In 1940, Odets--Wunderkind author of Awake and Sing, Golden Boy, and Waiting for Lefty--was at the peak of success and...


THE TIME IS RIPE: The 1940 Journal of Clifford Odets

In 1940, Odets--Wunderkind author of Awake and Sing, Golden Boy, and Waiting for Lefty--was at the peak of success and celebrity. . .and about to begin the tragic downhill slide that would end with his death in 1963. For nearly all of that year, probably not coincidentally, he kept a full-blown journal for the first and last time: the diary, as William Gibson says in his introduction, of a ""theatre man with a hemophiliac wound."" As the journal begins, Odets' new play, Night Music, is going into rehearsal. He agonizes about Harold Clurman's limitations as a director, about Elia Kazan's acting of the leading role. But his worries prepare him not at all for the devastating Broadway reviews: ""How can it happen that this small handful of men can do such murderous mischief in a few hours?. . .A lovely child was murdered yesterday."" For months thereafter he feels himself to be in a ""brutal stupor"": he's disgusted with the Group Theatre (""VERY flabby!""); fitfully at work on several play-ideas, he doubts his talent, berates himself for self-indulgence and ""BOURGEOIS CAUTION,"" obsessively searches for ""form"" in his art. And a trip to Hollywood for some screenwriting work only deepens his depression. Meanwhile, Odets gives equal space to his untidy love-life. About to be divorced from haunting the Luise Rainer, he carries on a guilt-inducing N.Y. affair with would-be actress Bette (his future wife) and a doomed L.A. romance with movie-star Fay Wray; he doesn't want to marry either of them; he has casual affairs, lusts after Jane Wyatt, has sexual dreams about ""hard and vulgar"" Stella Adler. His politics are similarly confused: antiwar yet anti-Hitler; quasi-Marxist but appalled by the ""bulletheads"" who lead the left-wing US organizations. Only in his admiration for Beethoven, Stendhal, and other artistic heroes is there intensity without misery. Repetitious and occasionally enervating in its relentless self-analysis, but a darkly fascinating document nonetheless--brightened by shrewd portraits of Dorothy Parker, George Jessel, John O'Hara, Franchot Tone, Stokowski, and others.

Pub Date: June 1, 1988


Page Count: -

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1988