One need only observe what “T. S. Eliot” backward (very nearly) spells to realize in what waters Wendy Martin is fishing in her diatribe against genius. Although an “acknowledged master of modern poetry,” the bank clerk from St. Louis truly belongs on the bottom of the waste heap of literature with countless other Great Second Raters.

That Eliot was a misogynist and anti-Semite is indeed unfortunate, especially for his victims, but it has no bearing on the quality of his work. His oeuvre will creep along just fine, on weak spindly legs, down into oblivion, with or without the shove of gruesome gossip. Likewise, the personal life of a real genius, say a Tolstoy or a Shakespeare, lies far beyond the inspired words and recorded epiphanies that compose his masterworks.

Perhaps Martin believes that with her panegyric she has bolted shut the pearly gates of Parnassus. All she has really done is confuse mediocrity with talent and thereby get her foot stuck in the murky mixture.

Genius does exist. Just ask the good reader of “Ulysses,” “Pale Fire,” “Bleak House,” “Moby Dick,” or “Mansfield Park.” To paraphrase Dickinson: Genius is like that morning light cast upon a solitary hill, that no “ism” can overtake, but that the human spine feels--the tingling purr of poetry.