CAITLIN: Life with Dylan Thomas by Caitlin with George Tremlett Thomas
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CAITLIN: Life with Dylan Thomas

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A blistering, mature, loving ovenblast of a memoir about Caitlin Thomas' marriage to the 20th century's most celebrated alcoholic genius, written 30 years later, after several suicide attempts, and now 10 years sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous. This memoir is far superior to Caitlin's earlier, grief-stricken Leftover Life To Live--a lamentation in high purple. It is the possibly unequaled record of a poet's wife while he is in the throes of creation and the pits between. It is devastating, and told in language of utmost simplicity, one clear word after another, charting the Ovidian change of her teen-age faun of a lover into a fat, flabby, glorified pig of a husband. No epithet can cover Dylan's peccadillos, which mount and crest and boil over with harrowing egotism and self-indulgence--and yet Caitlin is quite as unsparing of herself, describing her own descent into retaliatory drunken sluttishness, until she is the lay of Laugherne, their fairyland Welsh seashore hamlet filled with the grotesques Dylan culls for Under Milk Wood. Her story starts with being raped as a girl while sitting for painter Augustus John. Her father was a gifted charmer-seducer but vast phony she detested, and her mother a book-collecting, highly intelligent lesbian. She met Dylan, a few months her junior, while drinking in a pub, and they were spiritually bonded by beer almost on contact. He flooded her with I-love-you's from that first moment to his dying day, but she came to view this outpour as a kind of relentless hosing down he would release in any direction where he wished to charm up some cash or forgiveness. The sense of fraudulence coexisting with absolute genius which she limns can't be easily explained, and she admits her inability to do it even after 30 years. She is terrific on the poetry too, showing him at work in his shed, booming and mumbling to himself, then appearing from it after a month or two with a finished poem. That a man could be devoted to the analysis of birth, life and death in such intensely glowing poems as his and be such a revolting bastard is, she says, strange."" She sees him as a kind of abnormal, like a chess or math genius, who has part of his personality missing utterly. A raging, fist-fighting, hair-pulling, kicking and screaming classic, and the best insight we will ever have into Dylan Thomas.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1987
Publisher: Henry Holt