THE LATE JOHN MARQUAND by Stephen Birmingham


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Here lies. . . candidly and closely reproduced, the man whose novels were eponymous of a world as other-directed as Sinclair Lewis' Babbitt. And while John Marquand had no greater depth than many of his heroes, he was also -- a surprising also -- histrionic, pettish and at times cruel. More predictably he was as conservative as any of his sturdy-as-Supphose bluestockings. He lived out his mistakes, temporizing to a point of no return while ironically converting default into success -- this in terms of his work rather than his personal happiness. Essentially his life, beyond the novels which were drawn from it, was uneventful. His first marriage to Christina Sedgwick, vague, careless and expensive, endured an uneven 12 years. His second marriage to the very rich and tasteless Adelaide Hooker (she gave him a deerstalker's cap and a house monstrous from its gunroom to its sunken marble tub) survived only at her insistence. Then there was his long on and off affair with Carol, the wife of his agent Carl Brandt. Marquand wrote steadily from the time of his first S.E.P. short story, never perhaps achieved the great book (Flaubert was his beau ideal) he might have hoped, served as a Book-of-the-Month Club judge, and ultimately was harassed by Adelaide into a heart attack (or was it all that golf at Pinehurst?). Birmingham, whose early novels resembled Marquand's, is pitch-perfectly attuned to his subject; the book is an ept and appropriate portrait of the man and its audience should corroborate the fact that he is very much alive even if -- mutatis mutandis -- the values he represented and conserved are at the bottom of Walden Pond, a favorite sanctuary.

Pub Date: June 14th, 1972
Publisher: Lippincott