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Shade of the Raintree: The Life and Death of Ross Lockridge, Jr. Hardcover – April 1, 1994

4.5 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Raintree County , a first novel published in 1948 by Houghton Mifflin, was a sensation. It won the $150,000 MGM novel prize, was a Main Selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club and topped the bestseller lists. Three months after its publication, its 33-year-old author Ross Lockridge Jr. killed himself. His son, who was only five-years-old at his father's death, here brings a new perspective to the tragedy. The family saved everything written to and by Ross Jr., even the novelist's student notes secretly exchanged in high school classrooms. The younger Lockridge thus draws on a wealth of family letters, diaries and, most importantly, on Raintree County itself in depicting his father as a man whose faith in himself as a writer wavered until he could no longer handle the stress of actual publication. The novelist grew up and remained in Indiana; his father Ross Sr. was a local historian, his mother Elsie a strong and supportive presence. Ross Jr.'s wife Vernice bore his four children, typed the more than 2000 manuscript pages of Raintree County and desperately tried to stave off his depression. His son, who teaches Romantic literature at New York University, is a passionate admirer of his father's novel though he struggles valiantly to approach it objectively. One senses that the novelist would be proud of his son: he has created a full portrait of life in the Midwest between the wars and of the collision of depression and the creative mind. It remains to be seen whether this insightful and affectionate biography will bring his father's novel a new audience. Now out of print, Raintree County will be reissued in paperback by Penguin simultaneously with the publication of this biography.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Now remembered as a best seller that was often denounced for its bold sexuality, Raintree County was the life work of Indiana author Ross Lockridge Jr., who killed himself shortly after its publication in 1948. His son, Larry (English, New York Univ.), has written the first full-length study of the man, his roots, and the genesis of his work, to be published in conjunction with a paperback reissue of Raintree County (Penguin.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 500 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; First Edition edition (April 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670854409
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670854400
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,258,452 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book is a biography of his father, Ross Lockridge, Jr. The book was so good I almost emailed the author a few years ago to tell him so, but i wussed out. I read Larry's book right after reading Raintree County, and cried, and I never cry! It was so sad what happened to his father, not to mention America, for the loss of one of its' greatest authors, in my humble opinion. I highly reccomend it, but only for people who have read Raintree County.. I heard about Raintree County in James Michener's autobiography, "The World is My Home." (Pass on my email address to Larry Lockridge so maybe we can communicate)
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Format: Hardcover
I tend to shy away from reading biographies written by family members of the subject, fearing the author's lack of objectivity. But having just read Raintree County on Sept 26, I decided to read this work by Ross Lockridge, Jr.'s son. That was a wise decision. I think the book is made better by the family insight which Larry Lockridge brings to the book, even though he was only five at the time of his father's death. The book is very well researched--probably better than it would have been if written by some unrelated author. And it is just as well written as it is researched, with it being clear that the author is an able and skilled writer. The reader gets caught up in the actually very impressive story, which goes thru the life of Ross Lckridge, Jr., in fascinating detail from his earliest years, thru his brilliant career at Indiana University (he amassed the highest grade score ever earned at the University), his time in Europe, his marriage to the love of his life on July 11, 1937, his teaching years, the writing of the book which has earned him a unique place in America's literary canon, and the fearsome events after the book was finished and when it was published. The account of the final months of the life made understandable to me what I had hitherto deemed inexplicable--that Ross Lockridge, Jr., should take his own life when his book was garnering nationwide attention. I am confident that anyone who reads Raintree County will be enriched by reading this excellent biography while the novel is still fresh in the reader's mind.
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By A Customer on November 11, 1998
Format: Paperback
<B>The picture in this book of Larry Lockridge, its author when he was little more than a baby, seems to me to reflect the childlike wisdom that recognizes an impending epic tragedy and that it may dominate his life.
That tragedy was the death by his own hand of Larry's father, a man who was able to write a thousand plus page novel that is more of a lyric poem.
Yet, some reviewers lightly passed it over at the time, notably competing author Hamilton Basso, whose review probably revealed that he'd have cut his arm off to be able to achieve Lockridge's pinnacle of word-use that sweeps our minds away like a Pied Piper demanding we follow him.
I followed this Pied Piper gladly, into a nostalgic introduction to years and people now dead. My heart hurt over what was tragically gone never to return, the pathos of glowing images and old loves of appealing people that passed and will never return. At some places in Lockridge's monumental tribute to America, his words, unlike most - which someone described aptly as strange wild symbols of thought - in the hands of this genius, transcend words and, for me, almost bridged that gap, tugging me into a wonderful, tragi-comic trancelike dream world of America's heritage. Ross Lockridge, Larry's tragic and brilliant dad, undoubtedly fathered that elusive thing: - The Great American Novel.
<I>I think his son's book reminds us it's time to take a second look and face the truth that we were granted a short stay among us of a literary angel, who bequeathed us a treasury of jewel-like words and images beyond price.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One need not have read "Raintree County" to appreciate this book about its author, Ross Lockridge, written by his son Larry. The elder author wrote Raintree County, called the "great American novel" by many at its blockbuster publishing. He was an instant success when RC, his first novel, was published. But he (Ross) became profoundly despondent almost immediately after the book was released, culminating in his suicide. This could make for a morose story, especially when told by the grown-up little boy Ross Lockridge left behind. But it is much more than the story of a suicide. Larry Lockridge, a gifted writer and academic himself, weaves many elements into "Shade"--the love story of his parents, Indiana and family heritage and lore, and his own tender childhood memories, He also examines the creative writing process, the writing life and some hard friction between art and business (writing versus publishing).
Ultimately, Shade is a tragedy, yes. But it is fascinating to read about this man (Ross Lockridge) with a charmed life: handsome, talented, brilliant and beloved, and the seemingly sudden onset of a depression so profound that he killed himself in the midst of fulfilling all his professional dreams. By the time his illness manifests, the reader really cares about him. At least I did.
Following Shade of the Raintree, I read Raintree County. It is a very long book, and an imperfect one. But it is gutsy, audacious, and overtly sexual at a time when that was unheard of.
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