The Tragedy of Arthur

The Tragedy of Arthur

3.8 14
by Arthur Phillips
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

The Tragedy of Arthur is an emotional and elaborately constructed tour de force from bestselling and critically acclaimed novelist Arthur Phillips, “one of the best writers in America” (The Washington Post).

Its doomed hero is Arthur Phillips, a young man struggling with a larger-than-life father, a con artist who works wonders of

See more details below

Overview

The Tragedy of Arthur is an emotional and elaborately constructed tour de force from bestselling and critically acclaimed novelist Arthur Phillips, “one of the best writers in America” (The Washington Post).

Its doomed hero is Arthur Phillips, a young man struggling with a larger-than-life father, a con artist who works wonders of deception but is a most unreliable parent. Arthur is raised in an enchanted world of smoke and mirrors where the only unshifting truth is his father’s and his beloved twin sister’s deep and abiding love for the works of William Shakespeare—a love so pervasive that Arthur becomes a writer in a misguided bid for their approval and affection.

Years later, Arthur’s father, imprisoned for decades and nearing the end of his life, shares with Arthur a treasure he’s kept secret for half a century: a previously unknown play by Shakespeare, titled The Tragedy of Arthur. But Arthur and his sister also inherit their father’s mission: to see the play published and acknowledged as the Bard’s last great gift to humanity. . . .

Unless it’s their father’s last great con.

By turns hilarious and haunting, this virtuosic novel—which includes Shakespeare’s (?) lost King Arthur play in its five-act entirety—captures the very essence of romantic and familial love and betrayal. The Tragedy of Arthur explores the tension between storytelling and truth-telling, the thirst for originality in all our lives, and the act of literary mythmaking, both now and four centuries ago, as the two Arthurs—Arthur the novelist and Arthur the ancient king—play out their individual but strangely intertwined fates.

New York Times Notable Book • A New Yorker Reviewers’ Favorite of the Year • A Wall Street Journal Best Novel of the Year • A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year • A Chicago Tribune Favorite Book of the Year • A Library Journal Top Ten Book of the Year • A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year • One of Salon’s five best novels of the year

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A long-lost Shakespeare play surfaces in Phillips's wily fifth novel, a sublime faux memoir framed as the introduction to the play's first printing—a Modern Library edition, of course. Arthur Phillips and his twin sister, Dana, maintained an uncommon relationship with their gregarious father, a forger whose passion for the bard and for creating magic in the everyday (he takes his kids to make crop circles one night) leave lasting impressions on them both: Dana becomes a stage actress and amateur Shakespeare expert; Arthur a writer who "never much liked Shakespeare." Their father spends most of their lives in prison, but when he's about to be released as a frail old man, he enlists Arthur in securing the publication of The Tragedy of Arthur from an original quarto he claims to have purloined from a British estate decades earlier, though, as the authentication process wears on—successfully—Arthur becomes convinced the play is his father's greatest scam. Along the way, Arthur riffs on his career and ex-pat past, and, most excruciatingly, unpacks his relationship with Dana and his own romantic flailings. Then there's the play itself, which reads not unlike something written by the man from Stratford-upon-Avon. It's a tricky project, funny and brazen, smart and playful. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
“[Balances] a moving story of familial and romantic love on a deliberately unsteady fictional edifice . . . [an] exuberant chimera of a novel.”—The New Yorker
 
“Splendidly devious.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Wily and witty . . . an engrossing family saga [with] sparkling and imaginative prose. Shakespeare would applaud a man who does him so proud.”—The Boston Globe
 
“Arthur Phillips has found the perfect vehicle for his cerebral talents: his ingenuity; his bright, elastic prose; and, most notably, his penchant for pastiche—for pouring his copious literary gifts into old vessels and reinventing familiar genres.”—The New York Times
 
“Devious and exhilarating . . . an irresistible family drama bundled into an exploration of fraud and authenticity.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
“A circus of a novel, full of wit, pathos and irrepressible intelligence.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
 
“The story of a family that is Shakespearean in several senses . . . [The Tragedy of Arthur] contains literary echoes of Nabokov, Stoppard and even . . . Thomas Pynchon.”—San Francisco Chronicle

Library Journal
A memoir and a Shakespearean play wrapped into a novel? Who could pull this off but the prolific Phillips (Prague; The Egyptologist; Angelica; The Song Is You)? The narrator—a knockoff of the author himself?—relates the obsession of his father and twin sister with the Bard of Avon and the discovery within the family of a hitherto unknown play by none other than. Our narrator then recounts the tribulations of family life, centered on his dad's frequent incarcerations for forgeries of artworks (and plays?). At length the father persuades his son the narrator to sell the play, and it is bought by—you guessed it—with the understanding that the narrator would pen an introduction to contextualize the play, the "introduction" becoming the memoir that is considerably longer than the play. This drama, The Tragedy of Arthur, is presented in full herewith, duly annotated by both the narrator and an academic. The Bard would be amused to be set center-stage by someone who professes to have no patience with him, while the narrator pokes wicked fun at the ubiquitous memoir genre. VERDICT Highly recommended for all who enjoy inspired, original, entertaining writing—deftly delivered here by one of our most talented arthurs, uh, authors. [An LJ Editors' Pick, p. 29; see Prepub Alert, 11/22/10.]—Edward Cone, New York
Michiko Kakutani
…Arthur Phillips has found the perfect vehicle for his cerebral talents: his ingenuity; his bright, elastic prose; and, most notably, his penchant for pastiche—for pouring his copious literary gifts into old vessels and reinventing familiar genres…With The Tragedy of Arthur Mr. Phillips has created a wonderfully tricky Chinese puzzle box of a novel that is as entertaining as it is brainy. If its characters are a little emotionally predictable, we don't mind all that much: we're more interested in seeing how the author cuts and sands his puzzle pieces, assembles them into a pretty contraption and then inserts lots of mirrors and false bottoms.
—The New York Times
Stephen Greenblatt
…the novelist's art is a cunning ability to lure the reader into treating counterfeit bills as if they were current. And this particular novel—a fictional memoir posing as a fraudulent introduction to a forged play—is a spectacular instance of the confidence game. It is a tribute to Arthur Phillips's singular skill that his work leaves the reader not with resentment at having been tricked but rather with gratitude for the gift of feigned wonder.
—The New York Times Book Review
Michael Dirda
I suspect that most readers will greatly enjoy Phillips's easygoing and digressive, if admittedly self-absorbed introduction. Just think of the joyless academic prose that a professional Elizabethan might have produced!…The Tragedy of Arthur, however you view it, shows off a writer at the top of his game.
—The Washington Post

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400066476
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/19/2011
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
6.34(w) x 9.48(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Arthur Phillips is the internationally bestselling author of The Song Is You, which was a New York Times Notable Book and named one of the best novels of the year by The Washington Post; Angelica; The Egyptologist; and Prague, which was also a New York Times Notable Book and the winner of the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. He lives in New York with his wife and two sons.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
New York, New York
Date of Birth:
April 23, 1969
Place of Birth:
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Education:
B.A., Harvard College, 1990
Website:
http://www.arthurphillips.info/

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >