ONE MAN'S CHORUS by Anthony Burgess


The Uncollected Writings
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While this posthumous collection of essays, articles, and occasional pieces from the last two decades of Burgess’s life hardly ranks with his more signal works such as Byrne, (1997), and Clockwork Orange, (1962), its erudition, deftness, and polymathic range make it an exceptionally good read. Though he was one of the last, great expatriate British writers, Burgess never quite found his audience. His reputation as a novelist has whipsawed wildly and is still far from secure (there are strong partisans on both sides of the issue), but few dispute his acuity and fine-honed judgments as a literary critic. In this collection, certainly, it is where he is at his very best. His pieces on Joyce, Waugh, Flann O—Brien, and more are without exception full of fresh insights and provocative elucidations. Still, he is almost as good when he ranges farther and farther afield. From composers to architects such as Gaudi to movie stars to cultural differences, great cities, and any number of other subjects, his sheer, informed range and the breadth and play of his ideas are truly daunting. Burgess disciplined himself to write 1,000 words a day, and given that kind of productivity and the momentary nature, frankly acknowledged by Burgess, of these pieces, the occasional misfire is excusable. His pieces on his boyhood in Manchester are particularly weak. There are also a number or repetitions and recyclings, particularly his musings on the life of the novelist and the differences between the French and the English (one intellection—a second-hand one at that—on the saving stupidity of the Brits, appears at least five times). Though the whiff of Grub Street wafts across many of these pages, they are far more thought-provoking, polished, and richly readable than the usual harried, written-for-money pieces most writers crank out. We can only hope that this is not the last of Burgess’s literary remains.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-7867-0568-X
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Carroll & Graf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1998


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