Lloyd's book has been criminally underappreciated, and you don't find people recommending it the way they should. After five years, you'd think such an important volume would be crawling with commentators, instead Cornell University Press has failed to support it with proper publicity and backup. The designers did Lloyd no favors by carrying through the skeezy looking cover, replete with "Rosemary Lloyd" written in letters imitating Baudelaire's handwriting, but perhaps subconsciously this makes a mental link between readers who intuit that she was maybe a friend of the French symbolist poet, if there are scraps of his handwriting containing her John Hancock. Oh, photoshop, what miracles of deception are committed in your name! And that cryptic portrait of CB: when I was an American boy growing up in France, we had a secret club in which we would practice imitating the famous "Baudelaire smile," said to be the inspiration for French joviality a la Maurice Chevalier. With one hand on a mirror and the other on a rotogravure of the famous portrait by Deroy, we would try to adopt his serene nonchalance by contorting our teen mouths into traditional rosebud grins; like the smile of the Mona Lisa, however, Baudelaire's trademark expression has often been imitated, never successfully. In the French equivalent of the 8th grade, many duels were fought with rattan canes sharpened to points like punji sticks. It's refreshing to read Lloyd's book in conjunction with Andrew Epstein's marvelous new book of Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery, and Amiri Baraka (BEAUTIFUL ENEMIES) in terms of the shifting ground of friendship between 19th and 20th centuries. As Lloyd sees it, Baudelaire's generation made large claims for friendship. In her chapter, "Talking with Friends," she tests the limits of a conventional biographical approach by analyzing Baudelaire's different sorts of community, contrasting him always with Victor Hugo, whose poetry is frequently evoking his friends by name and rank. Some mysteries remain in Baudelairology: for example, if Banville was his greatest friend, why is there so little direct track of his spoor among Baudelaire's effects? Lloyd is dissatisfied with the state of English translation of Baudelaire's work, both in poetry and prose, and often provides her own translations every time she needs to trot one out. They are charming indeed, and serve her master well.
A monumental book worthy of its own title, BAUDELAIRE'S WORLD should become the standard book of its kind. It should not be relegated to Cornell's remainder table. Fie on that foolishness! The great poet of perceptions deserves a critical literature worthy of that enigmatic stare, or do you think, Da Vinci Code style, he knew way in advance that Rosemary Lloyd's book would be heaped in obscurity a mere 5 years after publication? No wonder he's sardonic. It's a French thing after all.