This noteworthy compendium of British writer Boyd's nonfiction work of the last 25 years is a cornucopia of critical opinion, memoir and social commentary. In addition to their insights on contemporary culture, many of these pieces illuminate aspects of Boyd's novels and short stories. In fact, Boyd (A Good Man in Africa) expresses surprise about how much autobiographical material has "crept into" his work. While some of his subjects will be of less interest to American than British readers, his critical essays on such icons as Woody Allen, Toni Morrison and Kurt Vonnegut, his reflections on the New York scene, American art and a Georgia town called Tallapoosa are refreshing opinions from a foreigner's perspective. He owns up to enjoying the hoax he perpetrated by inventing and assessing the paintings of a fictitious artist called Nat Tate, and there are lively accounts of how the duke and duchess of Windsor became characters in his novel Any Human Heart. Certain preoccupations become evident. No less than seven essays on Evelyn Waugh reflect Boyd's confessed "obsession" with and ambivalence toward the man and his work. At 500-plus pages, this volume is perfect for a bedside table, to be read for sustained excellence of observation and lucidity of prose. (Nov.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Essays and reviews by Whitbread Award-winning Boyd (Restless, 2006, etc.) showcase an itinerant sensibility and imagination. The British author certainly covers a lot of territory in this bulky collection covering 25 years and "seven broad subjects: Life, Literature, Art, Africa, Film, Television and People and Places." Regrettably, he frequently skims the surface of these subjects and appears uninterested in avoiding either cliches or redundancy. But some gems shine from the sludge. Under the heading "Life," we find drearily predictable details about childhood years in Africa and boarding-school ordeals, as well as the first use of an annoying A-to-Z format Boyd unaccountably favors. But we also find a lively account of "The Eleven-Year War" between the author and a borderline-unscrupulous publisher. Moving on to "Literature," Boyd deflates reputations he considers undeserved (Muriel Spark, Richard Yates) and applauds such favorites as William Golding, W.H. Auden and Evelyn Waugh (he's written about Waugh incessantly and, often enough, incisively). The quality ranges from a banal essay on "The Short Story" to a trenchant appreciation of Dickens's underrated comic masterpiece Martin Chuzzlewit. "Art," the most interesting section, offers informative examinations of once-famous British painter Graham Sutherland and French masters Braque and Monet, as well as a nifty report on the farcical "Nat Tate" hoax perpetrated by Boyd himself. "Film and Television" gathers ho-hum celebrity profiles and reviews, yet Boyd sparkles in a knowledgeable assessment of the biopic Basquiat, whose eponymous subject seems to him "a sort of latter-day, low grade, Manhattan Faust."The essays on art and artistsare distinctive and interesting; everything else is pretty generic.
From the Publisher
“There's hardly a writer around whose work offers more pleasure and satisfaction.” Washington Post
“A daring craftsman, a writer who allows the scope of his work to expand to the point of bursting.” Los Angeles Times Book Review
“[Boyd has] an exceptional ability to tell a really compelling story, in dense imaginative detail, about characters with complex, and convincing, emotional lives.” Los Angeles Times Book Review
“A gutsy writer…William Boyd is good company to keep.” Time
“One of the most skillful and appealing writers at work today.” Atlantic Monthly