The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland


Robert Douglas-Fairhurst - 2015
    Drawing on numerous unpublished sources, he examines in detail the peculiar friendship between the Oxford mathematician Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) and Alice Liddell, the child for whom he invented the Alice stories, and analyzes how this relationship stirred Carroll s imagination and influenced the creation of Wonderland. It also explains why "Alice in Wonderland" (1865) and its sequel, "Through the Looking-Glass" (1871), took on an unstoppable cultural momentum in the Victorian era and why, a century and a half later, they continue to enthrall and delight readers of all ages."The Story of Alice" reveals Carroll as both an innovator and a stodgy traditionalist, entrenched in habits and routines. He had a keen double interest in keeping things moving and keeping them just as they are. (In Looking-Glass Land, Alice must run faster and faster just to stay in one place.) Tracing the development of the Alice books from their inception in 1862 to Liddell s death in 1934, Douglas-Fairhurst also provides a keyhole through which to observe a larger, shifting cultural landscape: the birth of photography, changing definitions of childhood, murky questions about sex and sexuality, and the relationship between Carroll s books and other works of Victorian literature.In the stormy transition from the Victorian to the modern era, Douglas-Fairhurst shows, Wonderland became a sheltered world apart, where the line between the actual and the possible was continually blurred."

These Fevered Days: Ten Pivotal Moments in the Making of Emily Dickinson


Martha Ackmann - 2020
    Despite spending her days almost entirely “at home” (the occupation listed on her death certificate), Dickinson’s interior world was extraordinary. She loved passionately, was ambivalent toward publication, embraced seclusion, and created 1,789 poems that she tucked into a dresser drawer.In These Fevered Days, Martha Ackmann unravels the mysteries of Dickinson’s life through ten decisive episodes that distill her evolution as a poet. Ackmann follows Dickinson through her religious crisis while a student at Mount Holyoke, her startling decision to ask a famous editor for advice, her anguished letters to an unidentified “Master,” her exhilarating frenzy of composition, and her terror in confronting possible blindness. Together, these ten days provide new insights into Dickinson’s wildly original poetry and render a concise and vivid portrait of American literature’s most enigmatic figure.

Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway’s Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises


Lesley M.M. Blume - 2016
    Then, over the next six weeks, he channeled that trip’s maelstrom of drunken brawls, sexual rivalry, midnight betrayals, and midday hangovers into his groundbreaking novel The Sun Also Rises. This revolutionary work redefined modern literature as much as it did his peers, who would forever after be called the Lost Generation. But the full story of Hemingway’s legendary rise has remained untold until now.  Lesley Blume resurrects the explosive, restless landscape of 1920s Paris and Spain and reveals how Hemingway helped create his own legend. He made himself into a death-courting, bull-fighting aficionado; a hard-drinking, short-fused literary genius; and an expatriate bon vivant. Blume’s vivid account reveals the inner circle of the Lost Generation as we have never seen it before, and shows how it still influences what we read and how we think about youth, sex, love, and excess.

Jackie Oh!


Kitty Kelley - 1979
    As the child of a bitter divorce brought up in socially impeccable but not opulent surroundings, she experienced real wealth and power upon her marriage to John F. Kennedy. As President and First Lady they brought glamour, youth and excitement to the White House. His assassination 1000 days later and her grace during that tragedy elevated her to revered status. For five years she was named the most admired woman in the world. Then the pedestal cracked with her marriage to Aristotle Onassis, the Greek billionaire. Still she remained the cynosure of international fascination and one of the legendary women of the 20th century.The author, Kitty Kelley, had extraordinary access to many Kennedy and Onassis intimates, including family members, who provided details never before made public about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, her relationship to her family, her marriage to John F. Kennedy, the other women in his life, and the dissolution of her marriage to Aristotle Onassis.Written with insight the book became an immediate New York Times best seller.

A Dab of Dickens A Touch of Twain: Literary Lives from Shakespeare's Old England to Frost's New England


Elliot Engel - 2002
    H. LAWRENCE • F. SCOTT FITZGERALD • ERNEST HEMINGWAY • ROBERT FROST They are icons of the literary world whose soaring works have been discussed and analyzed in countless classrooms, homes, and pubs. Yet for most readers, the living, breathing human beings behind the classics have remained unknown...until now! In this utterly captivating book, Dr. Elliot Engel, a foremost authority on the lives of great authors, illuminates the fascinating and flawed men and women of literature's elite. In lieu of stuffy biographical sketches A Dab of Dickens & A Touch of Twain reveals dozens of fascinating anecdotes: • Why Sir Arthur Conan Doyle blamed his wife's death on Sherlock Holmes • How Charles Dickens' pet launched Edgar Allan Poe on his way to literary immortality • The strange connection between Jane Austen and Ernest Hemingway • How Louisa May Alcott's attempt to get Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn banned backfired...and more! You'll never look at these literary giants the same way again.

Mistress Anne


Carolly Erickson - 1984
    Erickson's sensitivity to sexual and political nuance should well serve." Indeed, Carolly Erickson could have chosen no more fascinating and appropriate a subject. Alluring and profoundly enigmatic, Anne Boleyn has eluded the grasp of historians for centuries.Through her extraordinarily vivid re-creation of this most tragic chapter in all Tudor History, Carrolly Erickson gives us unprecedented insight into the singuarlity of Anne Boleyn's life, the dark and overwhelming forces that shaped her errant destiny, and the rare, tumultuous times in which she lived.

The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things


Paula Byrne - 2013
    Going beyond previous traditional biographies which have traced Austen's daily life from Steventon to Bath to Chawton to Winchester, Byrne's portrait-organized thematically and drawn from the most up-to-date scholarship and unexplored sources-explores the lives of Austen's extended family, friends, and acquaintances. Through their absorbing stories we view Austen on a much wider stage and discover unexpected aspects of her life and character. Byrne transports us to different worlds-the East Indies and revolutionary Paris-and different events-from a high society scandal to a petty case of shoplifting, She follows Austen on her extensive travels, setting her in contexts both global and English, urban and rural, political and historical, social and domestic-wider perspectives of vital and still under-estimated importance to her creative life.Literary scholarship has revealed that letters and tokens in Austen's novel's often signal key turning points in the unfolding narrative. This groundbreaking biography explores Jane's own story following the same principle. As Byrne reveals, small things in the writer's world-a scrap of paper, a simple gold chain, an ivory miniature, a bathing machine-hold significance in her emotional and artistic development. The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things introduces us to a woman deeply immersed in the world around her, yet far ahead of her time in her independence and ambition; to an author who was an astute commentator on human nature and the foibles of her own age. Rich and compelling, it is a fresh, insightful, and often surprising portrait of an artist and a vivid evocation of the complex world that shaped her.

Charles Dickens


Claire Tomalin - 2011
    When Charles Dickens died in 1870, The Times of London successfully campaigned for his burial in Westminster Abbey, the final resting place of England's kings and heroes. Thousands flocked to mourn the best recognized and loved man of nineteenth-century England. His books had made them laugh, shown them the squalor and greed of English life, and also the power of personal virtue and the strength of ordinary people. In his last years Dickens drew adoring crowds to his public appearances, had met presidents and princes, and had amassed a fortune.Like a hero from his novels, Dickens trod a hard path to greatness. Born into a modest middle-class family, his young life was overturned when his profligate father was sent to debtors' prison and Dickens was forced into harsh and humiliating factory work. Yet through these early setbacks he developed his remarkable eye for all that was absurd, tragic, and redemptive in London life. He set out to succeed, and with extraordinary speed and energy made himself into the greatest English novelist of the century.Years later Dickens's daughter wrote to the author George Bernard Shaw, "If you could make the public understand that my father was not a joyous, jocose gentleman walking about the world with a plum pudding and a bowl of punch, you would greatly oblige me." Seen as the public champion of household harmony, Dickens tore his own life apart, betraying, deceiving, and breaking with friends and family while he pursued an obsessive love affair.Charles Dickens: A Life gives full measure to Dickens's heroic stature-his huge virtues both as a writer and as a human being- while observing his failings in both respects with an unblinking eye. Renowned literary biographer Claire Tomalin crafts a story worthy of Dickens's own pen, a comedy that turns to tragedy as the very qualities that made him great-his indomitable energy, boldness, imagination, and showmanship-finally destroyed him. The man who emerges is one of extraordinary contradictions, whose vices and virtues were intertwined as surely as his life and his art.

Rousseau's Dog: Two Great Thinkers at War in the Age of Enlightenment


David Edmonds - 2006
    Meanwhile David Hume—now recognized as the foremost philosopher in the English language—was being universally lauded as a paragon of decency. And so Rousseau came to England with his beloved dog, Sultan, and willingly took refuge with his more respected counterpart. But within months, the exile was loudly accusing his benefactor of plotting to dishonor him—which prompted a most uncharacteristically violent response from Hume. And so began a remarkable war of words and actions that ensnared many of the leading figures in British and French society, and became the talk of intellectual Europe.Rousseau's Dog is the fascinating true story of the bitter and very public quarrel that turned the Age of Enlightenment's two most influential thinkers into deadliest of foes—a most human tale of compassion, treachery, anger, and revenge; of celebrity and its price; of shameless spin; of destroyed reputations and shattered friendships.

Henry VIII: The King and His Court


Alison Weir - 2001
    Never before has a detailed, personal biography of this charismatic monarch been set against the cultural, social, and political background of his glittering court. Now Alison Weir, author of the finest royal chronicles of our time, brings to vibrant life the turbulent, complex figure of the King. Packed with colorful description, meticulous in historical detail, rich in pageantry, intrigue, passion, and luxury, Weir brilliantly renders King Henry VIII, his court, and the fascinating men and women who vied for its pleasures and rewards. The result is an absolutely spellbinding read.

The Wives of Henry VIII


Antonia Fraser - 1992
    The result is a superb work of history through which these six women become as memorable for their own achievements--and mistakes--as they have always been for their fateful link to Henry VIII. Illustrations.

Behind Closed Doors


Hugo Vickers - 2011
    'Masterly . . . Hugo Vickers's long immersion in the history and dramatic personae of the Royal Family has certainly paid off' - Selina Hastings. 'A bulging plum pudding of insider snippets', commented Robert Lacey. 'An overall portrait which may well be as close as anyone will ever get to the truth', said Craig Brown. And A.N. Wilson added admiringly, 'There is a small handful of British royal biographies which have acquired classic status . . . It is a truly magnificent book. Hugo Vickers knows his subject through and through.' Hugo Vickers has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Royal Family, and has had a fascination with the story of the Duchess of Windsor since he was a young man. There have been a number of books about this doomed couple (and Channel 4 is very interested in doing a programme based on Hugo's text), but this book brings a new perspective on the story by focussing on the later years of exile.While Vickers has his own theories about the Abdication itself, and he makes it very clear that Mrs Simpson did not lure the King from the throne, the drama of this narrative comes from the criminal exploitation of an old sick woman after the death of her husband. She was ruthlessly exploited by a French lawyer called Suzanne Blum. Some members of the Royal Family, like Mountbatten and the Queen Mother, don't emerge with much credit either.Using previously unpublished papers and other personal testaments, Hugo Vickers relates a tragic story which has lost none of its resonance over the years since the Duchess died in 1986.

The Last Love Song: A Biography of Joan Didion


Tracy Daugherty - 2015
    They became wildly successful writing partners when they moved to Los Angeles and co-wrote screenplays and adaptations together. Didion is well-known for her literary journalistic style in both fiction and non-fiction. Some of her most-notable work includes Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Run River, and The Year of Magical Thinking, a National Book Award winner and shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize, it dealt with the grief surrounding Didion after the loss of her husband and daughter. Daugherty takes readers on a journey back through time, following a young Didion in Sacramento, through to her adult life as a writer interviewing those who know and knew her personally, while maintaining a respectful distance from the reclusive literary great. The Last Love Song reads like fiction; lifelong fans, and readers learning about Didion for the first time will be enthralled with this impressive tribute.

The World of Christopher Marlowe


David Riggs - 2005
    . . Superb."--Los Angeles TimesThe World of Christopher Marlowe is the story of the troubled genius, raised in the stench and poverty of Canterbury's abbatoirs, who revolutionized English drama and poetry, challenging and scandalizing English society before he was murdered in his prime. David Riggs, a prizewinning Elizabethan scholar, evokes the atmosphere and texture of Marlowe's life from his birth to his ties to the London underworld and his triumphs onstage. It was a time when nothing was sacred, and no one was secure. Espousing sexual freedom and atheism, Marlowe proved too great a threat to the religious and political leaders of the time, who were struggling to maintain their tenuous grip on power. In the wake of his untimely death, Marlowe would leave behind a shadowed legacy of undeniable genius. This magisterial work of reconstruction illuminates his enigmatic, contradictory, and glorious life with immense richness."The book engrossingly narrates the circumstantial details of Marlowe's life against a richly detailed backdrop. Riggs writes with scholarly yet conversational elegance . . . Enjoyably provides fresh insights into the life and work of this important poet and playwright." --San Francisco Chronicle"A worthy book . . . if you want an exhaustive account of the life and times, Riggs is your man."--The New York Times Book Review

Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein


Kathryn Harkup - 2018
    Frankenstein: Or, Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley had a huge impact on gothic horror and science fiction genres. The name Frankenstein has become part of our everyday language, often used in derogatory terms to describe scientists who have overstepped a perceived moral line. But how did a 19-year-old woman with no formal education come up with the idea for an extraordinary novel such as Frankenstein? The period of 1790-1820 saw huge advances in our understanding of electricity and physiology. Sensational science demonstrations caught the imagination of the general public, and newspapers were full of tales of murderers and resurrectionists.It is unlikely that Frankenstein would have been successful in his attempts to create life back in 1818. However, advances in medical science mean we have overcome many of the stumbling blocks that would have thwarted his ambition. We can resuscitate people using defibrillators, save lives using blood transfusions, and prolong life through organ transplants--these procedures are nowadays considered almost routine. Many of these modern achievements are a direct result of 19th century scientists conducting their gruesome experiments on the dead.Making the Monster explores the science behind Shelley's book. From tales of reanimated zombie kittens to electrical experiments on human cadavers, Kathryn Harkup examines the science and scientists that influenced Mary Shelley and inspired her most famous creation, Victor Frankenstein. While, thankfully, we are still far from being able to recreate Victor's "creature," scientists have tried to create the building blocks of life, and the dream of creating life-forms from scratch is now tantalizingly close.