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Yeats once said that the writer must decide between the life or the work, but Arthur Rimbaud teen-age prodigy, archetypal rebel, African adventurer chose both. Although White notes that a biographer of Rimbaud could fill his pages with nothing but his ceaseless comings and goings, his own account is slim and skillfully blends action and analysis. White declares his personal infatuation even speculating that an affair with a teacher as an unhappy gay adolescent may have been inspired by Rimbaud's example but he is clearheaded about his idol's shortcomings. Rimbaud's contempt for bourgeois life certainly made him an impossible visitor: if he wasn't selling the guest-room furniture, he was using the magazine in which his host's poetry had just appeared as toilet paper. White ultimately agrees with those of Rimbaud's acquaintance who saw him not as an angel or a devil but as an obnoxious boor.

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