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3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  30 ratings  ·  4 reviews
A masterful biography of one of the greatest English poets and most compelling literary figures of the 20th century, Auden is the first to take the full measure of the poet's achievements, his insatiable thirst for experience, his navigation between the needs of discipline and the lure of his addictions and lusts.
Hardcover, 406 pages
Published February 6th 1996 by Pantheon (first published October 16th 1995)
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"Auden rightly mistrusted this outlook that reduces aesthetics to gossip," writes this biographer in his prologue. "He loathed the trivialisation of literary biography . . . [and] was particularly shrewd to mistrust sexual tale-telling."

If this be true of Auden, I fear he would have shrunk from this particular account of his own life--an unfortunate and frequently graphic commentary on his sexuality. Nearly every page I read or skimmed (and I stopped reading once this became apparent) was almost
Chronological biography, tracing themes, influences, techniques and periodic changes in Auden's work. Things I learned: his fascination with industrial landscape, Freud, and Christianity; he wrote plays and librettos, collaborating with Stravinsky and Brecht; his antagonism to subjective, "confessional" poetry--ironically enough, the biography (necessarily) details some of the less savory decisions, positions, and attitudes Auden took, but usually with the purpose of investigating how he'd re-in ...more
A really fascinating portrait of one of my favorite poets, it made me return to my Collected Works, which is always fun, and illuminated a lot of the relationships that Auden alludes to in his work, without feeling like an extended gossip column (which must have been hard.) Not a fluff peice at all it gave me the impression that though I adore his writing and his philosophy, I probably would not have enjoyed spending any extended period of time with Auden the man. Also hilariously highlights the ...more
Malini Sridharan
Civilized gossip, cursory literary analysis. To be fair, that is probably all that would fit into 350-ish pages. In order to satisfy me, an Auden biographer would have to embody the best qualities of Robert Caro and Helen Gardner.
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