Lillian Hellman: The Image, the Woman

William Wright, Author Simon & Schuster $18.45 (0p) ISBN 978-0-671-52687-0
This badly written biography of the playwright offers no insights into her life or work but, rather, responds to Hellman's three volumes of memoirs, which Wright (Pavarotti alternatelyrelies upon or claims are riddled with errors. He does not explain what constitutes misrepresentation or self-deception on Hellman's part (he is instead eager to reveal ""Hellman's faulty memory for details''), and because he prefers to expose Hellman's contradictions rather than understand them, this biography is fatally crippled. Wright grudgingly pays tribute to Hellman's talent, but becomes embarrassingly moralistic about her private life, especially her relationship with Dashiell Hammett: they never married; they had too much sex (``few men or women have thrown themselves into the heterosexual maelstrom with more enthusiasm than these two''); they drank too much; they spent too much money during the Depression (``As for guilt about spending freely on herself when others were hungry, Hellman never showed any sign of it''); they were unfaithful; Hellman had an abortion. Wright concludes that Hellman's troubled political involvements were less ``intellectual'' than ``visceral.'' One could not object to this portrait if it were convincingly argued, but Wright does not answer as many questions as he lays aside in favor of moral judgments. His biography is a brief for the prosecution. Photos not seen by PW. (November 28)
Reviewed on: 10/28/1986
Release date: 11/01/1986
Mass Market Paperbound - 978-0-345-34740-4
Paperback - 512 pages - 978-0-7432-1073-7
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