DYLAN THOMAS by George Tremlett


In the Mercy of His Means
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 Blistering but repetitious life of Thomas that leaves no part of him unwhipped; by the coauthor of 1986's Caitlin: Life with Dylan Thomas, which also was an oven-blast against the poet, directed by his widow. When Tremlett finished working with Caitlin Thomas on her autobiography, she suggested he wait five years and then do Dylan. All the biographers so far had got Dylan wrong, she said, and she'd help Tremlett get Dylan right. In her words, ``Dylan was a shit.'' Going by the facts assembled here, that estimate gives Thomas fair weight--and is added to by the agonized characterizations awarded him by the friends who knew him from youth onward. Thomas was a child prodigy about words, with a widely read scholar-father who detested pubic education and a mother who doted on the boy's every whimper. This coddling apparently warped him forever: a piece of Thomas's character was missing utterly. Obsessed with poetry and being ``A Poet,'' he begged, borrowed, and stole relentlessly all his life, was dunned endlessly by creditors, despite earning great sums for radio and movie scripts and especially his Collected Poems. Says Tremlett: ``It is not an attractive picture that we have of this man, for all his great gifts, because his inner selfishness was so overwhelming and his belief in his own genius so obsessive...no matter what the cost to his family.'' As Thomas explained it, ``I'm a very happy sort of bird, and I don't care much.'' But he seems to have been happy only when drinking and parading his organ voice through pubs; his evenings often ended in lost fistfights with his wife, who would box his ears and pull out his curls. Thomas was, it seems, a poor lover as well, childish and unsatisfying, and his legendary drinking capacity all a myth. Thomas sizzles and fries, straightens up to knock out a classic. (Sixteen pages of photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-312-06957-X
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1991


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