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The Real Life of Anthony Burgess by Andrew…
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The Real Life of Anthony Burgess

by Andrew Biswell

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This is a compelling biography of a complex man. Burgess wrote thirty-three novels in his lifetime, though he long considered himself to be primarily a composer. Biswall’s scrupulous research must have required a huge amount of patience; not least because Burgess seems to have frequently exaggerated, rearranged chronology and out-and-out invented sections of his past, both in his own autobiography and in his many published interviews. Biswall has met and corresponded with an impressive number of people who actually knew Burgess, and when the varying accounts of the facts differ, he tends to relate both versions, commenting on which he finds most plausible with mild good-humour. A gripping read, sometimes funny and sometimes horrifying, particularly the sections which deal with Burgess’ twenty-six year marriage to his first wife, Lynne. Though I think Biswall has made an admirable job of a difficult subject, his non-committal is ultimately unsatisfying; alongside Burgess’ vigorous prose, his voice often comes across as plodding and pedantic. With such a vast amount of material and so many contradictions, it is easy to see why he would choose this approach—but it does detract from what is an otherwise excellent biography.
  arielgm | Mar 31, 2008 |
This is a compelling biography of a complex man. Burgess wrote thirty-three novels in his lifetime, though he long considered himself to be primarily a composer. Biswall’s scrupulous research must have required a huge amount of patience; not least because Burgess seems to have frequently exaggerated, rearranged chronology and out-and-out invented sections of his past, both in his own autobiography and in his many published interviews. Biswall has met and corresponded with an impressive number of people who actually knew Burgess, and when the varying accounts of the facts differ, he tends to relate both versions, commenting on which he finds most plausible with mild good-humour. A gripping read, sometimes funny and sometimes horrifying, particularly the sections which deal with Burgess’ twenty-six year marriage to his first wife, Lynne. Though I think Biswall has made an admirable job of a difficult subject, his non-committal is ultimately unsatisfying; alongside Burgess’ vigorous prose, his voice often comes across as plodding and pedantic. With such a vast amount of material and so many contradictions, it is easy to see why he would choose this approach—but it does detract from what is an otherwise excellent biography.
  arielgm | Mar 14, 2008 |
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Epigraph
What is there to look at? and of the leopard, spotted underneath and on its toes:/Leopards are not spotted underneath, but in old illuminations they are, and on Indian printed muslins, and I like the idea that they are. - Marianne Moore, letter to Ezra Pound, 9 January 1919.
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To Jane Stevenson and Peter Davidson, who took me to the magnetic North.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0330481703, Hardcover)

The first comprehensive life of English novelist, critic, and composer Anthony Burgess, author of A Clockwork Orange. Admired worldwide for his literary novels, including the masterpiece Earthly Powers, Anthony Burgess also achieved notoriety for the ultra-violent shocker, A Clockwork Orange. In this new biography, Andrew Bisswell charts Burgess' life from his solitary and motherless childhood to his triumphant emergence as a writer, critic, and composer. He also casts new light on Burgess' complicated relationship with director Stanley Kubrick, looks with sensitivity at his tempestuous first marriage, and explores his erotic entanglements with Graham Greene and William Burroughs. Drawing on extensive interviews, unpublished writings, letters, and diaries, The Real Life of Anthony Burgess reveals both the writer and the man as never before.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:46 -0400)

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"Anthony Burgess has always attracted acclaim and notoriety in roughly equal measure. Admired for the scope and inventiveness of his literary novels - including Earthly Powers and the Enderby Quartet - and known to a wider audience as the author of the ultra-violent shocker A Clockwork Orange, he was also a brilliant polymath who for many years regarded himself as a composer rather than a writer." "Born in Manchester in 1917, Burgess was motherless from the age of one. His childhood was solitary, his education haphazard, his army career rebellious and his first job unremarkable. Yet after an accidental posting to Malaya inspired his first published novel, he spent time in such diverse places as Rome, Leningrad, Malta and Monaco, all the while writing as extensively as he travelled. Behind a tempestuous first marriage, fraught dealings with publishers and repeated brushes with libel law lay a uniquely creative mind: one ultimately - if not always consciously - concerned with the relationships between real life, fictionalized life, occluded memory and pure invention. His friends may have found themselves transposed directly into his novels, but when Burgess came to write his own memoirs it was his early fictions that provided much of the copy." "Andrew Biswell's biography is the first to make sense of Burgess's life and works in a comprehensive way. It takes in the full range and variety of his writing and looks at his early influences, his chaotic sexual life and the repercussions - both literary and philosophical - of the loss of his Catholic faith. Drawing on extensive interviews, unpublished manuscripts, letters and diaries, The Real Life of Anthony Burgess reveals both the professional writer and the private man as he has never been seen before."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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