At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Friday, June 18, 2004


Wineapple, Brenda. Hawthorne: a life. Knopf, 2003. 509p bibl index afp ISBN 0-375-40044-3, $30.00.

Choice: "A lively tale. As for speculations, Wineapple presents evidence without insisting on a conclusion. Respectful but honest. She succinctly states critical insights. Writing for a diverse audience, Wineapple summarizes more than Hawthorne scholars will need. Well illustrated, this book is meticulously researched and beautifully written. Essential." Library Journal: “Fascinating. Rich in archival details and perceptive analysis. Interesting particulars and insights keep readers engaged throughout and take them back to Hawthorne’s time. Written in remarkably simple language, this book is successful in capturing the spirit of the age and commenting on the making of the author.” Kirkus: “A thoughtful, absorbing life of the gloomy prince of American literature. Richly detailed and nuanced: a model of literary biography, and an illumination for students of Hawthorne’s work.” Nation: “A smart, revelatory portrait.” Booklist: "A portrait both convincing and memorable." Wilson Quarterly: “Vivid. A rounded portrait. Especially praiseworthy in this biography are the literary-critical passages. A sensitive reader of the various fictions, Wineapple is especially perceptive about the decidedly autobiographical Blithedale Romance. Wineapple occasionally resorts to awkward, quasi-poetical stylistic shortcuts, but she draws us into her narrative with élan.” New York Times Book Review: “Brenda Wineapple, the author of biographies of Janet Flanner and of Gertrude and Leo Stein, is the latest writer to tackle Hawthorne's life and try to distill his shadowy essence. If the attempt is in any way unsatisfactory, it is probably because of something unsatisfactory in the subject's own character; Hawthorne withdraws from the biographer as successfully as he did from his family and friends. But Wineapple is a good storyteller and has created a vivid account of a highly interesting life; she has also managed to communicate, if not to resolve, the man's puzzling contradictions. Wineapple gives very little space to analysis of her subject’s novels and stories. And while she has written alively narrative, there is something basically discordant about the work. Her slangy style, combined with frequent solecisms and awkward sentences, sometimes seems untrue to Hawthorne’s fastidious artistry and smooth Latinate diction.” Publishers Weekly: “The biography assumes a reportorial style, presenting confliting view without putting forth any pet theories or compelling evidence to sway the reader one way or the other.”


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