Near the Magician: A Memoir of My Father, Edmund Wilson

Rosalind Baker Wilson, Author Grove Weidenfeld $18.95 (287p) ISBN 978-1-55584-342-7
The eldest child of the late eminent literary critic here recalls her father's foibles as well as occasional charm, showing that anyone closely connected with him ``was likely to develop a helter-skelter way of life.'' Supported by his mother and inept at handling money, Wilson turned out his four wives and children when it wasn't convenient to have them around, according to his daughter from his first marriage. Wilson's third wife, Mary McCarthy (``Anna Karenina without the warmth''), taught her stepdaughter how to make cucumber sandwiches and mix a Tom Collins, but she and Wilson are described as ``supersurvivors who left emotional destruction in their wake.'' The memoir's chatty tone does not diminish the rendering of her father's damaging unpredictability, nor disguise the difficulty the author had growing up as his daughter. With detailed recollections of such literary figures as John Dos Passos, Vladimir Nabokov and e.e. cummings, she effectively recreates the lively atmosphere of her father's circle in Cape Cod, Manhattan and Talcottville in upstate New York. Photos not seen by PW. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
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