Books by Malcolm Bradbury

TO THE HERMITAGE by Malcolm Bradbury
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: April 16, 2001

A love letter of sorts to the leading "philosophe" of the Enlightenment, as well as an urbane satire on the pretensions and absurdities of academe. Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: Aug. 1, 1996

In another of his able (if not overly inspired) surveys, Bradbury (The Modern American Novel, 1983, etc.) traces the ``flourishing traffic in fancy, fiction, dream, and myth'' between the old world and the new. Ranging from Washington Irving and Charles Dickens to Evelyn Waugh and Martin Amis, Bradbury attempts to reveal, as reflected in European (primarily British) and American fiction, ``the barter of myths and illusions,'' the ways in which writers on opposite sides of the Atlantic have imagined (and influenced) each other's societies. He points out that the fantasies that each have nursed of the other have often had a profound impact and have sometimes led to disillusion. The protagonist of Herman Melville's novel Redburn goes to England and discovers that the idyllic travel guides he's read have little to do with reality. Such works, Melville writes, ``are the least reliable books in all literature; and nearly all literature, in one sense, is made up of guide- books.'' Bradbury considers Chateaubriand's Indian romance Atala, Washington Irving's History of New York and Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit, Hawthorne's The Marble Faun, and the works of Henry James, Oscar Wilde, and Mark Twain, among others, as he plots the ways in which ideas of American ``innocence'' and European ``civilization'' have clashed, flourished, and intermingled. Toward the end he flags a bit, giving perfunctory summaries of the Lost Generation and Modernism, but the narrative revives in his discussion of the the perennially new America imagined by the French critics Jacques Derrida and Jean Baudrillard. Bradbury suspects that, despite the emergence of a new ``Euro-identity,'' and despite America's growing interest in the Pacific Rim, the great fictions that Europe and America share, and which are ``part of our essential record of human understanding,'' will retain their power. Bradbury necessarily skimps here and there, but he digests, summarizes, and critiques enough to make this into a readable, useful, original guide. Read full book review >
DOCTOR CRIMINALE by Malcolm Bradbury
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 1, 1992

Known for his satirical novels about British academics (Rates of Exchange, 1983, etc.), Bradbury here examines the way we treat cultural icons. The icon in question is Dr. Bazlo Criminale, a product of Mitteleuropa and the world's most publicized (yet most mysterious) philosopher. Bradbury's narrator is Francis Jay, a brash young London journalist hired by a TV company to get the goods on Criminale for a feature on Great Thinkers of the Age of Glasnost. He travels first to Vienna, where he is stonewalled by Professor Otto Codicil, Criminale's biographer (who really wrote the book is another mystery); but in Budapest Criminale's publisher and former mistress, glamorous Hazy Ildiko, seeing her chance to shop in the West (it's 1990, the Wall is down, Hungarians now live to shop), leads Francis to the glitzy conference on an Italian lake where Criminale both appears and disappears (his disappearances are legendary). Francis talks to the great man but learns little more than that Criminale is ``dirty with history'' like everybody else (his conduct during the Hungarian uprising was questionable), and readers looking for a literary detective story will be disappointed. What they get instead is Bradbury's presentation of ``culture as spectacle.'' ``Nobody in the West [takes] writing seriously. What they take seriously are conferences.'' Not new points, but Bradbury piles it on, giving us three more conferences, a Book Fair in Buenos Aires, and a Booker prize-giving dinner in London. As for Criminale, it's unclear whether Bradbury is hunting with the satirists or running with the hypemongers, for the satyr with the secret Swiss bank accounts is also linked repeatedly to Lukacs and Heidegger; not surprisingly, the portrait is out of focus. Ultimately, then, a dull and curiously empty work, pretty much lacking Bradbury's customary comic edge. Read full book review >
NONFICTION
Released: Dec. 1, 1991

From Ruland (English and American Literature/Washington State Univ.) and critic-novelist Bradbury (The Modern World: Ten Great Writers; Unsent Letters—both 1988, etc.)—a sound, balanced account of how American writers created works that reflected ``a new nation with new experience, a new science and a new politics on a new continent.'' Neither idiosyncratic nor iconoclastic, this introductory history is, though, sometimes excessively respectful toward the academically au courant. Ruland and Bradbury, an American and Englishman, respectively, nervously tip their hats to multiculturalism, and will leave their audience of general readers scratching their heads over why more attention is paid to the structuralists and deconstructionists than to luminaries like John Cheever, Thomas Wolfe, Edmund Wilson, H.L. Mencken, and Tennessee Williams. American theater (with the exception of Eugene O'Neill) is inexcusably slighted, while popular genres such as detective and science fiction are more understandably ignored. When it comes to the early development of American literature, however, the authors are on surer ground and perform ably. In tracing the transition from the allegorical mode of the Puritans to the symbolist mode of the American Literary Renaissance, they explore how ``America became a testing place of language and narrative...part of a lasting endeavor to discover the intended nature and purpose of the New World.'' By examining authors in their historical as well as aesthetic context, they make a number of connections not commonly discussed (e.g., how Mark Twain and his contemporaries missed out on the combat experience in the Civil War). Despite its unwillingness to lance some academic sacred cows, then, this is a comprehensive, often vibrant history of how American writers declared independence from older European forms before making their own unique contributions to world literature. Read full book review >