Lured on by the blurb writer's promise that John Reed and Louise Bryant will emerge as a sort of politically committed...

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SO SHORT A TIME: A Biography of John Reed and Louise Bryant

Lured on by the blurb writer's promise that John Reed and Louise Bryant will emerge as a sort of politically committed Scott-and-Zelda, one plunges further and further into this doubly unflattering portrait -- of Louise (who was also Eugene O'Neill's mistress) as a shallow, semi-hysterical hanger-on, and of radical journalist John Reed as both politically and personally naive. Reed's reportage from revolutionary Russia, which grew into his classic Ten Days That Shook the World, and more surprisingly, Louise's complementary coverage of the ""women's angle,"" remain eminently readable and their Soviet journey is definitely the high point here. Gelb's critique of Reed's ideas doesn't go substantially beyond reiterating Walter Lippmann's remark that Reed was ""Byronic. . . not a political person"" and of fellow Communist Labor Party member Benjamin Gitlow's observations on Reed's innocence about Marxian theory. Meanwhile Louise's stormy relationships with her husband and O'Neill occupy center stage, and the banality of the love letters that flew between the ""dearest honeys"" during their frequent separations is matched only by the tedious dead-pan analysis of the same. Gelb's reputation as coauthor of the acclaimed Eugene O'Neill biography, and the Reeds' minor fame as two of America's more dashing radicals, guarantee this work visibility. But what stands out here is chiefly the dogged, albeit styleless, persistence with which the subjects are pursued. Disappointing.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 1973

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1973