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Christina Stead - «I'M DYING LAUGHING» (Kirkus Reviews September 1, 1987)

  • National Book Critics Circle


The Man Who Loved Children is a 1940 novel by Australian writer Christina Stead. It was not until a reissue edition in 1965, with an introduction by poet Randall Jarrell, that it found widespread critical acclaim and popularity. Time magazine included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.[1] The novel has been championed by novelists Robert Stone, Jonathan Franzen and Angela Carter. Carter believed Stead's other novels Cotters England; A Little Tea, A Little Chat; and For Love Alone to be as good, if not better than The Man Who Loved Children. - Wikipedia
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Kirkus Reviews
Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1987
ISBN: 0786111410
Publisher: Henry Holt
An aptly, ironically titled novel of politics and the dark places of the heart,
by the author of that groundswell classic The Man Who Loved Children
(1940). Stead both entered and exited this world from her home port of
Sydney, but roamed widely in the interim. I'm Dying Laughing reflects the
sum of Stead's worldly experience: the political activism; the far-flung years
in New York, London, Paris. Spanning three decades and two continents, it
involves Emily Wilkes and Stephen Howard, two idealistic young
Americans caught up in the currents of radical politics during the Depression 30's and New Deal 40's,
who flee to Europe when they become implicated in the witch-hunts of the McCarthy years. Against this
documental, backdrop is set the more intimately political drama of human relations, with all the dark
dualities (e.g., freedom versus love and ""the marriage hearse"") so characteristic of Stead. But, alas, Stead
was more adept at conceptualizing people than personifying concepts, and this didactic novel of ideas
seems queerly cadaverous after the almost ungovernable autonomy of life that veins the leaves of The
Man Who Loved Children There are those who feel that, in the wake of that book's popular success,
Stead was left foundering in an undertow of uncertainty about her art. Certainly, this beached whale of a
book--a leviathan 400-odd pages--unpublished at her death and posthumously reconstructed by her
literary executor, R.G. Geering, is, while true to the letter, somehow lacking in the spirit of its creator.
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