Leslie's Reviews > Black Sun: The Brief Transit and Violent Eclipse of Harry Crosby

Black Sun by Geoffrey Wolff
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's review
Aug 11, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: 2011, biography-memoir-journals-letters
Read from August 05 to 10, 2011

Sometimes biographers talk about falling in love with their subjects, noting that it's hard to spend all that time with someone, researching and writing, whom they don't like. I don't know if Wolff fell in love with Crosby in any sense, but he sure finds him interesting. As do I, although I think I find Crosby rather more annoying and silly than Wolff did (although he admits to those qualities, too). He certainly doesn't claim major importance for Crosby, who was, at best, a minor writer. Wolff also insists that he doesn't see Crosby as any sort of exemplar or representative of his time or place. I'm not so sure about that. To me, Crosby's chief interest is as a figure only really possible in that time and place (Lost Generation, Paris in the '20s among the extravagant expats). It's hard to imagine him flourishing or being taken at all seriously in any other time or place or set of circumstances; if he hadn't killed himself at the end of 1929, he'd have found himself a man seriously out of place in the world. He could never have been content back in Boston or even in New York, and how on earth would he have coped with Depression, Fascism, and WWII? He couldn't have coped if his investment income had been seriously affected, as it certainly would have been before long (both because of the stock market crash and because he recklessly drained his capital, much to his father's dismay), as his life was only possible lived on an enormous soft cushion of money (and he showed the patrician disdain for money and business and such sordid, vulgar concerns only possible for someone raised in an atmosphere of unassailable wealth and privilege). He seems to me a figure somewhat comparable to Neal Cassady, the muse of the Beats, who accomplished little and was not at all important in and of himself but was terribly important both for whom he was connected to and for embodying a kind of spirit of the age. And he sure was handsome.

As a side note, I have to say how much I love the NYRB Classics imprint.

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