Reading the 20th Century discussion

World Within World: The Autobiography of Stephen Spender
This topic is about World Within World
Favourite Authors > Stephen Spender

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Judy (last edited Aug 31, 2018 12:00PM) (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4675 comments Mod
Following on from a discussion in one of our general threads, here is a new thread for poet Stephen Spender

Stephen Spender

Just copying over Greg's post from the other thread:

"For me, World Within World is without any question the best autobiography in English written in the twentieth century." These words are by John Bayley that begin the Introduction to
World Within World: The Autobiography of Stephen Spender

A big call? No I think not from the beginning of the book I've read so far. Incredibly impressed at the start by the quality and insight of Spender's writing.
"With my father it was as though his sense of the dramatic made him inhabit a world of rhetorical situations. Everything for him was a scene in a play written by some rhetorical journalist. If I had to play football, he impressed on me that this was to harden the tissues of my character. His own accomplishments were to him difficulties surmounted with unflinching resolution at the cost of infinite pains. He spoke often in parables which illustrated the point that life was a personal confronting of oneself with vague immensities. He told me that once when he climbed a mountain, the peasant who kept a hut at the top asked him and his friends why they climbed. This why (Pourquoi? she had asked) became for my father the question at the centre of the universe. Whence the spirit of adventure? Why does man essay to scale the stars?"

I found this Modern Library hardback in as-new condition for $2 at a caravan park book swap.

Do we have a thread for Stephen Spender?
An important writer who was initially one who went to Germany with Isherwood.

I like that Spender cuts to the chase at the start of his autobiography. As he says himself in the Author's Introduction "Many autobiographies have irritated me, when I wanted to read about the writer's achievements, by beginning with a detailed account of his early days, forcing me to wade through a morass of ancestors, nurses, governesses, first memories, before I get to what really interests me."

Spender wrote this autobiography between 1947 and 1950 when he was forty, 'wrote much of it on Frieda Lawrence's ranch two thousand meters above Taos, New Mexico.' He shared the first week at the ranch with Leonard Bernstein.

message 2: by Judy (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4675 comments Mod
Spender is also one of the authors whose experiences in Germany during the immediate post-war period feature in a book coming up soon as a buddy read, The Bitter Taste of Victory: Life, Love, and Art in the Ruins of the Reich.

message 3: by Judy (last edited Aug 31, 2018 12:02PM) (new)

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 4675 comments Mod
I tried to put Stephen Spender's name in the "this topic is about" box, but the Goodreads system only offers a few choices for these, and would only suggest Stephen King or a few books by Spender! I therefore put his book World Within World: The Autobiography of Stephen Spender in as the subject of the thread - at least it means the topic will show up on that book's page.

message 4: by Susan (new)

Susan | 10646 comments Mod
I have meant to read A House in St John’s Wood: In Search of My Parents A House in St John’s Wood In Search of My Parents by Matthew Spender by Matthew Spender for a long while.

An intimate portrait of Stephen Spender’s extraordinary life written by Matthew Spender, shifting between memoir and biography, with new insights drawn from personal recollections and his father’s copious unpublished archives.

Stephen Spender's life is a vivid snapshot of the twentieth century. Making friends with Auden and Isherwood while at Oxford, together they enjoyed adventures in Europe, becoming early opponents of the rise of fascism. Whilst pioneering modern poetry, Stephen later produced propaganda for the war effort – establishing an enduring reputation for mysterious activity. Despite marrying Natasha Litvin, an ambitious young concert pianist, Stephen was often entangled with young men and never able to reveal his secrets, leaving her to introspective questions, as the artistic world of London circled them. In this elegant memoir, his son Matthew offers an intimate portrait of a father, a marriage and an extraordinary life.

I think I nominated it once in BYT's, but it gathered no interest, sadly.

message 5: by Susan (new)

Susan | 10646 comments Mod

Here is a review, in case anyone is tempted...

Greg | 134 comments Thanks Judy for a great job setting up the Stephen Spender thread.

Also thanks Susan for the details on the Matthew Spender memoir biography.

back to top