Young William MacLeish grew up both captivated and cowed by the fame of a father who won Pulitzer Prizes for his poetry and comparable honors for his work as a lawyer, playwright, teacher, and government official. William's mother, Ada, began her marriage as a successful concert singer in Paris but later felt compelled to give up her art for her family.
When Archie was working for Henry Luce and "Fortune" magazine, his younger children, watched over by a governess, stayed with their grandfather in Connecticut. But it is of the time spent with his family at Uphill Farm, a beautiful old house above a Massachusetts hilltown, that MacLeish has his fondest and most telling memories: "Archie and Ada gave me great gifts: music, the sound of the language beautifully spoken, the draw of knowledge, the arts of humor," William writes. "I learned to perform for them, and in time found myself addicted to getting a nice tan from Archie's sun. And the more I bathed in his light, the harder I found it to go looking for my own."
At Uphill Farm, his parents often permitted William to join their friends in the fun. The boy quickly got used to acting the adult around the likes of Gerald and Sara Murphy, John and Katey Dos Passos, Carl Sandburg, Dean and Alice Acheson, and Felix Frankfurter. He reveled in the game-- until reality hit him, and he realized that he was the least of the company. Even then, he would continue to pretend, to adapt, to reach for attention. When he pressed too hard, Ada would send him to his room.
In "Uphill with Archie," William MacLeish paints an indelible portrait of a privileged world, a charmed existence in which he moved from pleasing his father to making his father proud. Affectionate, moving, and marvelously evocative, it is a book sure to appeal to readers of such classic works as Calvin Tompkins's "Living Well Is the Best Revenge" and Susan Cheever's books about her parents, "Home Before Dark" and "Treetops."