ANYTHING GOES: The Jazz-Age Adventures of Neysa McMein and Her Extravagant Circle of Friends by Brian Gallagher

ANYTHING GOES: The Jazz-Age Adventures of Neysa McMein and Her Extravagant Circle of Friends

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Neysa McMein has played a featured role in such reminiscences of the ""Algonquin Wits"" as Frewin's The Late Mrs. Dorothy Parker (1986) and Goldstein's George S. Kaufman, His Life, His Theater (1979). One of the 20's and 30's most successful illustrators and an intimate of the likes of Kaufman, Parker, Alexander Woollcott, and Noel Coward, she now takes center stage in a biography of her own. Unfortunately, the Broadway legend of the understudy who became an overnight sensation fails to materialize; McMein, for all Gallagher's affectionate direction, just doesn't have ""star quality."" The major problem is that although she moved in a coterie known for its verbal pyrotechnics, McMein herself was apparently able to come up with an even moderately clever retort only once--in an exchange with Franklin P. Adams. (Adams: ""I have the face of an old Greek coin."" McMein: ""You have the face of an old Greek waiter."") Thus, Gallagher is forced to fall back on the overly familiar repartee of McMein's better-known contemporaries to lend zip to his narrative. And, though Gallagher refers repeatedly to McMein's numerous sexual liaisons, he is curiously reticent about naming names and citing dates. Too, the logistics of her ""open"" marriage to Jack Baragwanath go largely unexplored. Gallagher is far more successful in establishing the superficiality of the ""Algonks"" and linking it to their rapid decline into relative literary obscurity. Unfortunately, his toppling of McMein's associates from their self-erected pedestals, while convincing, does little to elevate his subject herself to eminence.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Times Books