From the diary: “January 25, 1985
“Been reading bits from Leaves of Grass. Really like it.”
I believe I was reading the deathbed edition. It’s unlikely my small town library had anything other than the most common edition. Besides, even if I had known Whitman produced earlier versions of Leaves of Grass, it would have seemed reasonable to me that the final one was the closest to perfected. While I enjoyed much of the book I also remember page after page of cataloging, where Whitman celebrated everything he could think of. These tended to drag.
On 2/12/85 I wrote, “Finished Leaves of Grass. Finally! I hardly ever really got into that book.”
I probably picked up Whitman both because he was supposed to be great and because he was supposed to be gay. By the deathbed edition, I understand, Whitman was feeling old and vulnerable so toned down the gayishness. Someday I’ll read Leaves again, but maybe for kicks I’ll start with the earliest edition.