Uphill with Archie: A Son's Journey

William MacLeish, Author Simon & Schuster $25 (288p) ISBN 978-0-684-82495-6
At the age of 70, the youngest son of poet, lawyer and statesman Archibald MacLeish has written a touching memoir that recalls his father as a brilliant, talented and supernaturally lucky man making his way, on his own terms, as an artist among the brightest stars of America's ruling class. Though it is a loving and generous portrait, the author (The Day Before America; etc.) had an often tortured relationship with his father, which is reflected in a subsumed pain that frequently surfaces as self-doubt and self-effacement. Writing with grace and honesty, MacLeish the son offers his own personal, emotional odyssey as opposed to a portrait of his father's life and work. The author recounts his disturbing though privileged childhood, spent among Carl Sandburg, John Dos Passos, Ernest Hemingway and nearly the entire American literary pantheon. He followed the path his father had blazed into the worlds of government, academia and journalism, but he never emerged from the shadow of his dominant, aggressive and emotionally limited father until late in life, after he had lost his brother, divorced his wife of many years and fallen away from everything formerly at the foundation of his existence. By the time he decided to write this memoir, MacLeish had found a well-earned peace, after facing the major fallacies of his life and becoming close to his aged father, his unloving mother and his rebellious daughters. His book delivers a frank though dignified reckoning by the courageous son of a faded American icon. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/2001
Release date: 02/01/2001
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