As the literary Scott descends into madness — he is, at one point, diagnosed as schizophrenic, although Blake casts that aside in one or two sentences — he becomes a lively dervish of a character; everyone around him is lost in his shadow. Through much of the book, though, Scott is gone. This is where the difference between biography and memoir looms largest.
The book’s focus, Blake said, originally was meant to be Scott. As he labored to write it, at the same time constructing the literary biographies that have made him famous, Blake realized that the story was as much about him as it was his brother. If there is anything disappointing about the memoir, it’s that Blake portrays himself as a diffident, unmotivated character who would’ve been right at home in “Less Than Zero.” During these long passages, when Blake and Scott are separated by geography or jail walls, and to an extent in their late interactions, Blake comes across as maddeningly passive, content to watch things play out rather than actively engage.
Overall, however, “The Splendid Things We Planned” is an extraordinary read for at least two reasons: Blake is a masterly writer with exquisite turns of phrase, and Scott is a strange but oddly luminous character who will stick with you long after the book’s end.