The strength of “La Folie de Baudelaire” is, in fact, the quotes that Calasso has searched out. Baudelaire, for instance: “Genius is essentially childhood formulated with precision.” What they lack is connection. His thoughts make a promising start; then they largely fail to go anywhere. He is a trapeze artist who takes off spectacularly but whose flight vanishes before it gets to the bar it launches for.
Richard Eder, who writes reviews for numerous publications, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.