The Art of Youth, Review by Donna Seaman

In his nuanced and haunting “speculative inquiry” into the chronology of creativity, Delbanco considered prolonged productivity in Lastingness: The Art of Old Age (2011) and now investigates the opposite, profiling three very different artists who died young. Seeking to inhabit the inner and outer worlds of his intriguing subjects, Delbanco bridges indisputable facts and persistent mysteries. He ponders writer Stephen Crane’s (1871–1900) distinguished lineage and self-immolating ways as he wrote indelible literature (The Red Badge of Courage) and hack work until tuberculosis claimed his life. British painter Dora Carrington (1893–1932) evinced tremendous capability even as a student, but her inexplicable selfcensoring impulse smothered her artistic impetus, and then, after the death of her dear companion, writer Lytton Strachey, she committed suicide. Delbanco’s zestfully incisive profile of exuberantly creative and prolific composer George Gershwin (1898–1937) proves that precocity can be a happy state. If only Gershwin’s brain tumor had been detected in time. Delbanco ends with a bittersweet account of his own meteoric start, complicating assumptions about his place, as the author of more than two dozen books, in the “lasting” category. —Donna Seaman

Review provided by Booklist Review.