Angus Wilson was a critic, lecturer and man of letters. Pre-eminently though he was a novelist, indeed, in the words of Paul Bailey 'no other novelist of his generation offered as complete and detailed a portrait of English society'. His first volume of stories, "The Wrong Set" (1949) - reissued in Faber Finds - launched Wilson as one of the most ...
Angus Wilson was a critic, lecturer and man of letters. Pre-eminently though he was a novelist, indeed, in the words of Paul Bailey 'no other novelist of his generation offered as complete and detailed a portrait of English society'. His first volume of stories, "The Wrong Set" (1949) - reissued in Faber Finds - launched Wilson as one of the most controversial, colourful and entertaining figures on the post-war literary scene, and he rapidly developed into a major novelist, maturing from enfant terrible to elder statesman in the process. Margaret Drabble's biography traces the influences of his bizarrely extended family, his years as a librarian at the British Museum - interrupted by a grim spell in the code-breaking huts at Bletchley Park - and his unexpected liberation as a writer. It portrays the dizzying progress of a writer and enthusiast whose work was at the forefront of English fiction for the second-half of the twentieth-century: above all it is a portrait of an artist of enormous courage, a man who confronted challenge to the very end. In his later years, he became both influence and mentor for a younger generation of writers, including Ian McEwan, Rose Tremain and Margaret Drabble herself. Margaret Drabble knew Angus Wilson from the late 1960s and her biography is enriched with personal knowledge and recollections. 'He has been fortunate in his biographer ...Altogether, with the assistance and consent of Tony Garrett, the dedicatee and second hero of the book, she has given a minute, intimate and candid account ...of Wilson's hectic life' - Frank Kermode, "London Review of Books". 'A solid tribute of scholarship and affection' - Penelope Fitzgerald, "Independent". 'No one interested in the story of modern fiction can fail to find this life fascinating. Its virtues - a bright, crowded canvas, warmth, a witty, polished style - are those of Wilson's novels ...Through it all shines so human a picturer of a courageous, doubting, eccentric, driven writer' - Jackie Wullschlager, "Financial Times".
Publishers Weekly, 1996-03-04 Drabble's biography (her only previous one was Arnold Bennett) has the dubious virtue of being the longest life of the late novelist (1913-1991) that readers are ever likely to encounter. Almost as many names are dropped in these pages as populate the London telephone directory. Yet the chatty but encyclopedic English gossip may be as entertaining as Drabble's glib ignorance of the U.S. is appalling (flamingoes in North Carolina, typhoons in Iowa?). Few details evoking the texture of Wilson's picaresque social, literary and openly gay life are omitted, from his early years in the British Museum to his globe-trotting as literary lion. Where this works is in the camp account of the once-secret Bletchley Park cryptographic center, in which Wilson spent WWII, and where the local shrink, hooked on his patient's dream-diary, suggested he was a born novelist. The backgrounds to Wilson's writings unfold amusingly, from his satirical masterpiece, Anglo-Saxon Attitudes (1956) to money-spinning prefaces to paperbacks of Dickens. The biographer, an esteemed novelist who turns up in Sir Angus's circle as early as 1969, materializes on some pages as "Drabble" and elsewhere as "I." Whether or not she makes her case that Wilson is as significant a novelist of his generation as Graham Greene, he emerges as a colorful character. Photos. (May)
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