THE RICHARD HARDING DAVIS' YEARS: A Biography of a Mother and Son by Gerald Langford

THE RICHARD HARDING DAVIS' YEARS: A Biography of a Mother and Son

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An oddly unsatisfying joint biography, this, which somehow never conveys the glamor of one of the world's great reporters. Langford has drawn him capably and with occasional aplomb, but his determination to hold to the essence of the mother and son relationship mars the book, at any rate for this reader. The initial seven chapters make a somewhat dull lead-off which will discourage many readers. The purpose, of course, of this unexceptional family background is necessary to his theme- that Richard's mother, also a writer, had a pervading influence on him as a person and on his career. But this phase of the dual biography has an almost suffocating effect which makes the second start with the next part of the book difficult to compass. Once underway, however, the biography gathers momentum, the historical perspective gains substance, its value as a period piece grows, and Davis comes to life. Langford accepts Beers' judgment. Davis was important as an observer and reporter, not as a novelist nor playwright. He had none of the continuing creative capacity seemingly promised by the Gallegher and the Van Bibber stories. As a person, his immaturity seemed endemic (Langford puts the blame on the mother here); his financial difficulties were a dominant and depressive factor; much of his illness was psychosomatic; and he seemed doomed to continual misunderstanding on the part of both family and public.

Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston