Annal: 2008 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Biography

Results of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in the year 2008.

Book:A Strange Eventful History

A Strange Eventful History: The Dramatic Lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving, and Their Remarkable Families

Michael Holroyd

Deemed “a prodigy among biographers” by The New York Times Book Review, Michael Holroyd transformed biography into an art. Now he turns his keen observation, humane insight, and epic scope on an ensemble cast, a remarkable dynasty that presided over the golden age of theater.

Ellen Terry was an ethereal beauty, the child bride of a Pre-Raphaelite painter who made her the face of the age. George Bernard Shaw was so besotted by her gifts that he could not bear to meet her, lest the spell she cast from the stage be broken. Henry Irving was an ambitious, harsh-voicedmerchant’s clerk, but once he painted his face and spoke the lines of Shakespeare, his stammer fell away to reveal a magnetic presence. He would become one of the greatest actor-managers in the history of the theater. Together, Terry and Irving created a powerhouse of the arts in London’s Lyceum Theatre, with Bram Stoker—who would go on to…[more]

Book:Arthur Miller (biography)

Arthur Miller

Christopher Bigsby

This is the long-awaited biography of one of the twentieth century’s greatest playwrights whose postwar decade of work earned him international critical and popular acclaim.

Arthur Miller was a prominent figure in American literature and cinema for over sixty years, writing a wide variety of plays—including The Crucible, A View from the Bridge, All My Sons, and Death of a Salesman—which are still performed, studied and lauded throughout the world. Born in 1915 to moderately affluent Jewish-American parents, Miller wrote during a fascinating time in American history. The Great Depression was a period of deprivation for many that left an indelible mark on the national psyche, and, like many, Miller found hope for the beleaguered common man in Communism.

The Second World War elevated the common man to war hero, but when the Cold War subsequently began, the ugly elements…[more]

Book:Chagall

Chagall: A Biography

Jackie Wullschlager

"When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what colour really is.”

Picasso said this in the 1950s, when he and Chagall were eminent neighbours living in splendour on the Cote d’Azur. Born the son of a Russian Jewish herring merchant, Chagall fled the repressive “potato-coloured” czarist empire in 1911 to develop his genius in Paris. Through war and revolution in Bolshevik Russia, Weimar Berlin, occupied France and 1940s New York, he gave form to his dreams, longings and memories in paintings which are among the most humane and joyful of the 20th century.

Wullschlager has had exclusive access to hundreds of hitherto unseen and unpublished letters from the Chagall family collection in Paris, lending Chagall’s own unique voice to this account. Drawing also on numerous interviews with the artist’s family, friends, dealers, collectors, and illustrated with two hundred paintings, drawings and photographs, this elegantly written biography gives for the first time a full and true account of Chagall the man and the artist—and of a life as intense, theatrical and haunting as his paintings.

Book:Edward Carpenter: A Life of Liberty and Love

Edward Carpenter: A Life of Liberty and Love

Sheila Rowbotham

Major new biography of the pioneering advocate of free love, gay rights and women’s suffrage.

Challenging both capitalism and the values of Western civilization, the gay socialist writer Edward Carpenter had an extraordinary impact on the cultural and political landscape of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A mystic advocate of, among other causes, free love, recycling, nudism, women’s suffrage and prison reform, Carpenter’s work anticipated the sexual revolution of the 1960s and placed him at the epicenter of the literary culture of his day.

Meticulously researched and beautifully written, this major new biography situates Carpenter’s life and thought in relation to the social, aesthetic and intellectual movements of his day, and explores his friendships with figures such as Walt Whitman, Robert Graves, Oscar Wilde, E.M. Forster, Isadora Duncan and Emma Goldman. Edward Carpenter paints a compelling portrait of a man described by contemporaries as a “weather-vane” for his times.

Book:Gabriel García Márquez: A Life

Gabriel García Márquez: A Life

Gerald Martin

The first full and authorized biography of the 1982 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature—the most popular international novelist of the last fifty years.

Over the course of the nearly two decades Gerald Martin gave to the research and writing of this masterly biography, he not only spent many hours in conversation with Gabriel García Márquez himself but also interviewed more than three hundred others, including García Márquez’s wife and sons, mother and siblings, literary agent and translators; Carlos Fuentes, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Alvaro Mutis, among other writers; Fidel Castro and Felipe González, among other political figures; his closest friends as well as those who consider themselves his detractors. The result is a revelation of both the writer and the man.

García Márquez’s story is a remarkable one. Born in 1927, raised by grandparents and a clutch of aunts in a small…[more]

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