his stint as an award-winning short-story writer and novelist, his rise as a poet and critic in New York, his branching off into abstract expressionism, jazz music, and theater, and his experimental and scientific filmmaking and photography. Going beyond the cult status that has grown up around Kees over the years, this work fairly and judiciously places him as a cultural adventurer at a particularly rich and significant moment in postwar twentieth-century America.