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By Women Possessed: A Life of Eugene O'Neill
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Celebrated for their books on Eugene O'Neill and enjoying access to a trove of previously sealed archival material, the Gelbs deliver their final volume on the stormy life and brilliant oeuvre of this Nobel Prize–winning American playwright. This is a tour through both a magical moment in American theater and the troubled life of a genius. Not a peep show or a celebrity gossip fest, this book is a brilliant investigation of the emotional knots that ensnared one of our most important playwrights. Handsome, charming when he wanted to be: O'Neill was the flame women were drawn to—all, that is, except his mother, who never let him forget he was unwanted. By Women Possessed follows O'Neill through his great successes, the failures he was able to shrug off, and the long eclipse, a twelve-year period in which, despite the Nobel, nothing he wrote was produced. But ahead lay his greatest achievements: The Iceman Cometh and Long Day's Journey into Night. Both were ahead of their time and both received lukewarm receptions. It wasn't until after his death that his widow, the keeper of the flame, began a fierce and successful campaign to restore his reputation. The result is that today, just over125 years after his birth, O'Neill is a towering presence in the theater, his work—always in performance here and abroad—still electrifying audiences. Perhaps of equal importance, he is the acknowledged father of modern American theater, the man who paved the way for the likes of Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, and a host of others. But, as Williams has said, at a cost: "O'Neill gave birth to the American theater and died for it."
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Street Date:
11/01/2016
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780698170681
ASIN:
B01COJUGM6
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APA Citation (style guide)

Arthur Gelb. (2016). By Women Possessed: A Life of Eugene O'Neill. Penguin Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Arthur Gelb. 2016. By Women Possessed: A Life of Eugene O'Neill. Penguin Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Arthur Gelb, By Women Possessed: A Life of Eugene O'Neill. Penguin Publishing Group, 2016.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Arthur Gelb. By Women Possessed: A Life of Eugene O'Neill. Penguin Publishing Group, 2016. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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fullDescription
Celebrated for their books on Eugene O'Neill and enjoying access to a trove of previously sealed archival material, the Gelbs deliver their final volume on the stormy life and brilliant oeuvre of this Nobel Prize–winning American playwright.

This is a tour through both a magical moment in American theater and the troubled life of a genius. Not a peep show or a celebrity gossip fest, this book is a brilliant investigation of the emotional knots that ensnared one of our most important playwrights. Handsome, charming when he wanted to be: O'Neill was the flame women were drawn to—all, that is, except his mother, who never let him forget he was unwanted. By Women Possessed follows O'Neill through his great successes, the failures he was able to shrug off, and the long eclipse, a twelve-year period in which, despite the Nobel, nothing he wrote was produced. But ahead lay his greatest achievements: The Iceman Cometh and Long Day's Journey into Night. Both were ahead of their time and both received lukewarm receptions. It wasn't until after his death that his widow, the keeper of the flame, began a fierce and successful campaign to restore his reputation. The result is that today, just over125 years after his birth, O'Neill is a towering presence in the theater, his work—always in performance here and abroad—still electrifying audiences. Perhaps of equal importance, he is the acknowledged father of modern American theater, the man who paved the way for the likes of Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, and a host of others. But, as Williams has said, at a cost: "O'Neill gave birth to the American theater and died for it."
reviews
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        Starred review from August 22, 2016
        Comprehensive is a word frequently used to describe meticulous biographies, but it doesn’t manage to evoke the level of detail in the Gelbs’ third book on the life of legendary playwright Eugene O’Neill. In the book, which includes a staggering 74 pages of endnotes, the Gelbs analyze O’Neill’s life from a different standpoint than in O’Neill and O’Neill: Life with Monte Cristo: that of his tumultuous relationships with three wives, most notably his third, Carlotta Monterey. Though the authors find time to touch on O’Neill’s second marriage in an extended flashback (a bit confusing, given that the entire book is written in the present tense) and his complex history with his mother, his quarter-century with Carlotta dominates the text—years filled with alcoholic relapses and bitter antagonism. The authors shed new light on one especially terrifying night near the end of O’Neill’s life using previously unpublished diary entries. This is a compelling examination of one of the 20th century’s most passionate and troubled minds, and a prime example of expert, diligent, and wryly editorial biographical research.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        A biography of the playwright who was haunted by three wives and his mother.Arthur Gelb (1924-2014), who served as managing editor of the New York Times, and his wife, Barbara, have devoted their careers to chronicling the life of Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953). In 1962, their 964-page O'Neill was published after they were approached by a publisher who knew they admired O'Neill's plays. At the time, little was known about the playwright whose works were being revived on Broadway, to great acclaim, and the Gelbs wondered how much the plays were based on his life. In the next decades, they revised the biography several times and then, in 2000, published O'Neill: Life with Monte Cristo, intended to be the first of three volumes updating their original biography with newly available archival sources. Since the publication of their first biography, however, O'Neill has been the subject of much attention: studies of his work habits; correspondence with his editor, Saxe Commins, film producer Kenneth Macgowan, and theater critic George Jean Nathan; a two-volume biography by Louis Sheaffer; O'Neill's Creative Struggle by Doris Alexander; and most recently, an excellent biography by Robert Dowling (Eugene O'Neill: A Life in Four Acts, 2014). The Gelbs' new portrait embellishes, but does not alter, the image of O'Neill revealed elsewhere: a man beset by demons, especially "the terror evoked" by his mother's "morphine-induced tantrums" as he was growing up, which the Gelbs thought they had not sufficiently examined. He was an alcoholic, treated his wives abusively, and neglected his children, especially his unwanted son Shane, who was subjected to his father's "stony anger" and whom O'Neill disinherited, along with his sister, Oona. The authors draw on extensive interviews with O'Neill's melodramatic, often spiteful third wife, Carlotta, to convey the volatility of their marriage. In his plays, they argue, O'Neill created "a family dynasty" that replaced his actual family. Although the Gelbs deeply admire O'Neill's talents, they portray the same cruel and desperately unhappy man who emerges from many other biographies. COPYRIGHT(1) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        Starred review from October 1, 2016
        Writing in 1931, Eugene O'Neill praised his third wife (Carlotta Monterey) for giving him a warm secure sanctuary that could only come from a mother and wife and mistress and friend! In this, their third and culminating study of America's only Nobel laureate playwright, the Gelbs plumb the psyche of a writer who desperately needed yet often resented the women who shaped his personal and artistic life. The formative influence of women on the writer's remarkable career emerges clearly in this richly detailed account of how O'Neill veered into guilt, self-doubt, and drunkenness while leaving one wife for another and while brooding on his conflicted relationship with a morphine-addicted mother who wished he had never been born. Despite the tangles in his relationships with women, O'Neill found inspiration in them for key characters and themes in masterpieces such as Desire under the Elms and Long Day's Journey into Night. Drawing on newly available diaries and interviews, the Gelbs not only chronicle the vindication of that inspiration as signaled by the Nobel Prize but also show the pathos in the aging O'Neill's slide into professional eclipse, estrangement from his children, and physical disintegration caused by a misdiagnosed neurological disease. A compellingly full-size portrait of a literary titan.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2016, American Library Association.)

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        June 1, 2016

        The Gelbs are the authors of O'Neill (1962) and O'Neill: Life with Monte Cristo (2000), so they built on a solid base with this final volume, which draws on archival material sealed until the death of O'Neill's widow. (Arthur died as this book was being completed, at age 90.) The Gelbs follow O'Neill through his great successes, a 12-year dry period when his plays were not produced (despite that shiny Nobel Prize), and his writing of The Iceman Cometh and Long Day's Journey into Night. Also revealed: how O'Neill was loved by women--except his mother.

        Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        Starred review from December 1, 2016

        As new material became available through various archives, family members sharing old (and recently found) letters, and others who were more willing to share memories before it was too late, the Gelbs were able to complete this final volume (after 1962's O'Neill and 2000's O'Neill: Life with Monte Cristo) of their study of the life and career of Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953). They realized that they had not satisfactorily examined the impact that Ella O'Neill had on her son. O'Neill's search for a loving supportive mother is explored in his plays as a result of this new research. His drinking, which greatly affected his relationships as well as his writing, is also viewed through the lens of rediscovered information. In addition, this final volume expands on the earlier books of O'Neill's last years of ill health and the battles with his wife, Carlotta (who lived 17 years after his death while dealing with her own physical and psychological battles). Carlotta's diaries, locked away for many years, recently became accessible, allowing the Gelbs to form fresh insights into her life with and without the playwright. VERDICT This extraordinary culmination of in-depth research and understanding by the authors should be read by anyone interested in 20th-century drama and theater history. [See Prepub Alert, 5/9/16.]--Susan L. Peters, Univ. of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston

        Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        December 1, 2016

        As new material became available through various archives, family members sharing old (and recently found) letters, and others who were more willing to share memories before it was too late, the Gelbs were able to complete this final volume (after 1962's O'Neill and 2000's O'Neill: Life with Monte Cristo) of their study of the life and career of Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953). They realized that they had not satisfactorily examined the impact that Ella O'Neill had on her son. O'Neill's search for a loving supportive mother is explored in his plays as a result of this new research. His drinking, which greatly affected his relationships as well as his writing, is also viewed through the lens of rediscovered information. In addition, this final volume expands on the earlier books of O'Neill's last years of ill health and the battles with his wife, Carlotta (who lived 17 years after his death while dealing with her own physical and psychological battles). Carlotta's diaries, locked away for many years, recently became accessible, allowing the Gelbs to form fresh insights into her life with and without the playwright. VERDICT This extraordinary culmination of in-depth research and understanding by the authors should be read by anyone interested in 20th-century drama and theater history. [See Prepub Alert, 5/9/16.]--Susan L. Peters, Univ. of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston

        Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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Celebrated for their books on Eugene O'Neill and enjoying access to a trove of previously sealed archival material, the Gelbs deliver their final volume on the stormy life and brilliant oeuvre of this Nobel Prize–winning American playwright.

This is a tour through both a magical moment in American theater and the troubled life of a genius. Not a peep show or a celebrity gossip fest, this book is a brilliant investigation of the emotional knots that ensnared one of our most important playwrights. Handsome, charming when he wanted to be: O'Neill was the flame women were drawn to—all, that is, except his mother, who never let him forget he was unwanted. By Women Possessed follows O'Neill through his great successes, the failures he was able to shrug off, and the long eclipse, a twelve-year period in which, despite the Nobel, nothing he wrote was produced. But ahead lay his greatest achievements: The Iceman Cometh and Long Day's Journey...
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