O'NEILL by Arthur & Barbarn Gelb


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The Gelbs obviously intended this to be the definitive biography of the brooding, psychologically shackled dramatist. But since such an accolade implies that a book satisfies rather than exhausts, that it leaves the reader with the impression that all has been sail, all possibilities explored, each depth plummeted, Eugene O'Neill's biographers in this case have somehow missed the mark. Much, most certainly, has been said; the book is nearly 1,000 pages. The significant, as well as some of the insignificant, aspects of O'Neill's life and times are covered. But there is some question about the accuracy and objectivity of research. This is most evident if one reads O'Neill in conjunctions with Doris Alexander's The Tempering of Eugene O'Neill Not that the Gelbs have any axe to grind. It seems, however, that they have been too much swayed by a myth propagated by the playwright himself. While Miss Alexander more or less exonerates James O'Neill from his sons' charges of heinous fragility, the Gelbs seem to accept this as premise and then set out to prove it. Thus, the reporting is necessarily prejudiced, certainly less exhaustive, indeed filled at times with irksome innuendo. They too easily accept rumor and bad Journalism. It is one thing to evolve a personality crippled for life by parental influence. It is one thing to evolve a personality crippled for life by parental influence; it is quite another to see through O'Neill, as Doris Alexander did, to a man who needed tragedy to sustain, as a writer with a penchant for roleplaying and an unequaled sense of the dramatic. It is not necessary for a general reader to go to primary sources. A comparison of the two biographics will show O'Neill to be less well researched, infinitely less honest than Tempering Attention must be paid! Close attention! This is a lead non-fiction title on Harper's Spring list.

Pub Date: April 5th, 1962
Publisher: Harper