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The Man Behind the Book
     

The Man Behind the Book

by Louis Auchincloss
 
Louis Auchincloss, recently hailed as " a psychologist, social observer, and historian rolled into one," combines all three roles yet again to bring us a unique collection of literary essays. With all the wisdom and mastery he brings to his fiction, he profiles the life and work of twenty-three diverse and talented authors, ranging from such masters as Henry James to

Overview

Louis Auchincloss, recently hailed as " a psychologist, social observer, and historian rolled into one," combines all three roles yet again to bring us a unique collection of literary essays. With all the wisdom and mastery he brings to his fiction, he profiles the life and work of twenty-three diverse and talented authors, ranging from such masters as Henry James to those less well known, such as Ivy Compton-Burnett and Dumas fils. Chosen not for their popularity but for their impact on Auchincloss himself, the writers profiled here make up an important installment in literary history. The Man Behind the Book is one of Auchincloss's most engaging and personal works to date. Essential to Auchincloss's loyal followers and a rare treat for fans of literary history, The Man Behind the Book offers a wealth of delights from the pen of one of the most distinguished, prolific, and entertaining standard-bearers of American letters.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Perhaps inspired by 17th-century writer John Aubrey's Brief Lives, Auchincloss-with more than 50 books of fiction and nonfiction to his credit-has written a highly personal collection of critical and biographical sketches of 23 writers who have, he says, "at one point or another of my life... meant a great deal to me as a reader and writer." In spite of the title, six of the writers are women. As Auchincloss points out, the "men" behind the book have little in common, and not all can be regarded as major literary figures. They range from Cyril Tournier, an almost unknown contemporary of Shakespeare, through Anne Bront, Alexandre Dumas, Sarah Orne Jewett and Harold Frederic to Amy Lowell, Harold Nicholson and Robert E. Sherwood. Some of them he knew personally, but his most common approach is to quote liberally to show how the writers reveal something of themselves in their work. The tone throughout is graceful, appreciative and a bit avuncular. The observations can be pointed. He describes Maxwell Anderson, for example, as a "deft craftsman who couldn't write a bad scene or a great play." Walter Pater is praised for being a great stylist who "wasn't afraid to sound corny." Four of the profiles have been published previously. (Dec.)
Library Journal
Most of the authors to whom the prolific novelist (The Education of Oscar Fairfax, LJ 8/95) and literary historian Auchincloss devotes several pages each in this collection will not be familiar to American readers, though they were popular in their day (the 19th and early 20th century, on average). In his brief introductory note, Auchincloss does not explain why his subjects have "meant a great deal to me as a reader and writer"; neither does he explain his title, which would exclude the numerous women he writes about (Anne Bront, Sarah Orne Jewett, etc.). The essays on Lord Bryce (The American Commonwealth, 1888), John Walter Cross (George Eliot's second husband), and Robert Herrick (The Memoirs of an American Citizen, 1905), for example, are most helpful in illuminating now-obscure but nonetheless fascinating lives, while too often Auchincloss's favorites flounder in eccentricity. The essays on more prominent figures Walter Pater and Henry James suffer from brevity and sarcasm. Still, though the essays have an unavoidably dilettantish ring, Auchincloss is to be commended for unearthing literature that may never again see the light of day.-Amy Boaz, "Library Journal"

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780395827482
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
Publication date:
12/02/1996
Pages:
192
Product dimensions:
5.99(w) x 8.55(h) x 0.83(d)

Meet the Author

Louis Auchincloss was honored in the year 2000 as a "Living Landmark" by the New York Landmarks Conservancy. He has written more than sixty books, including the story collection Manhattan Monologues and the novel The Rector of Justin. The president of the Academy of Arts and Letters, he resides in New York City.

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