MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewCarol Sklenicka is a lucid, scrupulous writer ... Her description of, say, a late-life surgical procedure that Adams endured would pass muster in a neurosurgeon’s how-to guide. Such a conscientious and (it must be said) rather humorless sensibility works well with inherently dramatic material, and so is perhaps better suited for a redemptive fable about the colossal alcoholic Carver, who somehow kicked both booze and the worst predations of his machete-wielding editor, Gordon Lish. By comparison, most of Adams’s life had a fairly decorous surface (\'Never a harsh word\') whose fraught subtext needs teasing out by a subtle fiction artist ... the prosaic remains decidedly prosaic ... Sklenicka sometimes injects gravitas into these early pages in ways that seem tangential, at best, to the immediate concerns of her teenage subject. Such historical digressions go on for a page or a paragraph, or else are woven into a single sentence like a discolored skin graft ... Sklenicka is prudent and appreciative in her assessment of Adams’s work, but gives no explanation, except obliquely, for the simple fact that Adams isn’t read anymore.
Mary V. Dearborn
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal...It’s always worthwhile to explore (on ever accumulating evidence) what makes a genius tick, even if tabulating his flaws can get to be a slog in Hemingway’s case. Ms. Dearborn does not shrink from the task. Once again we see how Hemingway built his career on the bodies of betrayed friends ... Ms. Dearborn’s book is not especially disparaging relative to other biographies—to her credit, she seems content to marshal the evidence pro and con, and there is a superabundance of both ... What makes this book seem a little relentless, at times, is its insistent focus on the flawed human being rather than his achievement.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ed. Anne Margaret Daniel
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewExhaustion is manifest in the pages of I’d Die for You. The story ‘Nightmare,’ for instance, was rejected by editors because of a low demand for descriptions of mental hospitals and also because, well, it’s not a good story … Anne Margaret Daniel’s exuberant diligence is more worthwhile than most of the stories...Daniel’s labors are loving if a little quixotic; frankly I doubt even her family will read every item among the 30 fine-print pages of notes at the end of the book. A desultory skim is worth your while, though ... Inferior Fitzgerald is still Fitzgerald, and his best readers will find much to enjoy in this gorgeously produced book. Even the weaker pieces are sustained by flourishes of prose style.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalWhen she puts aside her brief for Jackson’s ideological relevance, Ms. Franklin is a conscientious, lucid biographer, and her book is never less than engaging.
PanThe Wall Street Journal...the book has a kind of stolid quality, for all its emphasis on the lurid. Part of the reason, I think, is an almost total reliance on the research of others...To be sure, Ms. Claridge brings her own perspective to these materials (Blanche good, Alfred bad), but when she stitches all the limbs together and throws the switch, the creature lurches around and topples over.
PanThe New RepublicWhen a writer indulges in sloppy thinking, for whatever reason, the writing goes to pot, too. A good copy editor will warn authors when they step too close to the cliché line, but I imagine Parini’s editor throwing up her hands around page eight or so. Like a breathless press agent, Parini likes to describe things that excite him in terms of their sparkle...