Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ambition was such that he always considered himself a failure. A prude and a mama’s boy, haunted by the fear that writing was not a manly profession, he was ashamed of his fame. Far from being the anti-Puritan that his work suggests, he was an irascible conservative, who believed that women shouldn’t be writers, and who, during the Civil War, horrified his more enlightened peers by displaying equal contempt for North and South. After his death, critics grappled with “the paradox of Hawthorne,” resorting to hydraulic metaphors for his genius: it was overwhelming; it was forced into channels. Wineapple’s take is notable for its plain acceptance of Hawthorne’s contradictions: a student of hypocrisy, he was a resolute Yankee who hated his patrimony.
Brenda Wineapple...is the latest writer to tackle Hawthorne's life and try to distill his shadowy essence. If the attempt is in any way unsatisfactory, it is probably because of something unsatisfactory in the subject's own character; Hawthorne withdraws from the biographer as successfully as he did from his family and friends. But Wineapple is a good storyteller and has created a vivid account of a highly interesting life; she has also managed to communicate, if not to resolve, the man's puzzling contradictions.Brooke Allen
One of the great American writers of the 19th century never fully believed in his profession. For Nathaniel Hawthorne, writing was "a source of shame as much as pleasure and a necessity he could neither forgo nor entirely approve," says Wineapple (Genet: A Biography of Janet Flanner). He uprooted his family again and again, shuttling between government jobs and the solitary writing life, never fully satisfied with either. His romances were brilliant and powerful, but his own life seemed muted and melancholy. Although he had an impressive set of friends and associates during his early years in New England, he nevertheless led a strikingly reclusive existence; he was neighbors with Emerson and Thoreau in Concord, Mass., classmates with Longfellow and Franklin Pierce at Bowdoin, and a good friend to Margaret Fuller and Herman Melville, but very little is made of these relationships. His friends and associates repeatedly described Hawthorne as enigmatic, a man who loved humanity in the abstract but not in its particulars. Wineapple, too, seems mystified by Hawthorne and his life, insecure about his motives. The biography assumes a reportorial style, presenting conflicting views (of his ambiguous friendship with Melville, of his mysterious death) without putting forth any pet theories or compelling evidence to sway the reader one way or the other. The final years of his life coincided with an incredibly tumultuous period in American history, the Civil War, and Wineapple describes how Hawthorne alienated many Northerners with his proslavery views. One critic described his politics as "pure intellect, without emotion, without sympathy, without principle" and that best captures the essence of Nathaniel Hawthorne as depicted in this biography. 56 photos. (Oct. 2) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Brenda Wineapple has written the most detailed and accessible life of Nathaniel Hawthorne to date. Published to wide critical praise, Hawthorne begins with the fate of the author's three children. The firstborn daughter, Una, died mysteriously at the age of 33. Rose, the youngest, suffered a terrible marriage, feuded with her siblings, and lost her only child to diphtheria. Julian, the only son, was sentenced to a year and a day in a federal prison in 1912, guilty of defrauding the public, a charge he always denied. Hawthorne's own life was similarly fraught with unhappiness and frustration. Born in Salem to one of the town's leading families, Nathaniel struggled to find a career and financial success. A recluse, he didn't marry until he was 38. He and his wife Sophia suffered from poverty that was from time to time lessened by Franklin Pierce and other school friends. The Hawthornes moved frequently, and at one point they were evicted for non-payment of rent. Wineapple does an excellent job of putting Hawthorne's literary works into the context of his life and of analyzing them. She also presents his attitude toward slavery, an American tragedy he usually ignored. He said after John Brown's attack on Harpers Ferry in 1859 "nobody was ever more justly hanged." Sophia Hawthorne thought that "the inferior race were designed to serve the superiorBut not as slaves!" Hawthorne was 57 when Fort Sumter was fired on in 1861. He went to Washington, D.C. as a tourist to see the war, and then wrote an antiwar piece for the Atlantic. He died in 1864 at the age of 59. About 50 illustrations accompany the vivid text. KLIATT Codes: SARecommended for senior high schoolstudents, advanced students, and adults. 2003, Random House, 509p. illus. notes. bibliog. index., Ages 15 to adult.
In yet another fascinating biography, commended biographer Wineapple (Genet: A Biography of Janet Flanner; Sister Brother: Gertrude and Leo Stein) offers a life sketch of celebrated 19th-century American author Nathaniel Hawthorne that is rich in archival details and perceptive analysis. Known as the first major American writer to create erotic female characters, Hawthorne was very handsome and daring in his youth. His lonely childhood and puritanical surroundings gave rise to his characters, who, like their creator, were isolated from their communities and lived a double life. Such interesting particulars and insights keep readers engaged throughout and take them back to Hawthorne's time. Written in remarkably simple language, this book is successful in capturing the spirit of the age and commenting on the making of the author. Recommended for all libraries with large collections.-Aparna Zambare, Central Michigan Univ. Libs., Mount Pleasant Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
A thoughtful, absorbing life of the gloomy prince of American literature. Born Nathaniel Hathorne in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1802, the reluctant hero of Wineapple’s (Sister Brother, 1996, etc.) tale wanted nothing more than to take up the family tradition of seafaring: "his earliest compositions," she writes, "were said to have been sea stories about bronzed pirates and hardy privateers." His desire may have been less for seaborne adventure than for simple escape, for, Wineapple ably shows, Hawthorne was always a man apart, one who believed that the writer was "a citizen of another country," one with no specific point on the map. With a taste for drama and plenty of self-doubt, Hawthorne burned much of his early work ("I am as tractable an author as you ever knew," he wrote to an editor, "so far as putting my articles into the fire goes; though I cannot abide alterations or omissions"), then took a job as a customs inspector "not because he needed the money or because the country ignored its artiststhough both were truebut because he liked it," and went on to write an exquisite body of short stories and novels that, though now standards of American literature, went little noticed for much of his life. (The first edition of Twice-Told Tales sold only a few hundred copies and was unceremoniously remaindered, and other of his books met much the same fate.) Hawthorne, writes Wineapple, nursed a dark, critical view of life, observing that his Scarlet Letter was "a hll fired story, into which I found it almost impossible to throw any cheering light." His refusal to endorse the abolitionist cause (on which point Wineapple provides a brilliant reading of The Blithedale Romance)and his opposition to the Civil War led detractors to say that he stood for "doubt, darkness, and the Democratic Party." More difficult, Wineapple writes with much sympathy, were his relations with his children, who bore the burden of his fame and genius over the course of their troubled lives. Richly detailed and nuanced: a model of literary biography, and an illumination for students of Hawthorne’s work. (For an excerpt of Hawthorne, go to www.kirkusreviews.com.)
“Clearly the best biography of Hawthorne; the Hawthorne for our time. Beautifully conceived and written, it conveys the full poignancy and complexity of Hawthorne’s life; it makes vivid the times and people and places — and what a rich array of people and events! A delight to read from start to end.”
“Brenda Wineapple’s Hawthorne is, quite literally, an electrifying life. The power and sweep of the writing galvanizes a subject frozen, by earlier biographies, into a series of stills. We understand, finally, a man and artist torn by every conflict of his time, adding a few of his own, a man both strange and strangely familiar. The great achievement of this stunning biography lies in the feat of restoring Hawthorne to the rich and roiling America of his own period, while revealing him, for the first time, as our contemporary.”
“With the possible exception of Herman Melville, no one has ever understood the grand tragic Shakespearian nature of Nathaniel Hawthorne's life and work as well as Brenda Wineapple. Her brilliant, powerful, nervy, unsettling and riveting book is authoritatively researched and beautifully written; it has itself the dark mesmeric power of a Hawthorne story. Wineapple's Hawthorne is an intensely private man, compounded of strange depths, mysterious failings, concealments, yearnings and unmistakable incandescent genius.”
Robert D. Richardson
“Brenda Wineapple illuminates Hawthorne's complexities without demystifying the man. He remains one of the most intriguing American writers: dark, guilty, erotic, and psychologically acute – qualities that Wineapple deftly explores.”
“There is no justice for Hawthorne without the mercy which failed him in life and art. In Wineapple's new dispensation, all the man endured and the art achieved is revealed by loving scruple and, to awful circumstance, condolent response. No biographer since James, no critic since Lawrence has limned so unsparing and therefore so speaking a likeness of our first great fabulist, from which one returns to the works with enlightened wonder. More darkness, more light! Here both abound.”
“A fine biography...A sensitive reading of Hawthorne’s character...Wineapple makes generous use of a cache of family letters that detail the tangle and tussle of wills that Hawthorne had entered as son, brother, lover, and husband, all the while seeking the freedom of spirit to exercise his genius.”
Justin Kaplan, Washington Post
“Meticulously researched and superbly written...captures the novelist in high resolution.”
Peter Campion, San Francisco Chronicle
“A vivid account of a highly interesting life.”
Brooke Allen, New York Times Book Review
“Richly detailed and nuanced; a model of literary biography and an illumination for students of Hawthorne’s work...A thoughtful and absorbing life.”
“A thoroughly engrossing story of a writer's life… written with novelistic grace and flow, with an eye to the telling detail and apt quotation.”
Dan Cryer, New York Newsday
“Wineapple is a splendid stylist and a master of concision. She can capture an entire personality and life in a brief paragraph, … She can define a complex amatory relationship in a sentence…. Her eloquent hands bring Hawthorne vividly alive for us.”
Jamie Spencer, St. Louis-Post Dispatch