I'm Dying Laughing: The Humourist

Christina Stead, Author Henry Holt & Company $19.95 (447p) ISBN 978-0-8050-0462-5
At her death in 1983, the Australian-born writer, best known for The Man Who Loved Children, left a mass of manuscript and a chaos of drafts, revisions, notes and jottings. The novel now being published bears unavoidable disfiguring scars despite the devoted editorial labors of Stead's literary executor, R.G. Geering. Stead lived in the U.S. during the decade whose eventsthe Depression, WW I, political radicalism and right-wing repressionsaturate the book's atmosphere. Emily Wilkes and Stephen Howard, the principal characters, are Communists who will eventually renounce the Party, for a price, and betray old comrades. She is a Hollywood scriptwriter and popular novelist with higher aspirations; he is a rich Princeton boy who writes for the Party press. Their itinerary from Hollywood to New York to Paris provides a kind of history of Party life as lived by such people in that legendary time. The material itself is fascinating, the writing, especially the dialogue, vital and tumultuous; though the received work is marred by jarring discontinuities. Characters vanish without a trace, ideas lose their grip; but readers unfamiliar with the convoluted internal life, arcane jargon and mindsets of the CP in those years will be introduced to a strange new world. (September 30)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1987
Release date: 01/01/1987
Discover what to read next