If at first you don't succeed... well, actually, Arthur and Barbara Gelb's 1962 book about Eugene O'Neill was a resounding success by any measure; for years, theirs was the definitive account of the Nobel Prize-winning playwright and his work. Far from resting on their laurels, however, the Gelbs spent the next 38 years continuing their research, interviewing O'Neill's family and friends and digging up new sources of information. Now they've produced O'Neill: Life with Monte Cristo
, both a rewrite of their 1962 biography and a major literary event in its own right. The first installment of a projected trilogy, O'Neill
uses the plays themselves as a jumping-off point for an exploration of the playwright's life, including substantial discussion of his colorful father, his Irish ancestors, and his troubled early years. This later work gains not only from its new source materials and widened scope but also from what the Gelbs note is a "changed sensibility"--both in themselves and the world around them. Those 38 intervening years have brought increased personal understanding and remarkable developments in O'Neill scholarship, they write, and O'Neill
benefits from both. Marked by meticulous attention to detail and daring leaps in chronology, the Gelbs' biography is a remarkable reevaluation of one of our most violent and original American talents. --Greta Kline
From Library Journal
When the Gelbs"former managing editor of the New York Times Arthur and Barbara (So Short a Take)"published the first full-scale biography of Eugene O!Neill in 1962, they had the advantage of having interviewed many people who were close to O!Neill, including his widow, Carlotta. However, they had neither access to archival resources now open to researchers nor the freedom to reveal many of the secrets they had uncovered. Thirty years later, they asked Applause Books to bring their book into print after a minor revision, which turned into a complete rewriting that made use of quite a bit of new information and a more mature understanding of their subject. This maturity is particularly evident in their examination of O!Neill!s mother and her relationship with him. The book is an excellent companion to Stephen Black!s Eugene O!Neill: Beyond Mourning and Tragedy (LJ 11/1/99), which employs a psychoanalytic approach in exploring some of the same archival material. Strongly recommended for all academic, public, and high school libraries; Volume 2 is scheduled for 2002."Susan L. Peters, Emory Univ. Lib., Atlanta, GA
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