Double Lives by Richard Lingeman
American Writers' Friendships

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

Synopsis

Writers know they’re taking a risk when they befriend other writers. No matter how deep their mutual affection or genuine their admiration, there’s bound to be rivalry–and of course the danger that secrets and intimacies may end up in print. And yet, writers have always been irrevocably drawn to each other. In this insightful new book, veteran biographer Richard Lingeman explores the passions and betrayals that have enlivened the most significant, most fruitful friendships in American letters.
From the unlikely pairing of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville to the kinetic Beat threesome of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Neal Cassady, American writers have formed friendships of high intensity, fierce competition, and extreme need. Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston revered each other’s work but fell out when they tried to collaborate on a doomed play. Henry James could never forgive Edith Wharton her success in the literary marketplace–much as he enjoyed cadging trips in her chauffeur-driven car. Theodore Dreiser and H. L. Mencken loved nothing better than exchanging acid barbs over steins of German beer, but neither could tolerate being criticized by the other. Yet all these friendships endured for years and yielded treasure troves of letters, essays, and thinly veiled fictional portraits.
In Double Lives, Lingeman explores friendships that span the centuries, straddle both coasts, and take in every gender combination. Mark Twain and William Dean Howells were co-curmudgeons who shared a sense of humor and a deep streak of generosity. Willa Cather had the great good fortune to encounter the older Yankee writer Sarah Orne Jewett at the precise moment when Cather was ready to embrace her own professional and sexual identity. F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway met in Paris while both were in their twenties, became fast friends for the worst reasons (Fitzgerald needed heroes, Hemingway admirers), and spent the next fifteen years disappointing each other. As Lingeman so deftly shows, this trajectory is all too common: the seesaw of fortune has challenged many of these rich and volatile friendships.
Double Lives is that rare literary treat–a melding of life and letters that is at once brilliantly revealing and absolutely irresistible. In capturing the heartbeat and heartbreak of our most fascinating writerly relationships, Lingeman has fashioned a sparkling, multifaceted gem.
 

About Richard Lingeman

See more books from this Author
Richard Lingeman, a senior editor at The Nation, is the author of many distinguished nonfiction books, including Sinclair Lewis: Rebel from Main Street; a two-volume biography of Theodore Dreiser: Theodore Dreiser: At the Gates of the City and Theodore Dreiser: An American Journey (Chicago Sun-Times Book of the Year); Small Town America: A Narrative History,
 
Published January 1, 2006 by Random House (NY).
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction