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T.S. Eliot: An Imperfect Life

3.73  ·  Rating Details ·  123 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
In this "nuanced, discerning account of a life famously flawed in its search for perfection" (The New Yorker), Gordon captures Eliot's "complex spiritual and artistic history . . . with tact, diligence, and subtlety" (Boston Globe). Drawing on recently discovered letters, she addresses in full the issue of Eliot's anti-Semitism as well as the less-noted issue of his misogy ...more
Paperback, 752 pages
Published November 17th 2000 by W.W. Norton & Company (first published 1998)
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Paul Bryant
CELEBRITY DEATH MATCH # 3 : ANDREA DWORKIN VERSUS T S ELIOT

The 6 foot 4 Eliot, confident of victory, gazes down at his 5 foot 2 and grotesquely obese opponent and begins by sneering and quoting Jew-hating Early Church Fathers like Origen, Eusebius and John Chrysostotum. Dworkin kicks his feet away, he crumples like a flimsy argument, she smashes him in the mouth and stomps on his head, putting an end to his repulsiveness within 25 seconds. Man, that was quick. A huge fight breaks out in the crow
...more
James
Dec 16, 2014 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, biography
The beauty of this biography is how deftly Gordon weaves genesis and analysis of the poetry and plays into the narration of Eliot's life. There's no appreciable discussion of his criticism (which is unfortunate) but the Wasteland and the Four Quartets receive phenomenal treatments. These poems feel far more intimate and historical with the additional context her narrative contributes. Eliot was a flawed and physically battered man whose religiousness, though deep and abiding, never seemed more t ...more
John
Apr 21, 2008 John rated it it was amazing
Lyndall Gordon is among my very favorite biographers, and she is able to bring any of her subjects back to life, as it were. In this case, T.S. Eliot, not among my favorite persons by any stretch, but I was entirely engrossed in Gordon's biography, which has every thing I look for in a literary biography - how and why and individual writes.
Rachel Terry
Apr 23, 2010 Rachel Terry rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
I had only a vague idea about T.S. Eliot's life before I read this book. I thought he was British (wrong). I knew he wrote the cat poems immortalized on Broadway. I always liked his poetry in anthologies, and I read his Quartets in college, but to me he was just a name next to poetry titles and somehow associated with e.e. cummings (lower case mystical men without first names).

But now I know much more about Tom Eliot than I ever wanted to know. Lyndall Gordon is a thorough, insightful biographer
...more
Matt
Dec 29, 2012 Matt rated it it was amazing
My new gold standard for biography - insightful but ruthless, appreciative but not idolizing. This was the perfect book at the perfect time, stripping away layers of Eliot's impersonality and obfuscation while leaving the central mysteries intact. Yes, he could be a terrible human being: certainly not a personality anyone would want to model themselves after. But Gordon treats the art as art and allows the poet to speak for himself through his work, illuminating how his life and his works intert ...more
David James
Dec 15, 2016 David James rated it it was amazing
Gordon, Lyndall. The Imperfect Life of TS Eliot

The revised edition of Lyndall Gordon’s biography (2012) is a comprehensive account of Eliot’s life, dealing mainly with his life in England, and including five appendices plus a profusion of Notes. It is however a fascinating insight into the mind and art of Eliot, his many masks and his difficulties with women, especially those whom he served badly. The book reads rather like a mystery-thriller, the ‘real’ Eliot being kept under wraps until the en
...more
Ci
Jul 22, 2016 Ci rated it really liked it
This book comprised of two segments of T.S. Eliot's life: the first half up the final ending of his first marriage, then the rest. The first half is much more engaging as it deals with arguably the most fertile period of the poet's life as well as the tortuous marriage with Vivienne. At half way, TSE was already an artist formed in his intelligence and his spirituality, if not quite certain what to do with his disturbed and disturbing first wife.

The author has a highly accomplished literary sty
...more
Jon
A well written and insightful (if slightly repetitive) biography of one of the most important artists of the 20th Century. I have a particular obsession with Eliot, but I would still recommend to most everyone.
Bikewriter
Sep 05, 2012 Bikewriter rated it it was ok
Thomas Stearns Eliot was a Nobel Prize winning poet and literary critic best known for The Waste Land, and other works. Gordon's work is a tediously-researched and equally-tediously written analysis of two earlier biographies of the man's life and writings which some apparently find psychologically titillating. It was too tedious for my enjoyment, although, sans all the psychological speculation, it would have been much shorter and much more readable.
Abby
Feb 06, 2011 Abby rated it liked it
Gordon is a stellar biographer: meticulous, curious, witty, and even-handed -- here at times to a fault. Eliot is far from a likeable character, but Gordon goes to pains to give context, colour, and the benefit of the doubt to all of his bad behaviour. She spends at least as much time on his work as on his life and has a breath-taking command of both. Despite her best efforts, it's difficult to enjoy the book simply because Eliot is so unsympathetic. If that's genius, God save me from it.
DoctorM
Now--- rather a good biography. But at this particular instant, what I'm seeing in my mind's eye is Willem Dafoe in a straw boater singing a Gilbert & Sullivan-y song that goes---

My name is Tom Eliot,
I am a Modernist poet.
My first wife was a lunatic,
And I am an anti-semite...


I...can't...stop...hearing...the...song.
Noah
May 02, 2007 Noah rated it really liked it
Shelves: eliot_studies
At this point, probably the definitive biography of Eliot. Gordon transitions often and well between the biographical and the critical, a la Richard Ellmann, though there is little original in the literary analysis. Much more central to this account of Eliot's life than Ackroyd's is the figure of Emily Hale.
Lauren Albert
I don't know what to make of this. Gordon gives the reader in-depth looks at certain key figures in Eliot's life but gives short shrift to others (Pound, for instance). She constantly draws analogies from the literature of Hawthorne, James, etc. It felt like a mish mash to me.
Duncan M Simpson
Aug 03, 2016 Duncan M Simpson rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
A well written biography, not afraid to link the story of his life with his poetry. Used to be a very unfashionable approach which I am pleased to see is fading away. Poet's are people and their poetry links to the life they led.
Walker
Nov 19, 2007 Walker rated it really liked it
This is no straightforward biography; you've got to be familiar with the scope and sequence of Eliot's poems and plays to get the full benefit of this extensive work. It's formidable, but satisfactory.
Dana Vincent
Aug 10, 2008 Dana Vincent rated it really liked it
Even if TS Eliot is not exactly on the brain, this book is so well and smartly written you'll enjoy reading it...as good as good fiction.
Amanda
Aug 11, 2014 Amanda rated it liked it
He was a strange guy, that T.S. Eliot. I think Gordon was a little forgiving of him but generally writes a very interesting biography of a hard to understand character.
Mike Benoit
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Nov 16, 2016
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May 23, 2015
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Ravivarma Naduvilidam rated it it was amazing
Nov 29, 2011
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Jan 31, 2009
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Aug 22, 2007
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Dec 16, 2013
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Lyndall Gordon (born 4 November 1941) is a British-based writer and academic, known for her literary biographies. She is a Senior Research Fellow at St Hilda's College, Oxford.

Born in Cape Town, she was an undergraduate at the University of Cape Town, then a doctoral student at Columbia University in New York City. She married the pathologist Siamon Gordon; they have two daughters.

Gordon is the au
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