Synopses & Reviews
The Art of Youth
is an inquiry into the nature of prodigies—creative artists who did their major work at an early age. Delbanco gives us three deft, indelible portraits: the American writer Stephen Crane (immortalized by The Red B adge of Courage
); British artist Dora Carrington (called "the most neglected serious painter of her time"); and the legendary American composer George Gershwin (Rhapsody in Blue
, Porgy and Bess
). All lived colorful, productive lives before dying young (average age at death: thirty-five). Would they have accomplished more and advanced their art had they lived longer?
Delbanco asks and answers what it is we mourn about artists who die too soon. He also reveals what it means to be an artist who meets with early success and acclaim—and then goes on to have long career in literature. That subject is himself, and the welcome autobiographical turn at the end of the book makes The Art of Youth as emotionally affecting as it is intellectually invigorating.
"In this accessible but uneven counterbalance to his earlier Lastingness: The Art of Old Age (2011), University of Michigan professor Delbanco studies the lives of three artists Stephen Crane, Dora Carrington, and George Gershwin all of whom produced brilliant work while young and none of whom lived to see age 40. He depicts Crane, who wrote The Red Badge of Courage when only 24, as 'an inattentive caretaker of his own gift.' Carrington a peculiar choice, insofar as she was largely unknown until the first retrospective exhibition of her paintings 38 years after her suicide he deems an artist undone by self-doubt, ambivalence, and self-destruction. Gershwin emerges in the best light: an artist of boundless enthusiasm and ambition, who composed in a wide variety of musical idioms, and 'whose impact during his lifetime was largest and who died at or near the apogee of fame.' Delbanco identifies common denominators that unite these artists 'energy, a need to produce that borders on compulsion, a personal elan' but is understandably more circumspect in his ability to pinpoint how each came into their prodigious gifts. A chapter on himself as an artist who has lived long enough to enter the 'middle game' of his career is a touch self-indulgent. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
and#8220;The Art of Youth
is a brilliant book about the power of youth to make great art, itself suffused with youthfulness, with wisdom and diligence and hopeand#8230;Dazzling in detail and amazingly well-informed.and#8221;
and#8211;Paul Theroux, author of The Lower River
and#160;"Elegant and enlightening, The Art of Youth invites us to ask the timeless question of how artistic vitalityand#8212;its energy, originality, and enthusiasmand#8212;can be maintained beyond youth into the blessing of a productive old age."
and#8211;Charles Johnson, author of Middle Passage
and#8220;What truly distinguishes this work is his empathic understanding of his subjects' situation: the blessings and burdens of prodigy. The final pages offer a lovely reflectionand#8212;at once rueful and wryand#8212;on his own precocious gift. The result is a book filled with knowledge to be sure but also wisdom.and#8221;
and#8211; Peter Ho Davies, author of The Welsh Girl
Portraits of three artistic prodigies who died youngand#8212;Stephen Crane (writer), Dora Carrington (painter), and George Gershwin (composer)and#8212;that form the centerpiece of a beautiful and fascinating inquiry into creation, mortality, and the enigma of promise: What would they have done had they lived longer?
The Art of Youth
is a moving inquiry into the nature of artistic prodigies who did their major work at an early age. Renowned novelist Nicholas Delbanco gives us a triptych of indelible portraits: the Ameriandshy;can writer Stephen Crane (immortalized by The Red Badge of Courage
); British artandshy;ist Dora Carrington (called and#8220;the most neandshy;glected serious painter of her timeand#8221;); and the legendary composer George Gershwin (Rhapsody in Blue, Porgy and Bess
All three lived colorful, productive lives before dying early, at an average age of thirty-five. In this learned and elegant book, Delbanco discovers what it is we mourn in authors who pass away so young, and muses on his own lifeand#8212;one marked by both early success and longevity.
About the Author
Nicholas Delbanco is the well-regarded author of numerous works of fiction (The Vagabonds, What Remains, The Count of Concord) and nonfiction (The Countess of Stanlein Restored). He is also the chair of the University of Michigan's MFA program.