James Merrill: Life and Art (Knopf, 2015) is a critical biography of the intertwined life and work of James Merrill (1926-95). Merrill was born to high privilege and high expectations as the son of Charles Merrill, the charismatic co-founder of Merrill Lynch, and Hellen Ingram, a muse, ally, and antagonist throughout her son’s life. Wounded by his parents’ bitter divorce, he was the child of a broken home, looking for repair in poetry and love. This is the story of a young man escaping, yet also reenacting, the energies and obsessions of those powerful parents. It is the story of a gay man inventing his identity against the grain of American society during the eras of the closet, gay liberation, and AIDS. It is the story of a wry occultist talking with spirits by means of a Ouija board. Above all, it is the story of a brilliantly gifted, fiercely dedicated poet working every day to turn his life into art.