DEAREST WILDING: A Memoir by Yvette Eastman


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This fragmentary memoir, supplemented by love letters from Theodore Dreiser, offers little of interest about either the author, her famous lover, or their relationship. In 1930, 17-year-old Yvette Szekely was seduced by ""groping Teddy,"" then in his late 50s. Their affair, which continued until Dreiser's death in 1945, was only one of several the novelist had while living with Helen Richardson (Yvette learned of the others in biographers' accounts of Dreiser's life). If the relationship developed, as Eastman claims, ""into a spiritual and emotional bond,"" this comes off the page less powerfully than do the furtive meetings in rented digs, the post office boxes leased to conceal correspondence exchanged, and the routine banter of epistles that -- as love letters often do -- sound banal to all but their intended recipient. Perhaps because Yvette was infatuated with Dreiser and his celebrity, her intimate perspective does not translate, even retrospectively, into incisive observation. The one person who does emerge from the memoir as genuinely intriguing is Margaret Szekely, who married Yvette's father and raised the girl as her own daughter (though the portrait is only partial and filtered through Yvette's residual anger). Emotionally volatile, creative, and undoubtedly difficult to live with even when she wasn't threatening suicide, Margaret was a journalist, inventor, and lingerie designer. Moreover, a passing reference in one of Dreiser's letters to Yvette's own suicide threat and the later revelation of Yvette's affair with Margaret's estranged husband, Ken Clark, leads to suspicions that the dark relationship between stepmother and stepdaughter -- if it had been more fully explored -- holds more potential interest than these rather dull reminiscences of the affair with Dreiser. (Szekely later married Max Eastman.) Essentially for those whose interests are academic or voyeuristic or both.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1995
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Univ. of Pennsylvania