A Common Life: Four Generations of American Literary Friendship and Influence

David Laskin, Author, Davis Laskin, Author Simon & Schuster $27 (0p) ISBN 978-0-671-72419-1
Laskin, a fluent writer, here assembles an impressive amount of anecdotal material on four literary friendships: Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne; Edith Wharton and Henry James; Katherine Anne Porter and Eudora Welty; and Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. But the ingenuity of his construct with its endless interweavings between these writers ultimately gives the impression of constant straining for parallels. Laskin claims that Melville's meeting Hawthorne early in his work on Moby Dick ``altered the course of this masterpiece''; that Henry James spurred Edith Wharton to write The House of Mirth ; that Porter launched Welty's literary career, etc. Despite Laskin's preoccupation with his initial thesis, there is a great deal of information about all eight writers here. Most of it can be found elsewhere, but in the end Laskin ( Eastern Islands ) succeeds in making his point that great artists irritate and inspire one another. Photos not seen by PW. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/02/1994
Release date: 05/01/1994
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 464 pages - 978-1-4165-7606-8
Paperback - 476 pages - 978-0-87451-764-4
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