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Bernard Shaw: The One-Volume Definitive Edition
     

Bernard Shaw: The One-Volume Definitive Edition

by Michael Holroyd
 

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When Michael Holroyd's multivolume life of Bernard Shaw was published, it was hailed as a masterpiece, and William Golding predicted that it would take its place "among the great biographies." Now the biography is available for the first time in a lively and accessible abridgment by the author. This is the quintessence of Shaw. The narrative has a new verve and pace,

Overview

When Michael Holroyd's multivolume life of Bernard Shaw was published, it was hailed as a masterpiece, and William Golding predicted that it would take its place "among the great biographies." Now the biography is available for the first time in a lively and accessible abridgment by the author. This is the quintessence of Shaw. The narrative has a new verve and pace, and the light and shade of Shaw's world are more dramatically revealed as Holroyd counterpoints the private and public Shaw with inimitable insight and scholarship.
        Playwright, wit, socialist, polemicist, vegetarian, and irresistible charmer, Bernard Shaw was the most controversial literary figure of his age, the scourge of Victorian values and middle-class pretensions. Born in Dublin in 1856, he grew up there, a lonely child in an unsettling ménage à trois. His father, George Carr Shaw, had turned to drink, and his mother was muse to a Svengali-like music teacher whom she followed to London. The young Shaw, anxious to escape his heritage, also left for London to reinvent himself as the legendary G.B.S.—novelist, lover, politician, music critic, and finally playwright. From his first passionate affair with a beautiful middle-aged widow, he moved on to flirtations and liaisons with young actresses and socialists before finally settling into marriage in 1898.
        At the turn of the century, Shaw was in his prime, a theatrical impresario and author of those great campaigning plays—Man and Superman, Major Barbara, The Doctor's Dilemma, and John Bull's Other Island—that used laughter as an anestheticfor the operation he performed on British society. By 1914 the author of Pygmalion was the most popular writer in England, and increasingly recognized throughout Europe and America. Though ready with advice to others on how to stay married, he fell painfully in love with two of the most dazzling actresses of the age, Ellen Terry and Mrs. Patrick Campbell.
        The reluctant recipient of a Nobel Prize for literature and an Academy Award for his screenplay for Pygmalion, Shaw became an international icon between the two world wars, feted from China and Soviet Russia to India and New Zealand, though still contriving to provoke the establishment in the United States, South Africa, and Ireland. In old age he was vigorous and prolific, espousing many new and quixotic causes. He revealed himself increasingly as conjurer, fabulist, and seer through his powerful late works, including Saint Joan, the Chekhovian Heartbreak House, the modernist fantasy Back to Methuselah, and the imaginative dream plays and political extravaganzas.
        Covering almost a century, from 1856 to 1950, this unparalleled life of Shaw presents the magnificent double portrait of an age and of a man who was born fifty years too soon. Holroyd magically captures the essence of Shaw's protean genius in a tragicomedy that

Editorial Reviews

Michael Anderson
...Shaw's 50 dramatic works [are] summarized and commented upon, along with his novels, prefaces and pamphlets.
The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This massive biography, arranged thematically rather than chronologically, discusses Shaw's mariage blanc ; his love affairs via correspondence; the composition and popularity of his plays, including "The Doctor's Dilemma" and "Pygmalion"; and his battles with censorship. ``Contrasted to Shaw's sparkling, energetic style, Holroyd's own contribution seems disappointingly pedestrian,'' said PW.
Library Journal
George Bernard Shaw was both an extraordinary man and an extraordinary playwright, living for almost a full century (1856-1950). Such longevity and talent justify the four-volume biography that Holroyd wrote a decade ago. But, one can argue, while research institutions require that sort of depth, the average person does not. This new one-volume abridgment of the original biography affords a highly readable, interesting, shorter "life" that will benefit both the casual reader and undergraduate student. Since the abridgment has 813 pages of text and a 20-page index, the reader will not feel short-changed. Recommended for all public, college, and school libraries. (Photos not seen.)--Susan L. Peters, Emory Univ. Lib., Atlanta

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375500497
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/18/1998
Series:
Bernard Shaw Ser.: Collected Letters
Edition description:
ABRIDGED
Pages:
704
Product dimensions:
6.62(w) x 9.64(h) x 2.08(d)

Meet the Author

Michael Holroyd has written celebrated biographies of Hugh Kingsmill, Augustus John, and Bernard Shaw, as well as the acclaimed Basil Street Blues and Mosaic. He lives in London with his wife.

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