Barbara Gelb's So Short A Time (1973) hardly got beyond painting John Reed and his wife Louise Bryant as the Scott and Zelda of the radical set. Here Robert Rosenstone, author of a definitive work on the Abraham Lincoln Brigade and a prodigious researcher of the history of the left, evaluates both Reed's actual accomplishments as writer, journalist and political thinker and Reed the symbol--the ""poet and cheerleader"" and ""playboy of the revolution"" who moved in an aura of glamour and excitement. Coming from an ostentatiously eccentric Portland, Oregon family, Reed was a glutton for attention, driven to make a social splash wherever he went--prep school, Harvard or the bohemian Village scene, and displaying in his travels what Walter Lippmann called ""an inordinate desire to be arrested."" Yet the showmanship in Reed's character filled a social need: ""Reed the hero was the creation of his generation"" which was struggling vainly to hold on to its optimistic belief that art and social reform would together usher in a new age. Rosenstone has given us a big book full of action and drama--Reed arrested with Big Bill Haywood in the Paterson silk strike; searching out the elusive Pancho Villa; conducting a tempestuous affair with Mabel Dodge; traveling through war-torn, disease-ridden Serbia; dropping in to Lenin's Kremlin apartment for late-night conversations. . . . Rosenstone effectively dispels the notion that Reed was a lightweight--even before Ten Days That Shook the World he rivaled his friend Lincoln Steffens as a reporter. But it is the legend that still fascinates. . . perhaps we too need Reed's epic energy to cheer us up.