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The Man Who Went into the West: The Life of…
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The Man Who Went into the West: The Life of R. S. Thomas: The Life of… (edition 2006)

by Byron Rogers

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664253,775 (4.18)2
Member:Caroline_McElwee
Title:The Man Who Went into the West: The Life of R. S. Thomas: The Life of R.S.Thomas
Authors:Byron Rogers
Info:Aurum Press Ltd (2006), Hardcover, 320 pages
Collections:Your library, Read (of my library), Books I wouldn't want to live without
Rating:***1/2
Tags:biography, literary biography, Wales, poetry, writing, R, poetry-B

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The Man Who Went into the West: The Life of R.S.Thomas by Byron Rogers

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This was... honestly, a bizarre read. R.S. Thomas seems to have been a man of contradictions -- funny, stern, hard, tender, quiet, garrulous. At one moment he's refusing to answer questions about his poems and the next, this:

'Anyway, they wanted this scene in which Thomas came out of his church and walked down the path. Everything was set up and he appeared in a full surplice. But whether he'd become fed up, I don't know, for he suddenly raised his arms and started to run towards them, shouting, "I'm a bird, I'm a bird." It's not on film. Either the cameraman was too stunned or Thomas was running too fast.'

This is a chatty sort of biography, and not a strictly organised one. I don't think Byron Rogers even tries to present some kind of unified view of Thomas. He makes it seem impossible, even. He made me laugh at Thomas and feel sorry for him, sometimes in the same moments, and he opened up his poetry to me that bit more in the ways he selected sections to quote.

I loved reading this, and I have a bizarre, amused love for R.S. Thomas. I don't know whether it would have appalled or tickled the man to know that a little English-speaking Welsh twenty-three year old like me feels this way about him: it's a tough call to make, it could go either way. ( )
  shanaqui | Jun 8, 2013 |
It is interesting to compare this biography with Yates and Chester’s The Troublemaker, further down my list. Both Scott and Thomas were ‘difficult’ men, churchmen of the same generation whose lives developed unconventionally, in different directions. In Scott’s case, the biographers are defeated by their subject partly because they take a conventional approach to an unconventional man. Byron Rogers’ approach to his subject is deeply engaged, convincing and often very funny. The subjective, impressionistic approach is sometimes confusing in its facts and chronology, but this is appropriate for the "Ogre of Wales", a man referred to by fellow curmudgeon Philip Larkin in a letter as “our friend Arsewipe Thomas” (146). Highly recommended.
  arielgm | Mar 31, 2008 |
It is interesting to compare this biography with Yates and Chester’s The Troublemaker, further down my list. Both Scott and Thomas were ‘difficult’ men, churchmen of the same generation whose lives developed unconventionally, in different directions. In Scott’s case, the biographers are defeated by their subject partly because they take a conventional approach to an unconventional man. Byron Rogers’ approach to his subject is deeply engaged, convincing and often very funny. The subjective, impressionistic approach is sometimes confusing in its facts and chronology, but this is appropriate for the "Ogre of Wales", a man referred to by fellow curmudgeon Philip Larkin in a letter as “our friend Arsewipe Thomas” (146). Highly recommended.
  arielgm | Mar 14, 2008 |
When Byron Rogers, as yet unsure if he would write this book, asked Thomas's son Gwydion for his father's 'papers', he was presented with an assortment of bags and envelopes containing items such as 'the skull of a hare ... a puffins beak ... snow bunting feathers ... an adders skin ... a single dead prawn'. Rogers records that it was the discovery of this strange, poignant archive that decided events - he would write a life of R.S. Thomas. In turn, it is Roger's account of R.S. and Elsi Thomas's gothic collection of animal parts that has enticed me to read this insightful and deliciously funny book. And to return to Thomas's poems for the first time in a long time. ( )
  themetalchicken | Sep 25, 2006 |
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Presenting the life of one of 20th century English literature's greatest poets, this is a hilarious story of a singular man. Here the author unearths the story of R.S. Thomas's life, and that of his household - one both comic, absurd and touching. Originally published: 2006.… (more)

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