Dreadful by David Margolick
The Short Life and Gay Times of John Horne Burns

62%

5 Critic Reviews

The first half of the book, though, relies heavily on quotes from Burns's letters, often strung together with little transition or narrative logic.
-WSJ online

Synopsis

American author John Horne Burns (1916–1953) led a brief and controversial life, and as a writer, transformed many of his darkest experiences into literature. Burns was born in Massachusetts, graduated from Andover and Harvard, and went on to teach English at the Loomis School, a boarding school for boys in Windsor, Connecticut. During World War II, he was stationed in Africa and Italy, and worked mainly in military intelligence. His first novel, The Gallery (1947), based on his wartime experiences, is a critically acclaimed novel and one of the first to unflinchingly depict gay life in the military. The Gallery sold half a million copies upon publication, but never again would Burns receive that kind of critical or popular attention.
 
Dreadful follows Burns, from his education at the best schools to his final years of drinking and depression in Italy. With intelligence and insight, David Margolick examines Burns’s moral ambivalence toward the behavior of American soldiers stationed with him in Naples, and the scandal surrounding his second novel, Lucifer with a Book, an unflattering portrayal of his experiences at Loomis.
 

About David Margolick

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David Margolick is the author of five books, including Strange Fruit: The Biography of a Song (Harper Perennial, 2001), Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling and a World on the Brink (Vintage, 2006), and Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock (Yale University Press, 2011). He is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and a Loomis School alum.
 
Published June 4, 2013 by Other Press. 400 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, War, Gay & Lesbian, History. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Dreadful
All: 5 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 2

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Charles Isherwood on Jul 31 2013

...it does provide a precise and rather macabre analysis of his own failings, both as a human being and a writer.

Read Full Review of Dreadful: The Short Life and ... | See more reviews from NY Times

WSJ online

Above average
Reviewed by Blake Bailey on May 31 2013

The first half of the book, though, relies heavily on quotes from Burns's letters, often strung together with little transition or narrative logic.

Read Full Review of Dreadful: The Short Life and ... | See more reviews from WSJ online

Kirkus

Excellent
on May 26 2013

Not a fun read, but a wonderfully crafted portrait of a tormented homosexual writer.

Read Full Review of Dreadful: The Short Life and ... | See more reviews from Kirkus

NY Journal of Books

Below average
Reviewed by Vinton Rafe McCabe on Jun 04 2013

We come away from Dreadful frankly puzzled and more than a little frazzled, with no more insight into this obscure, even invisible man than we had on first opening the book.

Read Full Review of Dreadful: The Short Life and ... | See more reviews from NY Journal of Books

Star Tribune

Above average
Reviewed by Claude Peck on Jun 28 2013

...he was buried after a memorial service attended by just four people. Margolick’s fluidly written and highly readable biography (though inexplicably lacking both index and footnotes) makes that skimpy turnout seem a major tragedy.

Read Full Review of Dreadful: The Short Life and ... | See more reviews from Star Tribune

Reader Rating for Dreadful
77%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 47 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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