Married to Genius

Jeffrey Meyers, Author Southbank Publishing $16 (256p) ISBN 978-1-904915-09-6
Biographer Meyers delves into the married lives of nine novelists-Tolstoy, Shaw, Conrad, Joyce, Woolf, Mansfield, Lawrence, Hemingway and Fitzgerald-bypassing the daily bric-a-brac of marriage to focus on the artists' intertwined commitments to their spouses and their craft, often drawing parallels between the fiction written and the lives lived. Meyers suggests marriage for his subjects was a ""strengthening bond... deeply valuable to an artist engaged in psychic survival and in creating order out of chaos,"" but it is clear that even the happiest marriages came at a price. Meyers uses the diaries, letters and fiction of his subjects and their peers to cover the legendary aspects of their biographies (Conrad's estrangement, Woolf's mental fragility, Fitzgerald's alcoholism, Hemingway's machismo) in satisfying, psychologically incisive detail without risking caricature, and is able to provide a revealing portrait of what made Tolstoy's marriage ""unhappy after its own fashion,"" and why Woolf wrote in a suicide note to Leonard, ""I don't think that two people could be happier than we have been."" Readers familiar with the works of these figures will take pleasure in the sometimes subtle links Meyers notes between their life and art. What's more, Meyers takes full advantage of the fascinating intersections between these literary figures' lives-Mansfield's husband Murry's flirtation with Lawrence's wife Freida; Hemingway and Fitzgerald's judgments (sometimes discerning, sometimes clearly blurred with jealousy) of each other's marriages; Woolf's envy of Mansfield's writing; and Mansfield's envy of Woolf's marriage-to enrich the volume.
Reviewed on: 04/04/2005
Release date: 04/01/2005
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