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The World Broke in Two: Virginia Woolf, T.S.…

The World Broke in Two: Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, E.M.…

by Bill Goldstein

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Goldstein's _The World Broke in Two_ is a lively and engaging look at how literature changed around 1922--partly as a result of WWI, and partly as a result of Joyce's _Ulysses_. Although they did not all see Joyce's book as a complete success, Woolf, Lawrence, Forster, and Eliot all knew it had changed how books would be read and thus how they would be written. Goldstein does not simply describe the changes in writing, he gives us biographical insights into how these writers struggled with their own writing processes as they worked on new fiction. The book gives a thorough and detailed look at conversations and letters among the writers and their friends, editors, and families in (for the most part) 1922. Not much of the information is ground shaking and a lot is not even new, but it is an engaging book nevertheless for a student of literary modernism. Good book. ( )
  GaryLeeJones | Jun 21, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I finished [The World Broke In Two] and many thanks to the Librarything Early Reviewers program for getting a chance to read it.

It's an interesting premise - that 1922 was a significant year in the lives + work of V Woolf, TS Eliot, DH Lawrence and EM Forster although I don't think the author quite pulls it off because Lawrence - although he moved to Taos, wasn't really publishing anything that significant - or certainly not as notable as Mrs Dalloway or The Waste Land. Still it was interesting and very much about the business of writing, the day to day struggles, the difference between working and creating. My mind wandered some at the back and forth Eliot had with his various publishers over The Waste Land. On the other hand, there was a very funny anecdote about Forster, Thomas Hardy and a pet cemetery. Interesting too, how all four writers reacted to Proust and Joyce, both of whom had significant work published in the early 1920s. In some ways, you could say that all four writers began writing in reaction to or inspired by Ulysses and Remembrance of Things Past.

For me, the biggest problem with the book was that it didn't inspire me to go back and read any of those authors the way a really good biography or work of criticism can. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Jun 21, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The aftermath of World War 1 was devastating to the entire world and it essentially destroyed an entire generation of young men. The question remaining for the literary artists (prose and poetry) was how to explain the impact to themselves and to the rest of the world. The old way of explaining things would not work anymore. Ezra Pound's mantra was "to make it new". The World Broke in Two by Bill Goldstein attempts to explain how four legendary writers dealt with this new "modernism" through many of their own letters and journals.

James Joyce and Marcel Proust may have been the first writers to attempt this new writing with "Ulysses" and "In Search of Lost Time" and they had a profound affect on the entire body of these literary authors.

The book takes you into the minds of these geniuses and how they were inspired and succeeded in their quest to answer the call to reinvent themselves. I learned two lessons from this book which I feel will help me in my further reading of classic literature. The first lesson is that it is important to read a short biography of the author before reading and the second lesson is to understand the era in which they were writing.They both make a huge difference in understanding the work of art. ( )
  GaryKbookworm | Jun 15, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The World Broke In Two is an excellent analogy of self-doubt, lack of confidence, and bits of narcissistic personality thrown in the mix, regarding the four writers in the book.

Virginia Woolf had her own emotional issues that speak volumes in her work, as well as D.H. Lawrence. The two of them together almost have the same mindset in their writing, yet are completely opposite in dealing with women and the humane issues compounding the oppressiveness thrown at them.

T.S. Eliot was in a relationship that illuminated some of his most important work, yet, he too, felt a sense of writer's block and lack of inner strength in trying to overcome it.

E.M. Forster's work has always spoken to me, and I was surprised to learn more about him. His books are filled with conservative views, yet also within that constraint, there are areas of humor, love and loss, individuals journeying to find themselves within the societal confines.

The World Broke In Two is a definite look at four writers whose books have within their pages the changing attitudes of society. They have been seen as excellent and great writers of their time. Also, this reader finds that even though the writers have been defined as ones who changed the viewpoints of the way men treat and view woman, their individual personalities were lacking in confidence.

They were ordinary individuals, and often displayed a sense of loss of control of their passion for writing, exhibiting not so kind and/or nice behavior. This book definitely displayed their behavioral aspects during a time when the four of them were in a standstill. Their illnesses, narcissistic behavior, lack of self-esteem is analyzed in depth.

Bravo to Bill Goldstein for his masterful writing!

Thank you to LibraryThing's Early Reviewer's for my ARC. ( )
  LorriMilli | Jun 14, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I'm a long-time reader of works by and about the Bloomsbury group and other writers and artists who were peripherally connected to it, so much of what's in this book was familiar to me. And yet there was much I learned, particularly about E. M. Forster. Either he has not been the subject of a good deal of bio-critical work, or I simply haven't noted and/or read the material, which is odd because he's been my consistent favorite author of the four dealt with here.

I freely confess that most of the people who appear in this account are people I would not want to know, no matter how much I enjoy their work. Goldstein doesn't linger on their personality flaws quite as much as do other biographers, and yet the, ah, difficult quality of their personalities does show through. In fairness, Woolf had more than her share of mental and emotional issues to contend with, and Goldstein touches on those issues rather deftly, not lingering on them, but not dismissing them as either unimportant to Woolf's work, or some kind of hysteria. He is perhaps a bit less kind to Eliot who suffered from vague neurosis for many years, though it seemed as if it was largely due to having to work for a living, and having married a woman as neurotic as he was. Forster seems repressed and unhappy, a quiet, workmanlike writer. And Lawrence, as usual, comes across as unbearable. All that aside, Goldstein does an amazing job of providing the reader with a clear idea of what it's like to be a writer, the roadblocks and uncertainties, the painful self-doubt that often pairs with a sense that our work is possibly the most significant the world will ever know. In that respect alone this book is eye-opening.

In a larger sense it gives the reader a view into the birth of modernism in literature. Though James Joyce and his master work, "Ulysses" is not directly examined here, it permeates the whole of the book. "Ulysses" was serialized from 1918 to 1920, and published in toto in 1922, the year referred to in the book's title. It was a book that changed the way writers viewed literature, and in fact the title of the book comes from a quote by Willa Cather who said that the world broke in two in 1922 or thereabouts, referring to a sea change not only in literary style but substance as well. The subjects of this volume are aware of "Ulysses," they attempt to read it and are alternately impressed and infuriated by it, but do not remain unchanged by its existence. It becomes a kind of touchstone for contemporary writing, a path out of the old forms and into new ones. Each of the four writers Goldstein follows struggles with these changes, with their sense that there is something more they can do with their work, something greater, more modern, more meaningful. And by the end of 1922, they are all breaking through their blocks to create the works which moved them all into the modern era.

Goldstein does a masterly job of blending both biographical and critical commentary, holding his focus on four writers and the space of one year, yet framing them with what was happening in the world as a whole, and the literary world, showing them in contact with and in relation to other writers such as Joyce, Proust, Pound, and others. It's not exactly what I'd call a good starting point for anyone who is not familiar with the work of these four writers, but if you are, it will expand your understanding of them and their work. ( )
  TracyRowanAuthor | Jun 11, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805094024, Hardcover)

A revelatory narrative of the intersecting lives and works of revered authors Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster and D. H. Lawrence during 1922, the birth year of modernism

The World Broke in Two tells the fascinating story of the intellectual and personal journeys four legendary writers, Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster, and D. H. Lawrence, make over the course of one pivotal year. As 1922 begins, all four are literally at a loss for words, confronting an uncertain creative future despite success in the past. The literary ground is shifting, as Ulysses is published in February and Proust’s In Search of Lost Time begins to be published in England in the autumn. Yet, dismal as their prospects seemed in January, by the end of the year Woolf has started Mrs. Dalloway, Forster has, for the first time in nearly a decade, returned to work on the novel that will become A Passage to India, Lawrence has written Kangaroo, his unjustly neglected and most autobiographical novel, and Eliot has finished―and published to acclaim―“The Waste Land."

As Willa Cather put it, “The world broke in two in 1922 or thereabouts,” and what these writers were struggling with that year was in fact the invention of modernism. Based on original research, Bill Goldstein's The World Broke in Two captures both the literary breakthroughs and the intense personal dramas of these beloved writers as they strive for greatness.

(retrieved from Amazon Wed, 15 Mar 2017 11:30:15 -0400)

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