Annal: 2009 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Biography

Results of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in the year 2009.

Book:William Golding: The Man Who Wrote Lord of the Flies

William Golding: The Man Who Wrote Lord of the Flies

John Carey

The first authorized biography of one of the foremost novelists of the twentieth century. William Golding was born in 1911 and educated at his local grammar school and Brasenose College, Oxford. He published a volume of poems in 1934 and during the war served in the Royal Navy. After wards he returned to being a schoolmaster in Salisbury. Lord of the Flies, his first novel, was an immediate success, and was followed by a series of remarkable novels, including The Inheritors, Pincher Martin and The Spire. He won the Booker Prize for Rites of Passage in 1980, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983, and was knighted in 1988. He died in 1993.

Book:Cheever: A Life

Cheever: A Life

Blake Bailey

From the acclaimed author of A Tragic Honesty: The Life and Work of Richard Yates comes the unforgettable life of John Cheever (1912–1982), a man who spent much of his career impersonating a perfect suburban gentleman, the better to become one of the foremost chroniclers of postwar America. “I was born into no true class,” Cheever mused in his journal, “and it was my decision, early in life, to insinuate myself into the middle class, like a spy, so that I would have an advantageous position of attack, but I seem now and then to have forgotten my mission and to have taken my disguises too seriously.” Written with unprecedented access to essential sources—including Cheever’s massive journal, only a fraction of which has ever been published—Blake Bailey’s biography reveals the troubled but strangely lovable man behind the disguises, an artist who delighted in the everyday radiance of the world while yearning, above all, “to be illustrious.” …[more]

Book:Different Drummer: The Life of Kenneth MacMillan

Different Drummer: The Life of Kenneth MacMillan

Jann Parry

Kenneth MacMillan’s ballets are in constant demand by world-famous companies, particularly “Romeo and Juliet”, “Manon and Mayerling”. This biography reveals a complex artist who fiercely guarded his own privacy, whilst his ballets communicated his darkest and most intimate thoughts.

Book:The English Opium Eater

The English Opium Eater: A Biography of Thomas De Quincey

Robert Morrison

Author of the famous and semi-scandalous Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859) has long lacked a fully fledged biography. His friendships with leading poets and men of letters in the Romantic and Victorian periods—including William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Thomas Carlyle—have long placed him at the centre of 19th-century literary studies. De Quincey also stands at the meeting point in the culture wars between Edinburgh and London; between high art and popular taste; and between the devotees of the Romantic imagination and those of hack journalism. He was a man who engaged with nearly every facet of literary culture, including the roles played by publishers, booksellers and journalists in literary production, dissemination and evaluation. His writing was a tremendous influence on Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, William Burroughs and Peter Ackroyd. De Quincey is a fascinating (and topical) figure for other reasons too: a self-mythologizing autobiographer whose…[more]

Book:Muriel Spark: The Biography

Muriel Spark: The Biography

Martin Stannard

The compelling first biography of a twentieth-century literary enigma. Born in 1918 into a working-class Edinburgh family, Muriel Spark became the epitome of literary chic and one of the great writers of the twentieth century. Her autobiography, Curriculum Vitae, recorded her early years but politely blurred her darker moments: troubled relations with her family, a terrifying period of hallucinations, and disastrous affairs with the men she loved. At the age of nineteen, Spark left Scotland to get married in southern Rhodesia, only to divorce and escape back to Britain in 1944. Her son returned in 1945 and was brought up by Spark’s parents while she established herself as a poet and critic in London. After converting to Catholicism in 1954, she began writing novels that propelled her into the literary stratosphere. These came to include Memento Mori, The Girls of Slender Means, and A Far Cry from Kensington. …[more]

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