Ambrose Bierce: Alone in Bad Company

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A lively and compelling portrait of one of the most acerbic and distinctive voices in American literature, Ambrose Bierce: Alone in Bad Company is a clear-eyed but sympathetic account of a complex individual at odds with his country, his family, his times, and himself.
The only American writer of any stature to fight in and survive the Civil War, Bierce discovered in the conflict a bitter confirmation of his darkest assumptions about man and his nature. Profoundly disillusioned, Bierce spent the next fifty years struggling to disabuse his fellow Americans of their own cherished ideals—be they romantic, religious, or political. His groundbreaking short stories of the war, including his most famous work, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," have had a lasting influence on every subsequent American author dealing with war. And the heartless, hilarious aphorisms in his caustic lexicon The Devil's Dictionary have entered, often uncredited, our national consciousness.
In this insightful, critically acclaimed biography, the first comprehensive study in almost fifty years, Roy Morris, Jr., accounts for both the influential art that Ambrose Bierce made from a harsh and unforgiving vision—and the high price he had to pay for it in loneliness, rancor, and spiritual isolation.

A lively and compelling portrait of one of the most acerbic and distinctive voices in American literature, this book is a clear-eyed but sympathetic account of a complex individual at odds with his country, his family, his times, and himself.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Roy Morris Jr. has written a rousingly good life of a lesser but still captivating American figure."—Washington Post Book World
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This objective study of Bierce (1842- 1914), a journalist and short-story writer, draws a parallel between the sardonic writer's dark vision and his unhappy life. According to Morris (Sheridan) the depression Bierce developed during a lonely and unhappy Indiana childhood intensified after his Civil War experiences as a Union Army officer, and Bierce later memoralized it in the short stories ``An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge'' and ``Chickamuuga.'' Employing careful research, Morris traces his subject's career as a newspaperman in San Francisco and London, where Bierce became known for his articles pilloring a variety of targets including war, religion, poets and politicians, and for penning The Devil's Dictionary, a compilation of cynical definitions. His abusive personality lost him many friends and ended his marriage. The untimely deaths of two of his three children only heightened his misery. In 1913 he disappeared into revolution-torn Mexico and was never heard from again. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Morris, the editor of the journal America's Civil War and author of Sheridan: The Life and Wars of General Phil Sheridan (Crown, 1992), has written an intriguing and deeply felt biography of Bierce. Bierce, in his much-quoted The Devil's Dictionary (1906), defined friendless as "having no favors to bestow. Destitute of fortune. Addicted to utterance of truth and common sense." To many, this was Bierce: dissector of politicians, women, ministers, Christmas, journalists, babies, writers, dogs, and "that immortal ass, the average man." An existential sense of aloneness pervaded Bierce's life from childhood to death, which apparently came in 1913 when he disappeared in war-ravaged Mexico. His remains have never been found. Bierce always believed that part of him died in the Civil War, especially when he considered his horror at Shiloh and Chickamauga. His writings of those experiences influenced countless authors from Crane to Hemingway. Morris intertwines deftly Bierce's writings with an account of his life and times. Recommended for public libraries.-Robert L. Kelly, Ft. Wayne Community Schs., Ind.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195126280
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 3/28/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Roy Morris, Jr., is the editor of America's Civil War and the author of Sheridan: The Life and Wars of General Phil Sheridan. He lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

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