Nolan labored under a severe handicap. For some reason, the owners of the copyright on Hart's lyrics would not grant Nolan permission to quote them at length (for some probably very stupid reason). Therefore, Nolan concentrates necessarily on the life. He has done yeoman's work hunting down those Hart acquaintances still alive as well as letters previously unpublished. I think his portrait quite insightful. He manages to contain many of Hart's contradictions. He also keeps Hart's homosexuality in perspective, something rare in our time when writers seem to reduce an artist to his sexual preference. They focus so strongly on the juicy details that they forget the person. Put crudely, I doubt any two homosexuals are alike even in their homosexuality and there are more homosexuals than there are poets of the caliber of Hart. Furthermore, Hart's "natural" homosexuality was hardly yea or nay. He proposed to at least two women who knew of his sexual activities. They turned him down, not because he was homosexual, but because he was alcoholic.
Hart's sex life was undoubtedly a mess (although not necessarily because he was gay). His great fear of loneliness made the rest of his entire life even messier. He was physically unappealing - extremely short, with a head too large for his body and coarse features. With alcohol came oblivion - he drank enough to pass out. Gradually, the drinking caught up with him, and he died in his 40s. Nolan makes it quite clear that Hart had been pursuing passive suicide for several years.
Nevertheless, this is just one side of Hart, and not really the side that makes us, years later, care about him. He was, as Nolan points out, a poet on Broadway. His songs contain some of the finest lyric poetry of the century. His range wasn't particularly great and he wasn't quite the innovator some think him (P. G. Wodehouse and Ira Gershwin did precede him as writers of sophisticated lyrics), but within his emotional bailiwick, he was a master. Nolan shows us that aspect as well. Despite the obstacles thrown in his way, Nolan gives us a sense of Hart's genuine individuality - an attitude, really, of loneliness and realism. Offhand, I can't think of a straight "I love you/You love me" in any of Hart's songs. "I Wish I Were in Love Again," "Falling in Love with Love," "It Never Entered My Mind," "Isn't It Romantic," "Spring is Here," "Blue Moon," and "Glad to be Unhappy" concern love lost, love dreamed about, and love maybe. Undoubtedly, Hart had a viewpoint toward the subject skewed a certain way - worried about the fragility of human relations, despite all the surface dazzle of wit.
Nolan makes all of this clear. Indeed, his inability to spend much time with the lyrics themselves pushed him to dig all the deeper into the core of the songs. I really like this book.