THE BOHEMIANS: John Reed and His Friends Who Shook the World by Alan Cheuse

THE BOHEMIANS: John Reed and His Friends Who Shook the World

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The recent film Reds may generate some fresh interest in John Reed (Ten Days That Shook the World); but readers thus inspired will do better by turning to one of the several Reed biographies now being re-issued than to this awfully flabby novelization. True, Cheuse (Candace & Other Stories) covers just about all the Reed material here: Oregon background; Harvard with Walter Lippmann; protÉgÉ-ship with Lincoln Steffens; the love affair with Mabel Dodge; fighting in Mexico with Villa; the isolationist journalism during World War I; love and marriage with Louise (Lou) Trullinger, wife of a Portland, Oregon, dentist; and the association with Eugene O'Neill--who would cuckold him. But the narrative offers no particular focus or point-of-view, with life-history shredded into little narrative nuggets that gather no momentum. Reed himself is made into an unconvincing picaresque hero who is much too often made to recite his own rÉsumÉ: ""I've traveled up and down the country, been to Mexico, ridden with the revolutionaries, sailed to Europe more times than you've been to New York City, and put out dozens of articles not to mention two books, and you're wondering why I don't have more ready cash than a working stiff after he's hit the bar on payday?"" And only the portrait of O'Neill--sodden, baroquely foul-mouthed--exerts much pull, with the glimmer of his genius merely serving to highlight what comes across here as Reed's dreary dilettantism. Disappointingly short on atmosphere, surprisingly small-scale (mostly Greenwich Village, hardly any Russia), this is a workmanlike translation of history into scene and dialogue, then--but with neither the epic sweep of cinema nor the shrewd, detailed close-ups of biography.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1982
Publisher: Applewood