Practically everything bohemian Miller's ever written has been about himself--so any attempt at biography is almost automatically placed in a competitive position. Martin gives it his all. The life boils down to three basic stages. A miserable existence until age 35, working for Western Union as a dispatcher, not yet writing, and suffering like a Marcel over Albertine-like, gold-digging June, second wife of an eventual run of five. Then, Paris: relief at being free and an explosion of bohemianism--Tropic of Cancer. Finally, the return to America: more poverty (not until he was 60 did Miller earn more than $3000 a year), but success growing on the slopes of scandal; the censorship trials; fame; Big Sur; guruhood thrust on a man who remained a German-meticulous romantic hoping to make up for a life haft down the tubes. Martin is nothing if not sympathetic; Miller's own terms, so massively spelled out in his books, are the ones in operation here. To the point that-and this is where readers will divide over this book-Martin consciously writes like Miller: all the obscenity, corny metaphysics, and baroque sufferingartist stuff. Martin, who approached Nathanel West previously in a very different fashion, clearly made a conscious decision--that there was no way to encompass Miller's heartlessness, craftiness, huge appetites, hucksterism, and self-promotion on coolly objective grounds. Miller is excessive; so is Martin. But the energy--like a dog running in wild circles after a flea on its tail--is effectively captured, with all the sloppiness, all the will it took to reform a hated life into another image. When Miller is ludicrous, the book is ludicrous with him. When he breaks through with candor and fire, Martin seems to be right there, too.