Work so that you can keep working. It seemed a proposition that could easily end in suicide. I wanted to escape this. I wanted to free myself from the working world and have time to write. And I wanted adventure. Grendel could never free me, but this boat could. David Vann has loved boats all his life. So when his academic career seems to be stuck in the doldrums, he leaps at the opportunity to start an educational charter business, teaching creative writing workshops aboard a sailboat. But a trip to Turkey sees him dreaming bigger - and before he knows it, he is at the helm of his own ninety-foot boat, running charters along the Turkish coast. And here his troubles begin. Sinking deep into debt, and encountering everything from a lost rudder to freak storms, Vann is on the verge of losing everything - including his life. Part high-seas adventure, part journey of self-discovery, A Mile Down is a gripping and unforgettable story of struggle and redemption by a writer at the top of his game.
A moving true story of the unlikely friendship between two people who had nothing and ultimately everything in common. Carol Wall was at a crossroads. Her children had flown the nest, her beloved parents were ageing and she had overcome a serious illness. A neglected garden should have been the least of her worries. Until one day she sees a man working in her neighbour's garden and realises he is responsible for its spectacular transformation. His name is Giles Owita. He comes from Kenya and he's very good at gardening. 'It was kismet. a And while I knew from the moment I met him that he was something special - truly, I didn't know the half of it.' Before long Mister Owita is transforming not only Carol's garden, but her life. Although they seem to have nothing in common, a bond grows between them. When both are forced to share long-buried secrets, their friendship is transformed forever. This is the story of a woman who at mid-life finds there is so much more to learn and a man whose grace in facing life's challenges is a lesson for us all. 'Deeply personal, poetic and brimming with humanity, this is a book of lasting grace.' Steve Lopez, New York Times bestselling author of The Soloist '
It has been 50 years since Norman Mailer asserted, 'I think that William Burroughs is the only American novelist living today who may conceivably be possessed by genius.' This assessment holds true today. No-one since then has taken such risks in their writing, developed such individual radical political ideas, or spanned such a wide range of media - Burroughs has written novels, memoirs, technical manuals and poetry, he has painted, made collages, taken thousands of photographs, made visual scrapbooks, produced hundreds of hours of experimental tapes, acted in movies and recorded more CDs than most rock groups. Made a cult figure by the publication of NAKED LUNCH, Burroughs was a mentor to the 1960s youth culture. Underground papers referred to him as 'Uncle Bill' and he ranked alongside Bob Dylan and the Beatles, Buckminster Fuller and R.D. Laing as one of the 'gurus' of the youth movement who might just have the secret of the universe. Based upon extensive research, this biography paints a new portrait of Burroughs, making him real to the reader and showing how he was perceived by his contemporaries in all his guises - from icily distant to voluble drunk. It shows how his writing was very much influenced by his life situation and by the people he met on his travels around America and Europe. He was, beneath it all, a man torn by emotions: his guilt at not visiting his doting mother; his despair at not responding to reconciliation attempts from his father; his distance from his brother; the huge void that separated him from his son; and above all his killing of his wife, Joan Vollmer.
On 25 February 1956, twenty-three-year-old Sylvia Plath walked into a party and immediately spotted Ted Hughes. The sensational aspects of the Plath-Hughes relationship have dominated the cultural landscape to such an extent that their story has taken on the resonance of a modern myth. Before she met Ted, Plath had lived a complex, creative and disturbing life. Her father had died when she was only eight, she had gone out with literally hundreds of men, had been unofficially engaged, had tried to commit suicide and had written over 200 poems. Mad Girl's Love Song traces through these early years the sources of her mental instabilities and examines how a range of personal, economic and societal factors - the real disquieting muses - conspired against her. Drawing on exclusive interviews with friends and lovers who have never spoken openly about Plath before and using previously unavailable archives and papers, this is the first book to focus on the early life of the twentieth century's most popular and enduring female poet. Mad Girl's Love Song reclaims Sylvia Plath from the tangle of emotions associated with her relationship with Ted Hughes and reveals the origins of her unsettled and unsettling voice, a voice that, fifty years after her death, still has the power to haunt and disturb.
The image remains pristine: a charismatic high-school dropout turned billionaire, whose stratospheric rise and daring exploits have won him millions of enduring admirers and made him a model for aspiring entrepreneurs throughout the world. But is this story still credible? Over the last decade, has Branson matched the expectations perpetuated by Virgin's relentless publicity machine? Or have we all been seduced by a brilliant showman? In his most explosive book to date, Tom Bower, bestselling biographer of Simon Cowell, Bernie Ecclestone, Conrad Black and Robert Maxwell, dares to explore the reality of the Branson empire. In doing so, he unravels the gripping story of his recent activities - from the astonishing success of mobile phones to his troubled airlines and his long delayed plan to send multimillionaires into space - and asks whether he really remains Britain's heroic buccaneer.
Christo Brand was Mandela’s prison warder on Robben Island for many years and he has a fabulous story to tell of their extraordinary and close friendship that continued from beyond the prison cell into Parliament. He was a white Afrikaans farm boy aged 18 when he was sent to Robben Island as a raw recruit from the prison service. He didn’t even know who Mandela was. They told him he was a dangerous terrorist trying to bring down South Africa, so he hated him at first. But soon he saw the humanity, wisdom and humility of Mandela.
Celebrated novelist Daphne Du Maurier and her sisters, eclipsed by her fame, are revealed in all their surprising complexity in this riveting new biography. The middle sister in a famous artistic dynasty, Daphne du Maurier is one of the master storytellers of our time, author of 'Rebecca', 'Jamaica Inn' and 'My Cousin Rachel', and short stories, 'Don't Look Now' and the terrifying 'The Birds' among many. Her stories were made memorable by the iconic films they inspired, three of them classic Hitchcock chillers. But it was her sisters, writer Angela and artist Jeanne,who found the courage to defy the conventions that hampered Daphne's emotional life. In this group biography they are considered side by side, as they were in life, three sisters who grew up during the 20th century in the glamorous hothouse of a theatrical family dominated by a charismatic and powerful father. This family dynamic reveals the hidden world of the three sisters - Piffy, Bird & Bing, as they were known to each other - full of social non-conformity, love, rivalry and compulsive make-believe, their lives as psychologically complex as a Daphne du Maurier novel.
Scott Fitzgerald, a romantic and tragic figure who embodied the decades between the two world wars, was a writer who took his material almost entirely from his life. Despite his early success with The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald battled against failure and disappointment. This book, by the acclaimed biographer of Hemingway, is the first to analyze frankly the meaning as well as the events of Fitzgerald's life and to illuminate the recurrent patterns that reveal his inner self. Meyers emphasizes Fitzgerald's alcoholism, Zelda's illnesses and her doctors, Fitzgerald's love affairs both before and after her breakdown, and his wide-ranging friendships, from the polo star Tommy Hitchcock to the Hollywood executive Irving Thalberg. His writer friends included Ring Lardner, John Dos Passos, James Joyce, Edith Wharton, and Dorothy Parker. His friend and lifelong hero, Ernest Hemingway, was a harsh critic of both his behavior and his novels, but Fitzgerald accepted this with remarkable humility. Meyers portrays the volatile connection between these two writers and Fitzgerald's marriage to the schizophrenic Zelda with insight and poignancy. Meyers also discusses Fitzgerald's fascinating relationship with his daughter, Scottie. Exercising a fine critical balance, he details Fitzgerald's weaknesses but ultimately reveals a man capable of fierce loyalty and great moral courage.
Over thirty years after his death in 1983, Paul de Man, a hugely charismatic intellectual who created with deconstruction an ideology so pervasive that it threatened to topple the very foundations of literature, remains a haunting and still largely unexamined figure. Deeply influential, de Man and his theory-driven philosophy were so dominant that his passing received front-page coverage, suggesting that a cult hero, if not intellectual rock star, had met an untimely end. Yet in 1988, de Man's reputation was ruined when it was discovered that he had written an anti-Semitic article and worked for a collaborating Belgium newspaper during World War II. Who was he, really, and who had he been? No one knew. Still in shock, few of his followers wanted to find out. Once an admirer, although never a theorist, the biographer Evelyn Barish began her own investigation. Relying on years of original archival work and interviews with over two hundred of de Man's circle of friends and family, most of them now dead, Barish vividly re-creates this collaborationist world of occupied Belgian and France. Born in 1919 to a rich but tragically unstable family, Paul de Man, a golden boy, was influenced by his uncle Henri de Man, a socialist turned Nazi collaborator who became the de facto Belgian prime minister. By the early 1940s, Paul, while seemingly only a reviewer for Nazi newspapers, was secretly rising in far more important jobs in Belgium's and France s collaborationist regimes. Postwar, barred from the university, de Man created a publishing house, but stole all its assets; then, facing jail, he fled to New York, abandoning his family (his opportunistic, anti-Semitic writing seemed the least of his crimes). Arriving penniless, he quickly rose again, befriending an entire generation of American writers in New York, including Dwight Macdonald, Elizabeth Hardwick, and Mary McCarthy. Barish sketches de Man's renowned careers at Bard and Yale, as well as the circumstances surrounding his loving but bigamous second marriage to former Bard student Patricia Kelley, who created the tranquillity he so lacked. Juxtaposing this personal story to his meteoric rise through American academia, Barish traces the origins of the philosophical deconstructionism that he later created with Jacques Derrida, showing how de Man attracted followers with his attack on the hypocrisy of society that attempts to cover up the essential alienation of art from the system. While focusing on the biographical facts, this commanding and psychologically probing biography reveals as much about human behavior and the cross-currents of twentieth-century intellectual thought as it does about the man who held an entire generation in his thrall.
'To read this book is to understand Afghanistan as it exists today. This haunting memoir traces the unimaginable odyssey of one family whose world has collapsed ...Poetic, powerful, and unforgettable.' Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner. Qais Akbar Omar was eleven when a brutal civil war engulfed Kabul. For Qais, it brought an abrupt end to a childhood filled with kites and cousins in his grandfather's garden: one of the most convulsive decades in Afghan history had begun. Ahead lay the rise of the Taliban, and, in 2001, the arrival of international forces. A Fort of Nine Towers is the story of Qais, his family and their determination to survive these upheavals as they were buffeted from one part of Afghanistan to the next. Drawing strength from each other, and their culture and faith, they sought refuge for a time in the Buddha caves of Bamyan, and later with a caravan of Kuchi nomads. When they eventually returned to Kabul, it became clear that their trials were just beginning.
The one hundred letters brought together for this book illustrate the range of Hugh Trevor-Roper's life and preoccupations: as an historian, a controversialist, a public intellectual, an adept in academic intrigues, a lover of literature, a traveller, a countryman. They depict a life of rich diversity; a mind of intellectual sparkle and eager curiosity; a character that relished the comedie humaine, and the absurdities, crotchets, and vanities of his contemporaries. The playful irony of Trevor-Roper's correspondence places him in a literary tradition stretching back to such great letter-writers as Madame de Sevigne and Horace Walpole. Though he generally shunned emotional self-exposure in correspondence as in company, his letters to the woman who became his wife reveal the surprising intensity and the raw depths of his feelings. Trevor-Roper was one of the most gifted scholars of his generation, and one of the most famous dons of his day. While still a young man, he made his name with his bestseller The Last Days of Hitler, and became notorious for his acerbic assaults on other historians. In his prime, Trevor-Roper appeared to have everything: a grey Bentley, a prestigious chair in Oxford, a beautiful country house, a wife with a title, and, eventually, a title of his own. But he failed to write the 'big book' expected of him, and tainted his reputation when in old age he erroneously authenticated the forged Hitler diaries. For an academic, Trevor-Roper's interests were extraordinarily wide, bringing him into contact with such diverse individuals as George Orwell and Margaret Thatcher, Albert Speer and Kim Philby, Katharine Hepburn and Rupert Murdoch. The tragicomedy of his tenure as Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge, provided an appropriate finale to a career packed with incident. Trevor-Roper's letters to Bernard Berenson, published as Letters from Oxford in 2006, gave pleasure to a wide variety of readers. This more general selection of his correspondence has been long anticipated, and will delight anyone who values wit, erudition, and clear prose.
On the night of the 22 September 1943 Pearl Witherington, a twenty-nine-year-old British secretary and agent of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), was parachuted from a Halifax bomber into Occupied France. Like Sebastian Faulks' heroine, Charlotte Gray, Pearl had a dual mission: to fight for her beloved, broken France and to find her lost love. Pearl's lover was a Parisian parfumier turned soldier, Henri Cornioley, who had been taken prisoner while serving in the French Logistics Corps and subsequently escaped from his German POW camp. Agent Pearl Witherington's wartime record is unique and heroic. As the only woman agent in the history of SOEs in France to have run a network, she became a fearless and legendary guerrilla leader organising, arming and training 3,800 Resistance fighters. Probably the greatest female organiser of armed maquisards in France, the woman whom her young troops called 'Ma Mere', Pearl lit the fires of Resistance in Central France so that Churchill's famous order to 'set Europe ablaze', which had brought SOE into being, finally came to pass. Pearl's story takes us from her harsh, impoverished childhood in Paris, to the lonely forests and farmhouses of the Loir-et-Cher where she would become a true 'warrior queen'. Shortly before Pearl's death in 2008, the Queen presented her with a CBE in Paris. While male agents and Special Force Jedburghs received the DSO or Military Cross, an ungrateful country had forgotten Pearl. She had been offered a civilian decoration in 1945 which she refused, saying 'There was nothing civil about what I did.' But what pleased her most was to receive her Parachute Wings, for which she had waited over 60 years. Two RAF officers travelled to her old people's home and she was finally able to pin the coveted wings on her lapel. Pearl died in February 2008 aged 93.
This is a great novelist on his twin obsessions: writing and coding. What is the relationship between the two? Is there such a thing as the sublime in code? Can we ascribe beauty to the craft of coding? Vikram Chandra is the award-winning author of two acclaimed novels and a collection of short stories - and has been a computer programmer for almost as long as he has been a writer. In his extraordinary new book he looks at the connection between these two worlds of art and technology. Coders are obsessed with elegance and style, just as writers are, but do the words mean the same thing to both? And is it a coincidence that Chandra is drawn to two seemingly opposing ways of thinking? Exploring these questions, Chandra creates an idiosyncratic history of coding - exploring such varied topics as logic gates and literary modernism, the male machismo of geeks, the striking presence of an 'Indian Mafia' in Silicon Valley, and the writings of Abhinavagupta, the 10th-11th century Kashmiri thinker. Part technology story and part memoir, Geek Sublime is a book of sweeping ideas. It is a heady and utterly original work.
Young ladies in the Victorian and Edwardian eras were not expected to travel unaccompanied, and certainly not to the remote corners of Southeast Europe, then part of the crumbling Ottoman Empire. But Edith Durham was no ordinary lady. In 1900, at the age of 37, Durham set sail for the Balkans for the first time, a trip which changed the course of her life. Her experiences kindled a profound love of the region which saw her return frequently in the following decades. She became a confidante of the King of Montenegro, ran a hospital in Macedonia and, following the outbreak of the First Balkan War in 1912, became one of the world's first female war correspondents. Her popularity in the region earned her the affectionate title 'Queen of the Mountains' and she is fondly remembered in Albania until this day. Marcus Tanner here tells the fascinating story of Durham's relationship with the Balkans, painting a vivid portrait of a remarkable, if sometimes formidable, woman.
The life and work of Sylvia Plath has taken on the proportions of legend. Educated at Smith College, she had a conflicted relationship with her mother, Aurelia. She then married the poet Ted Hughes and plunged into the Sturm und Drang of literary celebrity. Her poems were fought over, rejected, accepted--and ultimately embraced by readers everywhere. At age thirty she committed suicide by putting her head in an oven while her children slept on the floor above in rooms she had sealed off from the poisonous gas. Ariel, a collection of poems she wrote at white-hot speed during her final months, became a modern classic. Her novel, The Bell Jar, has become a part of the literary canon, appearing on student reading lists worldwide. On the fiftieth anniversary of her death, Carl Rollyson gives us a new biography of Plath that shows her as a powerful figure who embraced both high and low culture to become the Marilyn Monroe of modern literature, a writer who wanted nothing less than to become central to the mythology of modern consciousness. American Isis is the first biography of Sylvia Plath to use materials newly deposited in the Ted Hughes archive at the British Library--including forty-one letters between Plath and Hughes--to create a fresh and startling look at this American icon.
This first English language biography of Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) in two decades paints a strikingly new picture of one of the twentieth century's most controversial cultural icons. Drawing on letters, diaries and unpublished material, including Brecht's medical records, Parker offers a rich and enthralling account of Brecht's life and work, viewed through the prism of the artist. Tracing his extraordinary life, from his formative years in Augsburg, through the First World War, his politicisation during the Weimar Republic and his years of exile, up to the Berliner Ensemble's dazzling productions in Paris and London, Parker shows how Brecht achieved his transformative effect upon world theatre and poetry. Bertolt Brecht: A Literary Life is a powerful portrait of a great, compulsively contradictory personality, whose artistry left its lasting imprint on modern culture.
Mike Myers thinks he was a genius, while John Cleese regards him as a true cultural icon. He was an architect of British comedy, paving the way for Monty Python, and then became a major Hollywood star, forever remembered as Igor in Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein. A writer, director, performer and true pioneer of his art, he died aged only 48.
His name was Marty Feldman, and here, at last, is the first ever biography. Acclaimed author Robert Ross has interviewed Marty's friends and family, including his sister Pamela, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Michael Palin and Terry Jones, and also draws from extensive, previously unpublished and often hilarious interviews with Marty himself, taped in preparation for the autobiography he never wrote.
No one before or since has had a career quite like Marty's. Beginning in the dying days of variety theatre, he went from the behind the scenes scriptwriting triumphs of Round the Horne and The Frost Report to onscreen stardom in At Last the 1948 Show and his own hit series Marty. That led to transatlantic success, his work with Mel Brooks, and a five-picture deal to write and direct his own movies.
From his youth as a tramp on the streets of London, to the height of his fame in America - where he encountered everyone from Orson Welles to Kermit the Frog, before his Hollywood dream became a nightmare - this is the fascinating story of a key figure in the history of comedy, fully told for the first time.
After three acclaimed novels, Gary Shteyngart turns to memoir in a candid, witty, deeply poignant account of his life so far. Shteyngart shares his American immigrant experience, moving back and forth through time and memory with self-deprecating humor, moving insights, and literary bravado. The result is a resonant story of family and belonging that feels epic and intimate and distinctly his own.
Born Igor Shteyngart in Leningrad during the twilight of the Soviet Union, the curious, diminutive, asthmatic boy grew up with a persistent sense of yearning—for food, for acceptance, for words—desires that would follow him into adulthood. At five, Igor wrote his first novel, Lenin and His Magical Goose, and his grandmother paid him a slice of cheese for every page.
In the late 1970s, world events changed Igor’s life. Jimmy Carter and Leonid Brezhnev made a deal: exchange grain for the safe passage of Soviet Jews to America—a country Igor viewed as the enemy. Along the way, Igor became Gary so that he would suffer one or two fewer beatings from other kids. Coming to the United States from the Soviet Union was equivalent to stumbling off a monochromatic cliff and landing in a pool of pure Technicolor.
Shteyngart’s loving but mismatched parents dreamed that he would become a lawyer or at least a “conscientious toiler” on Wall Street, something their distracted son was simply not cut out to do. Fusing English and Russian, his mother created the term Failurchka—Little Failure—which she applied to her son. With love. Mostly.
As a result, Shteyngart operated on a theory that he would fail at everything he tried. At being a writer, at being a boyfriend, and, most important, at being a worthwhile human being.
Swinging between a Soviet home life and American aspirations, Shteyngart found himself living in two contradictory worlds, all the while wishing that he could find a real home in one. And somebody to love him. And somebody to lend him sixty-nine cents for a McDonald’s hamburger.
Provocative, hilarious, and inventive, Little Failure reveals a deeper vein of emotion in Gary Shteyngart’s prose. It is a memoir of an immigrant family coming to America, as told by a lifelong misfit who forged from his imagination an essential literary voice and, against all odds, a place in the world.
THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER AS HEARD ON BBC RADIO 4 BOOK OF THE WEEK '...the constant, tenuous but vital reconnection between a child and its mother...A fine book' - The Sunday Times This book began as an attempt to hold on to my witty, storytelling mother with the one thing I had to hand. Words. Then, as the enormity of the social crisis my family was part of began to dawn, I wrote with the thought that other forgotten lives might be nudged into the light along with hers. Dementia is one of the greatest social, medical, economic, scientific, philosophical and moral challenges of our times. I am a reporter. It became the biggest story of my life. - Sally Magnusson Regarded as one of the finest journalists of her generation, Mamie Baird Magnusson's whole life was a celebration of words - words that she fought to retain in the grip of a disease which is fast becoming the scourge of the 21st century. Married to writer and broadcaster Magnus Magnusson, they had five children of whom Sally is the eldest. As well as chronicling the anguish, the frustrations and the unexpected laughs and joys that she and her sisters experienced while accompanying their beloved mother on the long dementia road for eight years until her death in 2012, Sally Magnusson seeks understanding from a range of experts and asks penetrating questions about how we treat older people, how we can face one of the greatest social, medical, economic and moral challenges of our times, and what it means to be human. An extraordinary and deeply personal memoir, a manifesto and a call to arms, in one searingly beautiful narrative. Find out more about the book and dementia at Facebook.com/WhereMemoriesGo