FIREBRAND: The Life of Horace Liveright by Tom Dardis

FIREBRAND: The Life of Horace Liveright

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A publisher who shaped a dynamic time in American literary history falls prey to his own vices, while Dardis (The Thirsty Muse, 1989, etc.) secures a place as a top chronicler of this particular era and of artistic, destructive men. What if it were the days of speakeasies and postwar optimism, and your circle of friends included Ezra Pound, Sherwood Anderson, Noel Coward, and Mayor Jimmy Walker? What if you were traveling the world, entertaining chorus girls and backing Broadway shows? And what if, along the way, you founded the Modern Library and published The Waste Land, Eugene O'Neill's plays, Theodore Dreiser's novels, and the works of Freud? To call such an existence, as conducted by Horace Liveright and documented with vigor by Dardis, thrilling is to know only half the story. The text reveals that beneath the friendships and successes that accompanied Liveright's creation of a great publishing house there lurked anti-Semitism directed at him and the other Jewish publishers who competed against ""Christian"" houses such as Harcourt, and that whirlwind years of boozing and adultery took their toll on him in tragically obvious yet unstoppable ways. As background to Liveright's singular lifestyle, Dardis -- who in previous books has examined Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, and the alcoholic tendencies of several Prohibition-era writers -- explores the history of publishing in the first third of the 20th century: days with the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice and its battle to enforce censorship; nights with the wits of the Algonquin Round Table. Nice visual touches abound, not only photos of the major players in Liveright's realm, but reproductions of important books' title pages, dozens of letters, cables, and diary entries. A fine bibliography of the period's important artistic and critical voices completes this excellent volume. Rewarding reading for devotees of American publishing.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1995
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Random