EUGENE O'NEILL by Olivia Coolidge
Kirkus Star

EUGENE O'NEILL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Sometimes juvenile biography looks up. 1966 has seen Emmeline Garnett's Tormented Angel and in this, Mrs. Coolidge presents the tormented O'Neill in a way that introduces younger readers to the misery of genius, to the problems of the American theater and to responsible biography. O'Neill used up in his plays all the drama in his family circle, but the author exposes the contrast between the facade and the reality of his early years to show its emotionally paralyzing effect as well as its motivation toward creative catharsis. Pa was rich (the star of the long run Count of Monte Cristo) and Ma was good looking (lace curtain Irish delicacy with a drug addict's selfish strength). New London, Connecticut was and is a pleasant medium-sized city to be prominent in, not (but the love and hate at home, the sensitivity to public shame, the need for money and status are shown as the underpinnings of O'Neill's rage and talent. His artistic commitment built on his absorbed competency in theater technique, the commercial dead-level of American play production and O'Neill's appetite to create and recreate are spread out for their significance. His egocentricity and weaknesses are allowed to speak for themselves. The progenitor of American drama in the twentieth century now has a biography within the grasp of the readers who are meeting some of his plays in their high school classrooms.

Publisher: Scribners