DOROTHY AND RED by Vincent Sheean


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I saw that everything has been a the dream of a child who says, 'When I grow up'..."". Although the quoted phrase is a diary entry Dorothy Thompson wrote concerning her first marriage, it could stand for what happened to the second and could have been written with equal truth by either ""Dorothy"" or ""Red"" (Sinclair) Lewis. In 1927, both had a romantic dream of what marriage could be. They behaved, wrote and spoke to each other in the tradition of highest romance. That neither could sustain the demanding roles is amply documented from the diaries (sporadically kept, but outspokenly self-revealing) and the letters (some marked (""nsent"") that Miss Thompson bequeathed to Syracuse University. The author was their intimate, a friend to both and a frequent long term visitor at their dream house farm in Vermont. (Two dreams in collision-- Lewis wanted a rustic retreat, Thompson poured $100,000 into remodeling.) They had planned a creative marriage. Her creativity centered in an almost total grip of the world events of the '30's. Completely busy herself with a demanding career, she was not available to nurture his. Lewis despised political conversation and refused to allow discussion of what he called ""sityashuns"". ""Nobody wanted Dorothy to shine more than Red did... but when it finally happened it was more than he could endure."" Their early correspondence carries a tone of real affection. Fourteen years and one son later, her letters were sharp and his were carping or tired. The book is eminently readable as literary gossip, although Mr. Sheean leans heavily on the hackneyed phrase. It is a blow-up of a section of each of the lives of ""America's foremost literary couple"" rather than a full portrait of either. Except good sales stimulated by much review comment.

Pub Date: Nov. 12th, 1963
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin