Patrick “Lafcadio” Hearn was known for burning the midnight oil. Contemporaries would often find his 5-foot-3-inch frame hunched over his writing desk at night, his face nearly touching the page as he scoured it with his one good eye, excising yet another draft of minor imperfections. Such imagery is fitting for an eccentric and deeply impassioned writer whose career was defined by “ghostly sketches” and “studies of strange things.”
The Outsider: The Life and Work of Lafcadio Hearn, by Steve Kemme. 272 pages, TUTTLE PUBLISHING, Nonfiction.
Despite an extensive bibliography that includes travelogues, muckraking journalism, translations of the French Romantics and supernatural folklore, Hearn was often the most interesting subject in his work. This has caused many biographers and novelists to try to capture his life in words, from Elisabeth Bisland’s personal and moving account of her dear friend in “The Life and Letters of Lafcadio Hearn” to novels like Monique Truong’s “The Sweetest Fruits” and Roger Pulver’s “The Dream of Lafcadio Hearn,” which recount Hearn’s story with poetic licensing.