After its publication, Cool for You was rightly described as a kunstlerroman, a chronicle of an artist’s becoming. There are many precedents for this, most famously those written by Rilke, Goethe, Samuel Butler, D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce. But as a writer who is also a working-class lesbian poet, Myles finds that to describe her own life, she must investigate everything, from educational and institutional control to the sensation of language itself. Family relations play a large role in the artist’s formation, but so do the relations between people and things. In grade school, the young artist longed to be an astronomer because “they were lookers and I was a looker too.” Later, having established herself as a poet, she turns her attention to language and its mother, sound: “Words are nothing. Believe me. Words are empty. It’s the squawking of the animal, the wheezing, the desperate wind of a life rattling through a body.” And: “I believe in sound. It’s the tiniest shaking, when the colors are gone, and the smells disperse, the shaking continues, its effect is infinite . . . Nothing in the world staying still, every dropped ruler in a classroom forty years ago is a tingling moment . . .”

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