A biography that rounds out a writer whose life has been distorted by the mythic proportions of his experiences.



A discerning psychological reading of a highly fraught writer's life.

Meyers (Gary Cooper, 1998, etc.) sifts through Orwell's celebrated adventures, finding strands of anxiety that influenced his great works. To begin with, Orwell's father was no authority figure: a mid-level civil servant in British India, he made little money overseeing the cultivation of opium and was absent for most of his son's childhood. In grammar school and at Eton, Orwell suffered from his status as a scholarship boy, succeeding academically but socially never fitting in. Despite his antipathy toward his father and the culture of his public school, however, Orwell went on to join the Burmese Imperial Police—a sign of the grip his background had on him. Meyers argues that this conflict recurred throughout Orwell's life. He was regularly caught between a sense of duty and his own unique, and often critical, perspective of the institutions that influenced him. Meyers links this analysis with allusions to fiction and essays (like "Shooting an Elephant") to show how art took its cue from life. Tramping around France and England—dropping out of life, pitching the dilemma entirely—helped resolve this conflict enough for him to work as a schoolmaster and write his first book. Leaving everything behind and taking the big risk (i.e., fighting in the Spanish Civil War) inaugurated the blossoming of his career, however. He overcame his feelings of inadequacy and began actively developing his political theories, asserting that totalitarianism on both the Left and Right were jeopardizing democracy and individualism. The gentler side of Orwell comes out in Meyers’s discussion of his family life. His rather mundane (yet sweet) courting of Eileen O'Shaughnessy, the strain WWII placed on the marriage, and their adoption of a son placed Orwell in a rare role. He seemed wide-eyed and open, a far cry from his usual self-tormented or icily perceptive self.

A biography that rounds out a writer whose life has been distorted by the mythic proportions of his experiences.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-393-04792-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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