A suave, sophisticatedly intellectualized novel, in which one feels tempted to identify characters and situations with parallels in the literary and dramatic world. (And to accuse the author of speaking -- too often -- through the mouths of his people.) Michael, spoiled by easy and early success, first in writing a novel during his undergraduate years, then in writing a successful play, lets his life be pulled this way and that by the ""silver cord"" relation with his mother, by his inability to face unpleasantness and settle the conflict between his engagement to the girl back home (St. Paul) and his romantic and passionate love for a brilliant actress in Boston. On these shoals his life's fundamental development is wrecked. He has success -- he makes money -- he travels -- he knows the best people -- he influences young aspirants -- but his life has no focus until, at the close, he is needed, desperately, by the son of the woman he has loved and wronged. There is something of The Last Puritan in this study of a writer, against fifty years and more of full-panoplied shifting standards of American literary life.