The Road Not Taken: Finding America in the Poem Everyone Loves and Almost Everyone Gets Wrong by David Orr:
The books are scathing toward Frost and, worse, are scathing without quite seeming to want to be so. Thompson wasn’t a stupid man, nor did he want to write a bad biography; he understood that he wasn’t fond of the poet and that he needed to guard against his own biases. Yet as the scholar Donald Sheehy has demonstrated by reviewing the biographer’s source notes, Thompson became convinced that Frost was neurotic—this his personality, in fact, nearly dovetailed with a theory of neurosis developed by the psychoanalyst Karen Horney, whom Thompson had recently encountered—and under the cover of that diagnosis, his own antipathies bloomed. To show the general slant of the books, it’s become customary among Frost critics simply to list some of the subheadings under “Frost, Robert Lee” in the index to any of Thompson’s volumes: “Anti-Intellectual,” “Baffler-Teaser-Deceiver,” “Brute,” “Charlatan,” “Cowardice,” “Enemies,” “Hate,” “Insanity,” “Jealousy,” “Murderer,” “Rage,” “Revenge,” “Self-Centeredness,” “Spoiled Child,” and so on. As Thompson tells it, when Frost played baseball as a boy, it was because the sport permitted him to sling objects at other people’s heads. When his daughter, distraught after the death of her mother, reproached him for selfishness, not only did this demonstrate a “habit of vindictiveness she had acquired from her father,” but Frost also probably deserved the abuse (and Thompson hastens to suggest that Frost would, of course, soon seek out people who would reassure him that these accusations were more than he really should be asked to bear).