cover image Archibald MacLeish: An American Life

Archibald MacLeish: An American Life

Scott Donaldson. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $35 (622pp) ISBN 978-0-395-49326-7

Appointed MacLeish's biographer by the MacLeish estate, Donaldson ( John Cheever ) in collaboration with Winnick ( Letters of Archibald MacLeish, 1907 - 1982 ) has produced a sympathetic and fully realized treatment of the writer's life and work. MacLeish (1892-1982) was born into wealth but rejected a law career for poetry, supporting his family by working as a journalist for Fortune magazine. He won the Pulitzer Prize twice for his poems (1932, 1953) and once for his play J.B. (1959). Donaldson details his subject's friendships with Hemingway, Dean Acheson and Dos Passos, acknowledging MacLeish's literary achievements and his outstanding stint as FDR's Librarian of Congress. The book credits him with acting against fascism and McCarthyism but also reveals his snobbishness, extra-marital affairs and failures as a father. Readable and well-researched, this is a solid scholarly biography of a major literary figure. Photos not seen by PW. (May)