The Shadow in the Garden: A Biographer's Tale by James Atlas

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Read The Shadow in the Garden: A Biographer's Tale Online Free - The biographer's autobiography: a funny, endearing tale of how writers' lives get documented, by the celebrated chronicler of Saul Bellow and Delmore Schwartz.
The biographer--so often in the shadows, kibbitzing, casting doubt, proving facts--here comes to the stage. James Atlas takes us back to his childhood in suburban Chicago, where he fell in love with literature and, early on, found in himself the impulse to study writers' lives. We meet Richard Ellmann, the great biographer of James Joyce and Atlas's professor during a transformative year at Oxford. We get to know the author's first subject, the "self-doomed" poet Delmore Schwartz; a bygone cast of intellectuals such as Edmund Wilson and Dwight Macdonald (the "tall trees," as Mary McCarthy described them, cut down now, Atlas writes, by the "merciless pruning of mortality"); and, of course, the elusive Bellow, "a metaphysician of the ordinary." Atlas revisits the lives and work of the classical biographers: the Renaissance writers of what were then called "lives," Samuel Johnson and the "meshugenah" Boswell, among them. And in what amounts to a pocket history of his own literary generation, Atlas celebrates the luminaries of contemporary literature and the labor of those who hope to catch a glimpse of one of them--"as fleeting as a familiar face swallowed up in a crowd."
(With black-and-white illustrations throughout)

Title : The Shadow in the Garden: A Biographer's Tale
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 1101871695
Edition Language : English
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 400 pages


Kris rated it ★★★★☆

January 04, 2018

This book is a memoir of a biographer, James Atlas, as he reminisces about his experiences writing two biographies -- of Delmore Schwartz, and of Saul Bellow. It's a meditation on the art of biography, with attention to some of the ethical quandaries facing biographers whose subjects have recentl...

Rebecca rated it ★★★★★

December 21, 2017

My nonfiction book of the year. I read this in August, planning to contrast it with Claire Tomalin’s A Life of My Own, another biographer’s memoir, for the LARB. It would have been a brilliant article, believe me. But they didn’t bite, and by the time I approached the TLS they’d already arranged...

Nicole rated it ★★★★☆

December 01, 2017

Dear Mr. Atlas, At the end of the book you say you are relegated to the ranks of those who will be not-biographied. I'd rather like to write yours. I generally don't read biographies, and very rarely memoirs, but picked yours up from the new titles at work on something of a whim. I liked the titl...

Elizabeth rated it ★★★★★

November 01, 2017

This addictive volume is full of great advice for biographers and includes many fine insights into the literary life of Chicago and New York City from the 1930s to the 1980s, although the hilarious, revealing, witty and wise notes and personal reflections are totally up to the minute. I literally...

Jeimy rated it ★★☆☆☆

December 17, 2017

I wanted to love this book about the lengths this biographer went to in order to gather information about his subject. I enjoyed his tales and those of other biographers’ quest to get as close to their subjects as possible, but there was something I found lacking.

Howard rated it ★★★★★

January 03, 2018

James Atlas has chosen the hard road of literary biography, and here he contemplates its high costs and ample rewards in a gentle, beautifully written book. Atlas, the biographer of poet Delmore Schwartz and novelist Saul Bellow, draws a series of vivid, utterly fascinating portraits of a mid-20t...

Beth rated it ★★★☆☆

September 20, 2017

3.5 stars. I can't imagine much of an audience for this book, but I am that audience. And I liked this, but the author's description of writing a biography of someone that he didn't particularly like as a person was actually a little depressing. It reminded me of reading Blake Bailey's bio of Che...

Julia rated it ★★★★★

November 23, 2017

Atlas, the biographer of Delmore Schwartz and Saul Bellow lives his own biography in the process, along with an entertaining history of biography and biographers.

Nicole rated it ★★☆☆☆

January 16, 2018

A professional biographer talks about being a professional biographer. Full of detail - way too much detail for me.

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