the language of piety, the kind of stuff wenhear at graduations. It has no critical content—^andnseems to have no subject.nThird, the bulk of the book is aboutnWilder’s career as a playwright, and itndoes tell us a great deal about whom henmet and how his work went. But it is allndone in a vacuum: there is no differentiationnbetween one theater and another;nnothing about the context of the Americannstage when his work was being performed.nOn the other hand, we find thatnWilder slept in a Murphy bed on onentour, and that he liked zwieback, peanutnbutter, and boiled eggs.nIn short, the biography is not at allnabout ideas or issues. It is a feithM translationnof letters and interviews and ofnwhat else we will never know, because,nunlike other first or second-rate literarynbiographies now being produced, ThenEnthusiast does not name any of itsnsources or tell us which manuscripts arenin which library. There is no chronology.nThe index is minimal. And there is no bibliography.nThis is then a pleasant, discursivenbook for the general reader and notnmuch use for anyone else.niJut there is a credit side. The book isnflawed, but not a waste of time. First, thenmatter of Wilder’s homosexuality is tidilyndisposed of in a single chapter calledn”Men and Women.” While this meansnthat the rest ofthebookis free ofinformation,nor of speculation, one can also saynthat the whole matter is handled withngrace. Harrison is not a psycho-historian,nso he spares us from knowing (or assuming)ntoo much. Evidently Wilder likedn12inChronicles of Culturenwomen, loved some men, and was oftennmore or less in neutral.nThe book is chatty and well-written. Itnis almost masterful when it considersnWilder’s family, especially his father. Innfeet, it is worth the price of admission fornthose chapters that evoke a splendid picturenof America before World War I.nHere, at its beginning, the book is able tonconvey some sense of both life and times.nHere is Amos Parker Wilder, U.S. consulngeneral in Shanghai, writing to his childrennin Berkeley, California in 1910:nWe did have a big tennis party yesterday,nabout 40. I led them up to thenlemonade trough (of course we hadntea, etc. also ) and looked them right innthe eye. Men love to be led, and theynsaw I was master of the situation andnnot ashamed; even the men of vinekissednFrance and big-stomached Germansnfrom the far off Iseer country putntheir snouts into the cooling beveragenand pronounced it good. I do hope mynhwys and girls wiU grow up to be notntimid, time-serving, mucUage-backtwnednmen and women who are afraidnthat unless they do as everyone elsendoes they wiM be out of fashion ornlaughed at—but big, gracious, jolly,nsympathetic, commanding men andnwomen who do not follow the fashionnbut make it—the whole man andnwoman touched with the quiet dignitynthat in a*ray detaches him or her withoutnbreaking the bond of sympathy.nAmos Wilder—^virtually the only characternin this book vdio really comesnacross—was a munificent example ofnLife With Father. He provided Thorntonnwith a good deal of strength and with annunending series of ideas, values, and expectationsnto rebel against. He seemed tonincarnate American values before WorldnWar I, from the ru^ed determination tongo his own way, to the ideal shared by sonmany of being a “whole man,” to the almostnincredible range of opinions registerednon his scale of Christian optimism.nThe Wilder children, growing up in then1920’s, exchanged letters vwth this postscript:n”DO NOT SHOW FATHER.”nIt is too bad that the reader has to extrapolatenall this from the text, to note hisnnnown discoveries of resemblance betweennWilder and, say, Teddy Roosevelt, tonthink of his own reasons why abstinencenand heroism and modesty and wholenessnshould, around 1910, have beennsuch high bourgeois values.nI. he first part of the book is the onlynpart in which some thesis seems about tonbe stated, in which some sense of the relationshipsnof its subject’s life seem tonhave some form. After that, there is muchninformation and very little interpretation.nOne thing that is very helpful, however,nis the generous coverage of Wilder’snday-to-day career in the theater. He hadnto make a lot of changes in his text innorder to accommodate critics, audience,nand the fearsome Jed Harris, his producer-director.nIn fact, some of hisnchanges were made for him (completelynwithout consultation) by Harris. Theaternhistorians will like those chapters which,nalthough critically not very usefiil, providendetails about casting, finances, performance,nand the long combination ofnfeudingandcollaboratingbetween Wildernand Harris.nThere are some fabulous openers innThe Enthusiast that are not followed up,nthough which would have beeninacomprehensivenbiography:nThornton often acknowledged his indebtednessnto Freud, whom he met atnthe seventy-nine year-old’s villa on thenoutskirts of Vienna that fall of 1935.nBetween 20-30 I read all the greatnbooks in the French language; betweenn30-40, all the German; now it’snbeen Spanish and Italian (the Englishnwent on aU the time). Waves of excitementnhave gone over me continuously.nIn a memoir, composer Mabel Danielsnrecounts that from the day he rathernhaltingly confessed that music was thenreal love of his bfe, she had known thatnThornton was more than the ordinarynamateur.nTheEnthusiastshoAdn!x be ignored, butnone ought to be aware of its limits andnshortcomings. Dn