Perhaps the most surprising feature of this selection from O'Neill's voluminous correspondence, being published on the centenary of his birth, is that a writer with so intensely private an inner world should have poured so much exuberant imagination into his letters to relatives and friends. Divided into chronological sections, each preceded with a useful biographical essay, the letters span some 50 years. There is the voracious reader, budding playwright and ardent romantic; the mature artist in the full flood of his creativity; and finally the Nobel laureate beset by illness and family tragedy. We see O'Neill pouring out his feelings to his three wives (love turning to hatred in the case of the second), storming at his grown children, answering his critics, battling the tax collector, strivingnot always successfullyto keep his inner and outer lives in balance. The letters abound in observation, irony, vitality and insights into the mind and heart of America's premier playwright. They also provide a salutary corrective to the gloomy O'Neill of legend. Bogard is professor emeritus at UC Berkeley, Bryer is a professor at the University of Maryland. Photos. (Oct.)
Dramatist Eugene O'Neill was an intensely private man, and this 1989 collection of 600 selected letters offers a rare glimpse into his secluded life. The volume is divided into chronological sections, each beginning with a biographical essay by editors Bogard and Breyer that puts the events of the letters into better perspective. The text is highlighted by several black-and-white photographs. O'Neill's importance to American drama makes this essential for serious literature collections.