Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category

“Ivy Compton-Burnett’s books will strike most American readers as quintessentially English…”: Joyce Carol Oates

Ivy Compton-Burnett

Reviewing The Life of Ivy Compton-Burnett by Hilary Spurling, Joyce Carol Oates writes:

By the time Ivy Compton-Burnett came to be spoken of as ”the English Secret,” she had acquired a reputation as one of the most original writers of her time. Author of a series of highly stylized, idiosyncratic novels that are primarily dialogues – there were to be 19 in all, in addition to an early (and later repudiated) novel published in 1911 – Compton-Burnett was compared favorably to Jane Austen, Congreve, Aeschylus, Faulkner, Hemingway, and even Picasso. The book critic Cyril Connolly predicted that she would be the only contemporary writer to outlive the century; Raymond Mortimer, who as a young man reviewed her in Vogue early in her career, repeatedly praised her as a genius, ”the single most powerful force at work in the English novel in the generation following James Joyce and Virginia Woolf.” And her work became the curious frame around which the French novelist Nathalie Sarraute erected her own theory of the nouveau roman , though it is unlikely that Ivy Compton-Burnett, with her conservative standards, would have admired Miss Sarraute’s own fiction.

Her books were never best sellers – postwar sales figures held steady at about 7,000 copies for each new novel – but she was consistently lauded by such disparate fellow writers as Graham Greene, Elizabeth Bowen, Mario Praz, V. S. Pritchett, Vita Sackville- West, and Rosamond Lehmann. Pamela Hansford Johnson spoke of her as a writer ”either to be left alone or made into an addiction” – a judgment with which many readers might concur. It is a measure of Compton-Burnett’s strong presence in England that a number Joyce Carol Oates is the author of ”Last Days,” a story collection, and the forthcoming novel ”Solstice.” of well-known younger writers – among them Muriel Spark, Iris Murdoch, and Henry Green – so clearly descend from her.

Ivy Compton-Burnett’s books will strike most American readers as quintessentially English: spare, decorticated, tightly constructed drawing-room comedies in which everyone (3-year-olds, 90-year-olds, butlers, governesses) speaks in finely honed language. They are unrelievedly arch, even campy, contrived dramas of domestic life in a fantasy England, circa 1885-1901, of country estates, down-at-the-heels gentility, family tyrants and hapless scheming victims enmeshed in plots of mock-tragic resonance – Aeschylus and Sophocles funnily reinvented by Oscar Wilde, perhaps. Informed too by a genial cynicism – antireligious, anti-”family” – reminiscent of Samuel Butler, whose ”Note-Books” made a powerful impression on Ivy in 1918, the novels are written to formula yet unfailingly inventive within the confines of the genre. They exhibit their kinship with one another openly, being given markedly similar titles – among them ”Pastors and Masters” (1925), ”Brothers and Sisters” (1929), ”Men and Wives” (1931), ”Daughters and Sons” (1937), ”Parents and Children” (1941), ”Darkness and Day” (1950), ”The Present and the Past” (1953), ”Mother and Son” (1955), ”A Father and His Fate” (1957).


Endeavour Press issues Kindle edition of Brian Inglis’s 1974 biography of Roger Casement

Brian Inglis

Neil Langdon Inglis, U. S. General Editor of Interlitq, and a contributor to Issues 18, 19, 20 and 21 of Interlitq and English Writers 1, English Writers 2 and English Writers 3, wishes to announce that Endeavour Press in London has issued a Kindle edition of his father Brian Inglis’s 1974 biography of Roger Casement, the Irish revolutionary executed for treason in 1916.  Sympathetic, but in no way hagiographical, Inglis’s account explores all dimensions of Casement’s life–in particular, Casement’s unsparing investigations of the rubber trade in the Belgian Congo, and atrocities in Latin America.

Passionate but naive, a visionary lacking in sound judgment, Casement was devoted to the cause of Irish freedom, yet spent years as a willing servant of the British Crown–and ended his days disastrously as a supporter of the Kaiser. Inglis quotes at length from Casement’s “Black Diaries,” having concluded they were genuine and an indispensable source of insight into his subject. “Roger Casement” is widely regarded as one of the classic biographies of the 20th century.

Read Neil Langdon Inglis’s interview about his father, the author Brian Inglis.

Read Neil Langdon Inglis’s 3 question interview for Interlitq.

Ian Gibson: Si no vengo a España me pego un tiro/ Video

Ian Gibson

Ian Gibson: Si no vengo a España me pego un tiro/ Video.

El hispanista y escritor Ian Gibson habla en esta entrevista sobre su determinación de vivir en España. Defiende la “biografía” como uno de los medios que permiten conocer en profundidad al ser humano, lo que más le interesa. Esta entrevista ha sido realizada en el año 2000 para el programa “Verano en la Internacional” de Canal Sur, sobre los cursos de verano de la Universidad Internacional de Andalucía.

Tatiana de Rosnay sur Daphne du Maurier–Video

Daphne du Maurier

Daphne du Maurier

Tatiana de Rosnay sur Daphne du Maurier–Video.

Phyllis Grosskurth “was a prickly kind of person”

Phyllis Grosskurth

Phyllis Grosskurth

Diana Hall writes:

Bronwyn Drainie, the former editor of the Literary Review of Canada who came to know Grosskurth as a student in one of her English classes in the late 60s, described her friend as an overall “fascinating character”.

“I think it would be quite hard to find people who say they were close to Phyllis, except for her own family. She was a prickly kind of person,” Drainie said. “I think she enjoyed that. She enjoyed being prickly and controversial.”

Grosskurth, who was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2000, was “very charismatic,” according to her son Brian. “People were naturally drawn to her, even though she was a forceful personality — but, you know, an attractive personality,” he said about his mother, who he added always had an active academic and social life.