The Art of Youth: Crane, Carrington, Gershwin, and the Nature of First Acts

About the Book

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 Ameri­can writer Stephen Crane (immortalized by The Red Badge of Courage); British art­ist Dora Carrington (called “the most ne­glected serious painter of her time”); 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 life—one marked by both early success and longevity.

Praise for The Art of Youth

“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 hope…Dazzling in detail and amazingly well-informed.” — Paul Theroux, author of The Lower River

“A master of the brief, perfectly shaped biographical portrait, Nicholas Delbanco renders his subjects with swift, sure lines reminiscent of Carrington’s dazzling drawings. His consideration of the triumphs and pains of these precocious artists–short lives, brilliant works–is the perfect companion to Lastingness: The Art of Old Age but also stands happily on its own and offers great pleasures.” –Andrea Barrett, author of Archangel and Ship Fever

“Elegant and enlightening, The Art of Youth invites us to ask the timeless question of how artistic vitality—its energy, originality, and enthusiasm—can be maintained beyond youth into the blessing of a productive old age.” — Charles Johnson, author of Middle Passage

“Delbanco writes with an engaging erudition of his principals—Crane, Carrington and Gershwin—but 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 reflection—at once rueful and wry—on his own precocious gift. The result is a book filled with knowledge to be sure but also wisdom.” — Peter Ho Davies, author of The Welsh Girl