PALACES AND PRISONS by Dorothea Strata


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This is the third (Thresholds, Showcases) in Mrs. Straus' wistful continuity of places and people, or rather houses and presences--gliding through an elite world of wealth and achievement. It begins where Showcases (1974) ended with the death of her prodigal brother Philip, who when last seen was immured in a nursing home by a stroke--Philip who for his beer barony created the Miss Rheingolds and always looked for them himself (Wendy Barrie, Linda Darnell whom he married, etc.) before he deteriorated in debt and fat. The strongest portraits by far are those of ursine, irascible, overpowering Philip Rahv and Edmund Wilson, also cranky and vehement, both of whom Mrs. Straus knew well through the years. Isaac Singer appears in the clutter of his New York apartment facing a sunless courtyard (the only prison?) which reminded him of his native Warsaw; and there's a visit to her cousin Peggy Guggenheim's Venetian palazzo--""such a defeat""--where Mrs. Straus is less than simpatico. An exception in this intermittent reconnaissance where the tone hovers between commemoration and regret.

Pub Date: Nov. 4th, 1976
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin