As the years took the predictable toll on his health and his sanity, Yates sank deep into obscurity. A once-vaunted novelist, screenwriter, and speech writer for the Kennedys, Yates spent his last years destitute, despite the efforts of former students and colleagues to provide him with writing and teaching jobs. Repeated psychiatric hospitalizations and harrowing bouts of psychosis became fixtures in his life. This is, after all, a man who once set his own beard aflame. Coughing jags often left him too weary to do anything but light up another cigarette. Along the way, Yates alienated two wives who were initially devoted to him. His relationships to younger women became so pathetic at the end of his life that the strongest reader will wince. Yet one comes away from this biography strangely uplifted.