Meyers, Jeffrey 1939–
Meyers, Jeffrey 1939–
PERSONAL: Born April 1, 1939, in New York, NY; son of Rubin and Judith Meyers; married Valerie Froggatt (a teacher), October 12, 1965; children: Rachel. Education: University of Michigan, B.A., 1959; attended University of Pennsylvania, University of Edinburgh, and Harvard Law School; University of California, Berkeley, M.A., 1961, Ph.D., 1967. Politics: Socialist. Hobbies and other interests: Travel (Asia, Africa, the Near East, Europe), tennis, "avoiding boredom."
ADDRESSES: Home—Kensington, CA.
CAREER: Writer and educator. University of California, Los Angeles, assistant professor of English, 1963–65; University of Maryland, Far East Division, Tokyo, Japan, lecturer in English, 1965–66; Tufts University, Boston, MA, assistant professor of English, 1967–71; writer in London, England and Spain, 1971–74; Christie's, London, in rare books department, 1974; University of Colorado, Boulder, professor of English, 1975–92; University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Jemison professor. Visiting professor, University of Kent, Canterbury, 1979–80, and University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 1982–83; visiting scholar, University of California, Berkeley, 1986–87, 1992–94.
MEMBER: Royal Society of Literature (fellow).
AWARDS, HONORS: Fellowships from American Council of Learned Societies, 1970, and Huntington Library, 1971; Fulbright fellowship, 1977–78; Guggenheim fellowship, 1978; Award in Literature, American Academy of Arts and Letters, 2005.
Fiction and the Colonial Experience, Rowman & Little-field (Totowa, NJ), 1973.
The Wounded Spirit: A Study of "Seven Pillars of Wisdom," Martin, Brian & O'Keeffe (London, England), 1973, revised edition published as The Wounded Spirit: T.E. Lawrence's "Seven Pillars of Wisdom," St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1989.
T.E. Lawrence: A Bibliography, Garland Publishing (New York, NY), 1974.
A Reader's Guide to George Orwell, Thames & Hudson (London, England), 1975, Littlefield & Adams (Totowa, NJ), 1977.
(Editor and author of introduction and notes) George Orwell: The Critical Heritage, Routledge & Kegan Paul (Boston, MA), 1975.
Painting and the Novel, Barnes & Noble (New York, NY), 1975.
Catalogue of the Library of the Late Siegfried Sassoon, Christie's (London, England), 1975.
A Fever at the Core: The Idealist in Politics, Barnes & Noble (New York, NY), 1976.
George Orwell: An Annotated Bibliography of Criticism, Garland Publishing (New York, NY), 1977.
Homosexuality and Literature, 1890–1930, Athlone Press (London, England), 1977.
Married to Genius, Barnes & Noble (New York, NY), 1977.
Katherine Mansfield: A Biography, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1978, New Directions Publishing (New York, NY), 1980, new edition with new introduction published as Katherine Mansfield: A Darker View, Cooper Square Press (New York, NY), 2002.
(Editor and author of introduction) Katherine Mansfield, Four Poems, Eric & Joan Stevens (London, England), 1980.
The Enemy: A Biography of Wyndham Lewis, Routledge (London, England), 1980, Routledge (Boston, MA), 1982.
(Editor) Wyndham Lewis, a Revaluation: New Essays, Athlone Press (London, England), 1980.
D.H. Lawrence and the Experience of Italy, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1982.
(Editor and author of introduction and notes) Hemingway: The Critical Heritage, Routledge (Boston, MA), 1982.
(Editor and author of introduction and chapter) The Craft of Literary Biography, Schocken (New York, NY), 1985.
(Editor and author of introduction) D.H. Lawrence and Tradition, University of Massachusetts Press (Amherst, MA), 1985.
Disease and the Novel, 1880–1960, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1985.
Hemingway: A Biography, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1985.
(Editor and author of introduction) Roy Campbell, Wyndham Lewis, University of Natal Press (Pietermaritzburg, South Africa), 1985.
(Editor and author of introduction and chapter) The Legacy of D.H. Lawrence: New Essays, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1987.
Manic Power: Robert Lowell and His Circle, Arbor House (New York, NY), 1987.
(Editor and author of introduction and chapter) The Biographer's Art: New Essays, New Amsterdam Books (New York, NY), 1989.
The Spirit of Biography (selected essays), UMI Research Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1989.
(Editor) T.E. Lawrence, Soldier, Writer, Legend: New Essays, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1989.
D.H. Lawrence: A Biography, Knopf (New York, NY), 1989.
(Editor) Graham Greene, A Revaluation: New Essays, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1990.
Joseph Conrad: A Biography, Scribner (New York, NY), 1991.
Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy, Scribner (New York, NY), 1992.
Scott Fitzgerald: A Biography, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1994.
Edmund Wilson: A Biography, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1995.
Robert Frost: A Biography, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1996.
(Editor) Early Frost: The First Three Books, Ecco Press (Hopewell, NJ), 1996.
Bogart: A Life in Hollywood, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1997.
Gary Cooper: American Hero, Morrow (New York, NY), 1998.
Orwell: Wintry Conscience of a Generation, Norton (New York, NY), 2000.
Privileged Moments: Encounters with Writers, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 2000.
Hemingway: Life into Art, Cooper Square (New York, NY), 2000.
Inherited Risk: Errol and Sean Flynn in Hollywood and Vietnam, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.
(Editor and author of introduction) The Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Reader, Taylor (Lanham, MD), 2004.
Somerset Maugham: A Life, Knopf (New York, NY), 2004.
(Editor and author of introduction) The W. Somerset Maugham Reader, Taylor (Lanham, MD), 2004.
Impressionist Quartet: The Intimate Genius of Manet and Morisot, Degas and Cassatt, Harcourt (New York, NY), 2005.
Modigliani: A Life, Harcourt (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor to books, including Essays by Divers Hands, Volume 44, edited by A. N. Wilson, Boydell & Brewer, 1986; and periodicals, including Antioch Review, Georgia Review, Globe and Mail, Kenyon Review, London Magazine, Michigan Quarterly Review, New Criterion, Salmagundi, Sewanee Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Yale Review.
Twenty-three of Meyers's books have been translated into twelve languages: Chinese, Danish, Estonian, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish.
SIDELIGHTS: Jeffrey Meyers is a prominent and prolific biographer. The frequency with which his books appear led critic James Atlas, writing in the New York Times Book Review, to call him "indefatigable" and his output "prodigious." Meyers, who has likened his work to that of an investigative journalist, turned to literary biography after a significant career in literary criticism. "Meyers began writing primarily as a literary critic who used biography to explicate texts," explained Mark Allister in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, "and he has since become primarily a biographer who occasionally interprets literature." Allister saw Meyers's use of information on writers' lives in his critical works as foreshadowing his emergence as an author of full-fledged biographies. Whatever its antecedents, Meyers's career as a biographer has drawn a great deal of attention. As Paul Marx put it in the Houston Chronicle: "It would be hard to find someone who knows more about 20th-century British and American culture than Jeffrey Meyers."
Meyers's penchant for telling life stories became further apparent in two group biographies. A Fever at the Core: The Idealist in Politics deals with people involved in both the arts and political activism, while Married to Genius looks at the marriages of several authors. One of these authors was the influential British short-story writer and poet Katherine Mansfield, who subsequently became the subject of Meyers's first full-length biographical work. Katherine Mansfield: A Biography provides details of Mansfield's life that had been covered either superficially or not at all by her previous biographers, including her complex relations with her husband, John Middleton Murry. While Murry had depicted Mansfield and their relationship in only the most flattering manner, Meyers discusses Mansfield's numerous love affairs with both men and women, as well as her husband's infidelities and coldness. Some reviewers found the book cruel to Mansfield, while others contended that Murry was unfairly portrayed as evil. Still others praised Meyers's extensive research—he interviewed every person acquainted with Mansfield—and felt that his work casts new light on this literary life.
In the Mansfield book, Meyers did not write extensively about the times in which she lived, nor did he provide much opinion on her work. However, The Enemy: A Biography of Wyndham Lewis, "is rich in such details," according to Allister. Lewis produced many works of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction (in addition to numerous paintings and drawings), but is not as well known as his early-twentieth-century contemporaries, such as T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, and Ezra Pound, and is frequently confused with another writer, D.B. Wyndham Lewis. Lewis's reputation also has suffered because of his early support of Adolf Hitler, although he later recanted this position. Meyers's biography, several reviewers said, contributes to a greater understanding of Lewis. The book is "richly informative, fair, lively, and in every good sense disinterested," wrote Denis Donoghue in the New York Review of Books. Bernard Bergonzi, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, noted that Meyers is by no means a Lewis partisan, but has written a biography that is "solid and well documented, without being pointlessly massive or tediously long." However, while Bergonzi found Meyers's evaluation of Lewis's writings "cautious and sensible," he also considered it "quietly dismissive of a good part of the oeuvre."
For his next biographical work, Meyers chose as his subject a writer far more famous than Mansfield or Lewis—one of the giants of twentieth-century American literature, Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway: A Biography, published in 1985, was the first full-fledged biography of the writer to appear since Carlos Baker's Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story in 1969. Meyers made an effort to gather material that had not been included in Baker's book; among his finds was a Federal Bureau of Investigation dossier on Hemingway, indicating the agency's head, J. Edgar Hoover, wished to destroy Hemingway's standing as a writer (Hoover thought Hemingway was a communist). Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, reviewing the book for the New York Times, declared the biography well organized, "a relief … after Professor Baker's shapeless gathering of a million facts." Meyers, according to Lehmann-Haupt, "is able to illuminate what he considers the major turning points of Hemingway's life" and produce "an absorbing tragic portrait." In Voice Literary Supplement, Mario Vargas Llosa noted that the book "adds to as well as corrects" the Baker work and "is the most complete biography" of Hemingway.
Raymond Carver, writing in the New York Times Book Review, held a different view: "There's little in this book that Carlos Baker … didn't say better. Mr. Baker, despite his blind spots, was far more sympathetic to the work and, finally, more understanding of the man." Carver also asserted: "Adulation is not a requirement for biographers, but Mr. Meyers's book fairly bristles with disapproval of his subject." Carver noted that Meyers devotes much space to Hemingway's large ego (which Meyers claims affected his work adversely), excessive drinking, and ill treatment of his loved ones. Los Angeles Times Book Review contributor Irving Marder did not object to Meyers's discussion of Hemingway's personal failings, but saw other flaws in the book: "One is a style so graceless and so imprecise that, at crucial points, there is only ambiguity." Vargas Llosa, while admiring the book's thoroughness, argued that Meyers does not really explain how Hemingway was able to distill the events of his life and various aspects of his personality into literature. Lehmann-Haupt was bothered by Meyers's dismissal of the possibility that Hemingway's ultra-masculine persona was a reaction to insecurity about his sexual identity. "This peculiar bias … leaves a gaping hole at the very heart of his otherwise impressive treatment," Lehmann-Haupt concluded.
Meyers returned to group biography with Manic Power: Robert Lowell and His Circle. He discusses Lowell and three other poets who were his contemporaries: John Berryman, Randall Jarrell, and Theodore Roethke, adding an epilogue on Sylvia Plath. All had significant personal problems that informed their poetry. Allister considered the book successful as biography, less so as a study of the poets' art. Times Literary Supplement critic Michael Hofmann, however, lambasted Meyers's work as "witless, censorious, treacherous and sloppy."
British writer D.H. Lawrence, whose art and life had figured in some of Meyers's previous works, was the author's next biographical subject. Writing in the Times Literary Supplement, Julian Symons called D.H. Lawrence: A Biography a "robust, energetic book" and "probably the best biography" of the controversial Lawrence, once vilified for the sexual explicitness of his novels, later condemned as displaying a supremacist attitude toward women. New York Review of Books critic Noel Annan praised Meyers's work in sorting out the various versions of events in Lawrence's life and referred to the book as "dispassionate … a cool, not cold, analysis." Paul Delany, writing for the London Review of Books, found Meyers's assertion that Lawrence's problems in life were due to his relationship with his mother far too facile, but termed the book as a whole "readable, judicious and authoritative." On the other hand, Christopher Hawtree, writing in Spectator, criticized the book as having "a perfunctory air" and "lacking all rhythm and underplaying much of the subject's existence." Los Angeles Times Book Review contributor Nancy Mairs, however, lauded Meyers for illuminating the relationship between Lawrence's life and his work, while finding Lawrence's work too plentiful to allow the biographer to do so in all cases. The book, though, is an "admirable introduction" to Lawrence, Mairs maintained.
Joseph Conrad: A Biography, featuring the Polish-descended seaman who became a highly regarded British novelist, fulfills the need for a book "that makes overall sense of the myriad, often contradictory, facts of Conrad's life," according to Jay Parini in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. Parini declared the book's second half "beautifully focused on the author's life of writing," providing insight into the creative process that produced such works as Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim. The critic also praised Meyers's account of Conrad's little-known love affair with Jane Anderson, an American newspaper reporter. To Peter Kemp, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, however, the story of the relationship is "wonky erotic conjecture"; he found Meyers's evidence that the affair was consummated quite unconvincing. Kemp also saw little that sheds new light on any other aspect of Conrad's life or work: "Meyers is happiest with the obvious," he asserted. J.A. Bryant, Jr., while calling the book "neatly crafted" in the Sewanee Review, termed it "most interesting when [Meyers] is presenting the details of Conrad's life, least interesting when he is reviewing or analyzing the novels." Joyce Carol Oates, writing for the New York Times Book Review, pronounced Joseph Conrad "never less than a workmanlike amalgam of known and new material; at its best, it is sensitively written, and clearly inspired by a great admiration for its subject."
Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy provoked a critical reaction that was similar to that of the Conrad book: that it fills a void. This book and Kenneth Silverman's Edgar Allan Poe: Mournful and Never-Ending Remembrance, published shortly before Meyers's work, are entries in the "relatively new field" of mature, balanced, Poe biographies, wrote Lloyd Rose in the Washington Post Book World. Previously, Rose claimed, biographers tended either to damn or to idealize Poe, known both for his self-destructive way of life and his still-popular stories and poems of the supernatural. According to Rose, "Meyers is sympathetic but dispassionate towards his subject, which strikes me as exactly the right approach towards such a difficult man." Chicago Tribune Books reviewer Colin Harrison termed Meyers's chronicle a "solid, thoughtful biography" and New Statesman and Society contributor Robert Carver described the book as "elegantly written, important and endlessly fascinating." Carver praised Meyers's insights into Poe's work and his influence as well as his life. Writing in the Times Literary Supplement, Arthur Krystal considered both Meyers's and Silverman's books "admirably executed" but allowed that "it is Meyers who, untempted by psychoanalytic theories, better conveys Poe's … literary travails." But Erik Rieselbach, in American Spectator, compared Meyers's work unfavorably to Silverman's. Meyers "includes almost nothing that can't be found more fully discussed in Silverman," Rieselbach contended.
Meyers chronicled the life of another self-destructive writer in Scott Fitzgerald: A Biography. Merle Rubin, reviewing the book for Christian Science Monitor, observed that the work "focuses on the aspects of [Fitzgerald's] personality that made it hard for him to achieve his full potential as an artist"; these aspects include his alcoholism and his troubled marriage to Zelda Sayre. While Meyers, according to Rubin, does not fully reconcile Fitzgerald's flaws with his virtues, the biographer manages to "allow the pathos and curious heroism of his subject to merge for themselves." Some other reviewers found Meyers's portrayal of Fitzgerald less tolerant, even unkind. The book has an "all but sneering tone," to quote John Updike in the New Yorker. Updike added that Meyers, "like the practitioners of celebrity-centered tabloid journalism, shows his subjects no respect." Similarly, Michiko Kakutani, writing in the New York Times faulted Meyers for taking "a snide, patronizing tone" and pronounced the biography "an ugly and superfluous book about a major American artist who deserves a better biographical fate." Kakutani saw value in Meyers's discussion of how Fitzgerald was influenced by numerous writers (including two of Meyers's previous subjects, Poe and Conrad), but on the whole she felt that the book gives short shrift to Fitzgerald's writing, especially to his "masterpiece, The Great Gatsby."
Brad Leithauser, writing in the New York Review of Books, expected that Meyers will "take some knocks for focusing so insistently on Fitzgerald's dissipations" but deemed such a focus justified: "Fitzgerald's ruinous life-style … was not something tangential or supplemental to his work." Fitzgerald's novels and short stories are based to a great degree on his own experiences, Leithauser noted, and Fitzgerald's nemesis—liquor—figures largely in the makeup of his two most famous characters—the bootlegger Gatsby and the alcoholic psychiatrist, Dick Diver, of Tender Is the Night. Leithauser maintained that Meyers has drawn "an appealingly pitiful portrait" and, while offering little in the way of new interpretations of Fitzgerald's life or work, has provided "an encyclopedic enumeration of the real-life counterparts that stood behind Fitzgerald's creations."
Meyers's next subject was a contemporary and friend of Fitzgerald's, Edmund Wilson, who was a literary critic, essayist, historian, poet, fiction writer, and general man of letters. Edmund Wilson: A Biography was the first full-scale biography of Wilson. According to Elizabeth Hardwick in the New Yorker, Wilson wrote so extensively about himself that his voluminous diaries and journals are daunting competition for any biographer. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, Hardwick did not find Meyers's work wholly satisfactory. "Meyers has brought together the grand flow of Wilson's work and life, including all the flirtations, the drinking, and the marital discord," she stated. "But he has not been able to recreate in his own pages the subject's brilliant mind and spirit."
In the New York Times Book Review, Atlas also noted the challenge that Wilson's autobiographical writings pose, but concluded that "somehow Mr. Meyers has produced a highly engaging book. Lively, well proportioned, insightful about the life and work, his brisk narrative puts it all together." New York Times reviewer Lehmann-Haupt considered the book "fascinating" and worthwhile in its assessment of Wilson's literary significance, but the reviewer was "leery of a tendency on Mr. Meyers's part to emphasize the negative" in his subject's personal life. "Perhaps because [Meyers] wrote this intensely detailed book in a single year … he was unable to bring to his story a perspective that might have prevented some of his material from coming across as nasty gossip," Lehmann-Haupt commented.
In 1996, Meyers published Robert Frost: A Biography, which some reviewers deemed a necessary corrective to Lawrance Thompson's highly unflattering biography of this major American poet. Kakutani, again writing in the New York Times, called Meyers's work "a judicious book that serves as a welcome antidote to Thompson's angry screed and to [Meyers's] own earlier exercises in literary destruction." Writing in the New York Times Book Review, however, Miranda Seymour contended that Meyers "is not at his thorough and disciplined best in this book … [He] seems to have been unable to get under his subject's skin. The Frost he offers is no less an egotistical monster than the man described by Thompson." The critic also questioned the value of Meyers's detailed recounting of Frost's extramarital affair with Kathleen Morrison. Joseph Parisi, a critic for the Chicago Tribune Books, declared the biography balanced: Meyers, he said, does not hesitate to point out Frost's personal flaws, but also gives "sympathetic explanations" for them. Parisi judged the book's discussion of Frost's poems to be somewhat superficial, but Kakutani praised many of the insights Meyers offers—such as his discussion of the life experiences Frost reflected in one of his best-known poems, "The Road Not Taken." Robert Frost, Kakutani added, "is by far Mr. Meyers's most persuasive and thoughtful biography yet."
Meyers fared better with reviewers upon the publication of his movie star biographies Gary Cooper: American Hero and Bogart: A Life in Hollywood. Both books tackle difficult subjects: accomplished actors whose offscreen behavior was in turns inscrutable and inconsistent. In a New York Times Book Review assessment of Bogart, Jeanine Basinger praised the book as "competent, readable and well researched," but she concluded that "Bogart somehow eludes all his biographers and maintains his mystery, possibly because mystery is what movie stardom is all about." Lehmann-Haupt, once again writing in the New York Times, suggested that the appeal of Bogart lies in a "simple nostalgia for a dramatic form in which, for all the moral ambiguity of the characters Bogart played, the issues of good and evil were clearer. This, at any rate, is the main appeal of reading about Bogart at length in [this] … exhaustive [biography]." Salon.com critic Jonathan Lethem commended Gary Cooper as "crisply written [and] persuasively researched" but further noted: "The onscreen Cooper still resonates, but if the man himself had greater levels of complication, Meyers hasn't found a way to penetrate them." Conversely, Booklist correspondent Mike Tribby applauded Meyers's "deft, unshakably evenhanded portrait of an unforgettable star."
In 2000 Meyers published a biography of the notable British novelist George Orwell, author of Animal Farm and 1984. "Ideally a biography of Orwell would be consistent with its subject's unassuming intelligence, and Jeffrey Meyers's admirable Orwell: Wintry Conscience of a Generation is that," stated Richard Bernstein in the New York Times. Bernstein added that the book "illuminates the ruggedly individualistic Orwell without calling attention to the illuminator." In the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Roger K. Miller also separated Meyers's work from previous biographies of Orwell, noting: "Meyers's effort is leagues ahead of all of them, precisely because it so convincingly demonstrates [the] essence of Orwell's character and relates it to his life and work." In his Houston Chronicle review, Marx commended Meyers for the extent of his research, which included interviewing "just about every Orwell contemporary who had had significant contact with him." The critic added: "Meyers' judgment of Orwell's life, therefore, must be given great credence." A Publishers Weekly contributor likewise found Meyers to be "admirably objective in depicting Orwell's complex personality and literary importance." Bernstein concluded: "Meyers's fine biography is a reminder of the uniqueness of [Orwell],… of just how much he lived, and of how morally and intellectually cauterizing was his thought."
In Inherited Risk: Errol and Sean Flynn in Hollywood and Vietnam, a 2002 publication, Meyers explores the lives of Hollywood film legend Errol Flynn and his estranged son, Sean. The elder Flynn, the star of Captain Blood, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and other such action films, led an equally adventurous life off-screen, and his often decadent lifestyle resulted in numerous scandals. His son enjoyed brief fame as a B-movie star in Europe before becoming a photojournalist in Vietnam, where he was captured and killed. "The notion that his father's swashbuckling fame led the son astray is a tad overworked here," remarked a critic in Kirkus Reviews. The critic did find, however, that parts of the biography and "accompanying portrayal of mid-century Hollywood do make for some very evocative pages." According to a contributor in Publishers Weekly, "Meyers is well-equipped to chronicle the fabulous self-destructiveness of the devil-may-care Errol and his dashing son."
British novelist and playwright W. Somerset Maugham is the subject of Meyers's 2004 biography Somerset Maugham: A Life, an "intimate portrait of a talented, multifaceted, and seemingly inexhaustible writer," commented Library Journal contributor Felicity D. Walsh. "One of the main themes of Meyers's biography is the focus on the literary relations between Maugham and his fellow writers," especially the influence of both Guy de Maupassant and Joseph Conrad on Maugham's work, Troy J. Bassett observed in English Literature in Transition 1880–1920. Meyers also acknowledges Maugham's contentious relationships with Henry James, Katherine Mansfield, and D.H. Lawrence. "As Meyers attests," wrote Basset, "Maugham 'viewed writing as a fierce competition,' but though he succeeded in the marketplace, he often lost with the critics." In his biography, "Meyers turns in a respectful account of Maugham, delivering a few nicely turned surprises," observed a critic in Kirkus Reviews.
Meyers next began writing biographies of well-known artists. In Impressionist Quartet: The Intimate Genius of Manet and Morisot, Degas and Cassatt, Meyers profiles four renowned nineteenth-century painters: Edouard Manet, Berthe Morisot, Edgar Degas, and Mary Cassatt. The book discusses the painters individually and in pairs, as noted in the volume's title. Booklist critic Steve Paul observed that "the book is less linear biography than four suites of essays." Several critics noted Meyers's sensitive treatment of the women's stories; Alix Ohlin, writing in the Wilson Quarterly, stated that the author "provides wistful portraits of his two female painters, Morisot and Cassatt, who received from the two men a mix of artistic validation and personal frustration." Impressionist Quartet "is lively and subjective," wrote a reviewer in Publishers Weekly. Also praised by critics, Meyers's Modigliani: A Life profiles Italian painter and sculptor Amedeo Modigliani. The talented but self-destructive "Modi," who developed his unique style in early-twentieth-century Paris, lived most of his adult life in abject poverty and died of tuberculosis at age thirty-five. "Meyers explicitly describes the squalor Modigliani fatalistically endured," noted Booklist critic Donna Seaman. A critic in Publishers Weekly stated that the author "has painted a vibrant portrait of a deeply unhappy man."
Meyers told CA: "In considering the many reviews of my forty-six books quoted in CA, it's interesting to note the obvious contradictions. Reviewers often give quite opposite opinions of the same book. They say that its content is thorough and careless, its style elegant and crude, its structure clear and muddled, its attitude sympathetic and hostile, its analyses acute and superficial. After receiving, so far, more than 1,250 reviews and writing more than 300 reviews myself, I've concluded that most reviewers don't know what they're talking about and frequently turn in a sixth-grade book report. I even had a review based only on my first chapter, which was as far as that reviewer got.
"The majority of reviewers, who've never written a biography, or any sort of book, have no idea of the work involved in the research and writing, and the skill required to make significant biographical discoveries. The word 'prolific,' also used in this article, has become a millstone around my neck. Reviewers prefer to praise Professor X for spending twenty years on a book, as if he actually worked efficiently, as I do, for seven hours a day, seven days a week, instead of muddling about for years on end. Many reviewers, when confronted with a long list of my books, seem to think there's something terribly wrong about working hard and writing on diverse subjects. After comparing my achievement with their own negligible efforts, they become positively apoplectic and seethe with anger before they even open my biographies.
"I'm pleased to have received enthusiastic and discriminating responses from John Bayley, Anthony Burgess, Anthony Daniels, Denis Donoghue, Samuel Hynes, Hilton Kramer, R.W.B. Lewis, Anthony Powell, William Pritchard and Tom Stoppard, who named my Heming-way the best book of the year. They are my ideal readers.
"My most surprising discovery [as a writer] was finding and holding Wyndham Lewis' brain—a first for any biographer—in the London hospital where he died. It had not been kept because it belonged to Lewis, but was a perfect specimen of an egg-sized pituitary tumor. It developed at the base of his brain and blinded him before he died of kidney failure.
"My favorite and most personal book, not noticed in this article, is Privileged Moments: Encounters with Writers (2000). It describes my friendships with eight eminent authors: Allen Ginsberg, James Dickey, Ed Dorn, Arthur Miller, Iris Murdoch, V.S. Naipaul, Francis King and J.F. Powers. My model was Edward Trelawny's Records of Shelley, Byron, and the Author (1858). Like Trelawny, I wanted to provide a vivid, personal and truthful account of what these authors were really like, and to have it used (as it has been) by their current biographers and will be by those who'll write their lives in the years to come."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bayley, John, The Power of Delight, Duckworth (London, England), 2005.
Brian, Denis, The True Gen: An Intimate Portrait of Hemingway by Those Who Knew Him Best, Grove Press (New York, NY), 1988.
Contemporary Literary Criticism Yearbook, 1985, Volume 39, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1986.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 111: Twentieth-Century American Literary Biographers, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1991.
Donoghue, Denis, England, Their England: Commentaries on English Language and Literature, Knopf (New York, NY), 1988.
Grigson, Geoffrey, Blessings, Kicks and Curses, Allison & Busby (London, England), 1982.
Hamilton, Ian, The Trouble with Money and Other Essays, Bloomsbury (London, England), 1988.
Kramer, Hilton, Twilight of Intellectuals, Ivan Dee (Chicago, IL), 1999.
Moss, Howard, Whatever Is Moving, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1981.
Powell, Anthony, Miscellaneous Verdicts: Writings on Writers, 1946–1989, Heinemann (London, England), 1990.
Rodden, John, Scenes From An Afterlife: The Legacy of George Orwell, ISI Books (Wilmington, DE), 2003.
Seldon, Anthony, and Joanna Pappworth, By Word of Mouth: "Elite" Oral History, Methuen (London, England), 1983.
American Spectator, March, 1993, Erik Rieselbach, review of Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy, pp. 58-59.
Booklist, February 1, 1997, Bill Ott, review of Bogart: A Life in Hollywood, p. 906; May 1, 1998, Mike Tribby, review of Gary Cooper: American Hero, p. 1488; June 1, 2002, Mike Tribby, review of Inherited Risk: Errol and Sean Flynn in Hollywood and Vietnam, p. 1664; February 15, 2004, Trygve Thoreson, review of Somerset Maugham: A Life, p. 1019; February 15, 2005, Steve Paul, review of Impressionist Quartet: The Intimate Genius of Manet and Morisot, Degas and Cassatt, p. 1049; March 1, 2006, Donna Seaman, review of Modigliani: A Life, p. 53.
Christian Science Monitor, August 7, 1990, Jim Bencivenga, review of D.H. Lawrence: A Biography, p. 13; April 22, 1991, Merle Rubin, review of Joseph Conrad: A Biography, p. 13; May 10, 1994, Merle Rubin, review of Scott Fitzgerald: A Biography, p. 15.
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN), November 19, 2000, Roger K. Miller, "Orwell Biography Eclipses Previous Ones," p. H3.
Economist, May 17, 1997, review of Bogart, p. S12; November 4, 2000, "Writers' Lives—The Hard School," p. 94.
English Literature in Transition, 1880–1920, winter, 2005, Troy J. Bassett, "New Maugham Biography," p. 236.
Entertainment Weekly, April 11, 1997, L.S. Klepp, review of Bogart, p. 78.
Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, July-August, 2004, Laura J. Merrell, "Maugham in the Middle," review of Somerset Maugham, p. 45.
Houston Chronicle, November 12, 2000, Paul Marx, "'Wintry Conscience': Jeffrey Meyers Writes a Fine Biography of a Fascinating Man," p. 17.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2002, review of Inherited Risk, p. 548; December 15, 2003, review of Somerset Maugham, p. 1440; February 15, 2005, review of Impressionist Quartet, p. 216; February 1, 2006, review of Modigliani, p. 123.
Library Journal, May 1, 2002, Michael Rogers, review of Katherine Mansfield: A Darker View, p. 140; June 15, 2002, Elizabeth Morris, review of Inherited Risk, p. 76; February 15, 2004, Felicity D. Walsh, review of Somerset Maugham, p. 126; February 15, 2006, review of Modigliani, p. 114.
London Review of Books, April 2, 1981, Samuel Hynes, review of The Enemy, pp. 11-13; January 24, 1991, Paul Delany, review of D.H. Lawrence, pp. 22-23; November 10, 1994, review of Scott Fitzgerald, pp. 25-26.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, May 23, 1982, review of The Enemy: A Biography of Wyndham Lewis, p. 16; December 8, 1985, Irving Marder, review of Hemingway: A Biography, p. 2, 6; July 22, 1990, Nancy Mairs, review of D.H. Lawrence, pp. 1, 13; June 23, 1991, Jay Parini, review of Joseph Conrad, p. 10.
National Review, November 20, 2000, Ronald Radosh, "The Heretic."
New Criterion, May 1995, Hilton Kramer review of Edmund Wilson: A Biography, pp. 5-10; February 2004, Anthony Daniels, review of Somerset Maugham: A Life.
New Republic, December 2, 1985, R.W.B. Lewis, review of Hemingway: A Biography, pp. 31-34.
New Statesman and Society, October 16, 1992, Robert Carver, review of Edgar Allan Poe, pp. 39-40.
New Yorker, June 27, 1994, John Updike, review of Scott Fitzgerald, pp. 186-194; May 8, 1995, Elizabeth Hardwick, review of Edmund Wilson: A Biography, pp. 85-89.
New York Review of Books, April 29, 1982, Denis Donoghue, review of The Enemy, pp. 28-30; January 17, 1991, Noel Annan, review of D.H. Lawrence, pp. 10-14; August 11, 1994, Brad Leith-auser, review of Scott Fitzgerald, pp. 14-16; March 29, 2001, John Bayley, review of Orwell: Wintry Conscience of a Generation, pp. 47-50.
New York Times, October 21, 1985, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, review of Hemingway: A Biography, p. C22; April 15, 1994, Michiko Kakutani, review of Scott Fitzgerald, p. C29; May 1, 1995, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, review of Edmund Wilson, p. C15; April 23, 1996, Michiko Kakutani, "A Belligerent Poet in a Gentler Light," p. C16; April 17, 1997, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, "Fundamental Things Apply: Bogart Stars in a Biographical Double Feature"; October 11, 2000, Richard Bernstein, "'A Kind of Saint' with Thin Patience for the Saintly."
New York Times Book Review, November 17, 1985, Raymond Carver, review of Hemingway: a Biography, pp. 3, 51-52; April 14, 1991, Joyce Carol Oates, review of Joseph Conrad, pp. 15-16; April 30, 1995, James Atlas, review of Edmund Wilson, pp. 6-7; May 19, 1996, Miranda Seymour, "Stopping by Woods for Seduction," p. 8; April 20, 1997, Jeanine Basinger, "Double Bogie," p. 7; June 22, 1998, Jeff Brown, review of Gary Cooper, p. 39.
Publishers Weekly, February 17, 1997, review of Bogart, p. 202; July 10, 2000, review of Orwell: Wintry Conscience of a Generation, p. 52; April 22, 2002, review of Inherited Risk, p. 57; January 12, 2004, review of Somerset Maugham, p. 48; March 14, 2005, review of Impressionist Quartet, p. 56; January 2, 2006, review of Modigliani, p. 45.
Reference & Research Book News, August, 2005, review of Impressionist Quartet, p. 230; May, 2006, review of Modigliani, p. 264.
Sewanee Review, summer, 1992, J.A. Bryant, Jr., review of Joseph Conrad, pp. 461-466.
Spectator, September 1, 1990, Christopher Hawtree, review of D.H. Lawrence, p. 30.
Studies in the Novel, fall, 2005, Robert L. Calder, review of Somerset Maugham, p. 360.
Times Literary Supplement, October 31, 1980, Bernard Bergonzi, review of The Enemy, pp. 1215-1216; July 19, 1985, "The Craft Of Literary Biography," p. 795; October 18, 1985, review of D.H. Lawrence And Tradition, pp. 1171-1172; December 13, 1985, review of Disease and the Novel, 1880–1960, pp. 1415-1116; August 1, 1986, review of Hemingway: A Biography, pp. 837-838; May 26, 1989, Michael Hofmann, review of Manic Power: Robert Lowell and His Circle, p. 578; September 7, 1990, Julian Symons, review of D.H. Lawrence, p. 940; November 15, 1991, Peter Kemp, review of Joseph Conrad, pp. 3-4; October 16, 1992, Arthur Krystal, review of Edgar Allan Poe, p. 28.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), October 18, 1992, Colin Harrison, review of Edgar Allan Poe, pp. 1, 7; May 29, 1994, review of Scott Fitzgerald, pp. 3, 10; May 26, 1996, Joseph Parisi, review of Robert Frost: A Biography, pp. 1, 11.
Voice Literary Supplement, March, 1986, Mario Vargas Llosa, review of Hemingway: A Biography, pp. 6-7.
Washington Post Book World, September 6, 1992, Lloyd Rose, review of Edgar Allan Poe, pp. 3, 7.
Wilson Quarterly, spring, 2005, Alix Ohlin, review of Impressionist Quartet, p. 121.
Salon.com, http://www.salon.com/books/sneaks/ (June 3, 1998), Jonathan Lethem, review of Gary Cooper.