Kirkus Star


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Clem Anderson is a big, ambitious novel with an admirable purpose -- the exploration of the personality of a man highly gifted artistically but personally destructive. After Anderson's ""untimely"" death at 40, under sordid circumstances, his one-time college friend attempts to represent his life and by so doing arrive at some estimation of the man's worth. He does this in large measure through Anderson's work -- a giant novel, stories, and poetry, because it created a far more ordered view of the man, even if it was autobiographical, than his own life. For all practical purposes Anderson's literature was his life. Dick Hartsell, a man of liberal temperament, inferior to his subject, in his own estimation, recreates Aaron Clement Anderson's tempestuous, middle-western, childhood and adolescence; his college years when he first discovered his own imaginative powers; his marriage to a girl who devoted herself to him though she didn't understand him; Anderson's World War II years in Europe; his desertion of his wife and two children and his subsequent marriage to an actress (who was more maligned than she should have been); and his eventual alcoholic disintegration, when he was involved with a clique of New York intellectual camp followers. For all the vast detail that Hartsell diligently brings to his task (in a story which he admits is over long and could never be long enough) he has to rely finally on a truth that is also a cliche: Anderson had now become what those who knew him could make of him within their own lives. And if this offers slight resolution the narrator recedes further and says that his appraisal of Clem rests on the poem (that supposedly was always in progress) but never was written. One may admire the impressive intellectual effort Cassill brings to his most important novel yet remain dissatisfied by its total effect.

Pub Date: June 5th, 1961
Publisher: Simon & Schuster