Eugene O'Neill: A Life in Four Acts

Dowling, Robert M.

Published by Yale University Press
ISBN 10: 0300170335 / ISBN 13: 9780300170337
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A major new biography of the Nobel Prize--winning playwright whose brilliantly original plays revolutionized American theater Num Pages: 584 pages, 49 b/w illus. BIC Classification: BGL. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 163 x 238 x 37. Weight in Grams: 970. . 2014. Hardcover. . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Bookseller Inventory #

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Synopsis: A major new biography of the Nobel Prize–winning playwright whose brilliantly original plays revolutionized American theater

 

Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize

This extraordinary new biography fully captures the intimacies of Eugene O’Neill’s tumultuous life and the profound impact of his work on American drama. Robert M. Dowling innovatively recounts O’Neill’s life in four acts, thus highlighting how the stories he told for the stage interweave with his actual life stories. Each episode also uncovers how O’Neill’s work was utterly intertwined with, and galvanized by, the culture and history of his time.

Much is new in this extensively researched book: connections between O’Neill’s plays and his political and philosophical worldview; insights into his Irish upbringing and lifelong torment over losing faith in God; his vital role in African American cultural history; unpublished photographs, including a unique offstage picture of him with his lover Louise Bryant; new evidence of O’Neill’s desire to become a novelist and what this reveals about his unique dramatic voice; and a startling revelation about the release of Long Day’s Journey Into Night in defiance of his explicit instructions. This biography is also the first to discuss O’Neill’s lost play Exorcism (a single copy of which was only recently recovered), a dramatization of his own suicide attempt.

Written with lively informality yet a scholar’s strict accuracy, Eugene O’Neill: A Life in Four Acts is a biography that America’s foremost playwright richly deserves.

 

From the Author: Q: You have long been a fan of O’Neill’s work, but what prompted you to write a book about his life?
 
A: In the final session of the first O’Neill seminar I taught, I asked my students, "Which plays did you enjoy the most?” Without missing a beat, one raised his hand and said that O’Neill’s life was his greatest play. Many others nodded in agreement. That moment planted the seed for this book. It turns out that the dramatic structure of O’Neill’s life uncannily matches that of his best plays. And, even more fascinating for a biographer, nearly every fictional story O’Neill told interweaves with actual stories from his own life.
 
Q: O’Neill won the Nobel Prize for Literature the only American playwright to do so. How is his literary achievement viewed today, some 60 years after his death?
 
A:  O’Neill also won four Pulitzers, yet he probably received more bad reviews than any other major American author. However, having scrutinized virtually every review of his premieres and books, I can say that even his so-called clunkers were still credited with breakthroughs that offered something unique, something never before attempted on the American stage.
 
O’Neill is enjoying a new renaissance,” with dozens of revivals over the past decade. American and international audiences alike show an unquenchable desire for his plays, and there’s no end in sight for this playwright’s potential to speak to contemporary audiences as he once spoke to his own.

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Title: Eugene O'Neill: A Life in Four Acts
Publisher: Yale University Press
Book Condition: New

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