The Impossible Craft: Literary Biography
"Donaldson's The Impossible Craft is the goods. Why> Because it's heavily subjective, full of anecdote and 'case studies' as he calls them -- as well as conflicting advice from other biographers…a call to intellectual adventure… In places, Donaldson practically says, 'And here's where I really, really messed things up.' That's admirable… By describing the pratfalls and traps he fell into, Donaldson reassures us that even the pros make mistakes but can still recover from them."
--Charles J. Shields, biographer of Harper Lee and Kurt Vonnegut
Death of a Rebel: The Charlie Fenton Story
This short and arresting book tells the story of the charismatic Charlie Fenton, a handsome and rebellious writer-teacher who survived two dozen missions as a tail gunner with the RAF Bomber Command in 1942 before going AWOL, wrote a prize-winning novel, returned to the States to get married and resume his studies at Yale (where he had been kicked out before the war), zoomed through his B A, MA, and PhD in record time, turned his doctoral thesis into one of the best books ever written about Ernest Hemingway (with whom he conducted a lively and combative correspondence), began to teach American literature and writing at Yale undergraduates, was lured down to Duke by an unprecedented promotion from assistant to full professor, won Guggenheim and ACLS grants, turned out two more books, starred in the classroom, and became one of the most popular instructors on campus among students and manifestly the most troublesome faculty member to the administration though his outspoken attacks on fraternities and football and advocacy of integration and Martin Luther King-inspired sit-down strikes, fell in love with a graduate student leading to the dissolution of his marriage, succumbed to depression, and a few minutes after 5 a.m. on Thursday, July 21, 1960, at forty-one years of age, leaped to his death from the top floor of the tallest hotel in Durham, NC.
Fenton was a mentor to many students at Yale and Duke, Donaldson among them. His book attempts to discover what drove someone as successful and admired as Charlie Fenton came to take his own life at the peak of his career.
Fitzgerald and Hemingway: Works and Days
Known for his penetrating studies of Fitzgerald and Hemingway, Donaldson collects and updates two dozen essays -- the "greatest hits," as one reviewer put it, among more than forty he has published. Special attention is devoted to two great novels, <.> The Great Gatsby and The Sun Also Rises . Reading them, another reviewer observes, "One is struck ," another reviewer comments, "by Scott Donaldson's kinship with the authors he studies. From these great prose stylists, he inherits a gift for crisp, clear prose, wry humor, and an unerring eye for the telling anecdote. Few can mach either Donaldson's broad knowledge of his subjects or the affable critical clarity he brings to his readings of heir lives and texts."
Edwin Arlington Robinson: A Poet's Life
Based on hitherto unavailable letters and the cooperation of family members, this biography tells the absorbing story of this great American poet for the first time. Donaldson spent seven years working on the book, investing more time, energy, and love in the project than for any of his previous biographies. In the end he concluded that E.A. Robinson was not only a wonderful writer but a remarkably fine human being.
Hemingway vs. Fitzgerald: The Rise and Fall of a Literary Friendship
"Donaldson distills a lifetime of research to tell the story of Scott and Ernest, whose lives and times defined modern American writing. Told with style, grace, and clarity, Hemingway vs. Fitzgerald is a model for what compelling biography should accomplish."
--Michael Reynolds, author of five-volume
John Cheever: A Biography
"I can’t read trash books. If the quality of prose isn’t really high, I can’t get engaged. I would say, though, that John Cheever: A Biography by Scott Donaldson is as readable and ‘unputdownable’ as any thriller would be for me."
--T. Coraghessan Boyle, novelist
Fool for Love: F. Scott Fitzgerald
"Donaldson’s book is a notable achievement in the field of American literary biography...and the most penetrating psychological examination of the author ever written."
--James L.W. West III, critic, biographer,
and editor of Fitztgerald’s works
Archibald MacLeish: An American Life
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By Force of Will: The Life and Art of Ernest Hemingway
"An often illuminating and constantly fascinating mosaic of Ernest Hemingway's mind and personality."