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Stewart Parker: A Life [Hardcover]

Marilynn Richtarik
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
RRP: 33.99
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Book Description

6 Sep 2012
Born in Belfast during World War II, raised in a working-class Protestant family, and educated on scholarship at Queen's University, writer Stewart Parker's story is in many ways the story of his generation. Other aspects of his personal history, though, such as the amputation of his left leg at age 19, helped to create an extraordinarily perceptive observer and commentator. Steeped in American popular culture as a child and young adult, he spent five years teaching in the United States before returning to Belfast in August 1969, the same week British troops responded to sectarian disturbances there. Parker had developed a sense of writing as a form of political action in the highly charged atmosphere of the US in the late 1960s, which he applied in many and varied capacities throughout the worst years of the Troubles to express his own socialist and secular vision of Northern Irish potential. As a young aspiring poet and novelist, he supported himself with free-lance work that brought him into contact with institutions ranging from BBC Northern Ireland to the Irish Times (for which he wrote personal columns and the music review feature High Pop) and from the Queen's University Extramural Department to Long Kesh internment camp (where his creative writing students included Gerry Adams). It is as a playwright, however, that Parker earned a permanent spot in the literary canon with drama that encapsulates his experience of Northern Ireland in the 1970s. Marilynn Richtarik's Stewart Parker: A Life illuminates the genesis, development, and meaning of such classic plays as Spokesong, Northern Star, and Pentecost - works that continue to shed light on the North's past, present, and future - in the context of Parker's life and times. Meticulously researched and engagingly written, this critical biography rewards general readers and specialists alike.

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Stewart Parker: A Life + Parker Plays: 2: Northern Star; Heavenly Bodies; Pentecost (Contemporary Dramatists)
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; First Edition edition (6 Sep 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199695032
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199695034
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.5 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 559,236 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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[ (Irish Studies Review)

] is not only a meticulously written and researched biography containing nearly ninety pages of notes and bibliographic information but also a finely drawn history of Northern Ireland at the most perilous time in its relatively brief history... [This book] magnificently shows the ability of an inspired artist to overcome deep personal and political wounds and re-imagine an abundant life of wholeness and health free from the cancer of bigotry and hate.

a fluent, absorbing biography of the great - and greatly missed - Belfast playwright (Declan Hughes, Irish Sun Independent)

Richtarik's map of that life is detailed and clearly the product of years of careful and reflective research It is patently a labour of love, intricately detailed and passionately researched. A boon to Parker aficionados and a foundation text for renewed interest in his drama. (Clare Wallace, Body)

Meticulously researched and engagingly written, Richtarik's biography of the stellar Northern Irish playwright, Stewart Parker, does an excellent job of cementing the reputation of a writer who died too young ... this is a welcome and exemplary critical biography of a playwright who clearly deserves the love, skill, and effort [Richtarik] has put into it. (Maureen Hawkins, Estudios Irlandeses)

Parker has now been well served by Marilynn Richtarik, whose wonderfully researched and judicious biography emphasizes the diversity and skill of his writing ... a stylish and absorbing volume. Marilynn Richtarik has presented here a defining piece of research about an important literary figure, and her book will play a major part in the revival of interest in Stewart Parker's work. (James Moran, Times Literary Supplement)

Meticulously researched and detailed...this is a valuable contribution to Irish theatre scholarship. It is not a work of theatre criticism, however: it is a vivid, engaging portrait of a talented and charismatic man, and, through his life and work, a portrait of a city in turmoil. (Lisa Fitzpatrick, Times Higher Education)

In this book, the American academic Marilynn Richtarik establishes, with exemplary precision and insight, the way the writer emerges, the false starts and disappointments, the experiments that failed ... This is a biography you can trust; it also captures an important chapter of Irish cultural life. (Roy Foster, Irish Times)

A new in depth biography by the leading authority on his work ... a fascinating portrait of the man and a rich account of his artistic output. (Paul Harron, Ulster Tatler)

Richtarik's timely study reminds us that the work of men and women like Parker gives us a glimpse of a world transformed by the power of one human being's love for another. (Cultural Northern Ireland)

This biography by the leading authority on [Parker's] life is exhaustively researched but very readable. Everything you needed to know about Stewart is here. (Neil Donnelly, Belfast Telegraph)

Richtarik provides a thorough account of Stewart's rich, short life, adeptly offering historical background that is itself captivating. As for Stewart's works, she offers thorough production histories, solid synopses, and balanced critiques. An excellent resource. (W. W. Demastes, Choice)

Marilynn Richtarik has captured her subject admirably, from my perspective as someone who was Stewart's contemporary and friend at Queen's University, Belfast, in the early sixties. ...Marilynn Richtarik deserves high praise for writing this book: it is a monument to Stewart Parker's life and work, full of rich insight into both, and at the same time an account of the whole cultural and political matrix in the North during a crucial phase of its history that can hardly be bettered. She deserves our thanks and praise for having written this extraordinary book. (Anthony Bradley, Irish Literary Supplement)

About the Author

One comes away from reading Richtarik's critical biography with an enormous respect for her subject and herself. Combining perspectives of historian and social critic, along with training as a scholar of literature and theater, Richtarik provides an appreciation of the life and work of an unduly neglected Irish dramatist. (James W. Flannery, Paste Magazine)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars definitive (so far) 14 Feb 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Very thoroughly researched biography of this sparky playwright. Probably not a book for those not familiar with his plays or with the arts in Ireland in his era, and as a biography of a playwright begs a lot of questions about the wider culture and the perspectives it could afford. Well written, and plenty to be discerned between the lines.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb 27 Sep 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Firstly, it is well written, a quality without which it would have been unworthy of its subject.
Secondly, it is incredibly well-researched. At 70 years of age, I would not have expected to learn so much about the city of Belfast where I have lived most of my life. I even learned more about my alma mater, Queen's University Belfast, where I was a student just a few years after Stewart, Seamus Heaney, et al.
Thirdly -- and here I acknowledge a special interest -- the reporting of how Stewart's masterpiece, Northern Star, came about was revelatory -- even though i was effective in ensuring its commissioning by Belfast's Lyric Theatre.
Having discussed its general perspective at a very sensitive tiime in Northern Ireland, I was well satisfied that anything Stewart produced on the topic would be well-founded historically and free from any kind of propagandising.
What astounded me when the play opened was its dramatic, linguistic and prophetic power. It established Stewart as a literary genius fit to be mentioned in the same breath as his comtemporaries -- Seamus Heaney, Brian Friel, Michael Longley, Derek Mahon, et al.
Marilynn Richtarik's biography cannot be surpassed. She has got to the contemporary sources and recorded them with a judicious and scholarly eye. We are forever in her debt. Ciaran McKeown
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book on Parker and "The Troubles" 27 Jan 2013
By Christine G. - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This biography should really be titled, "The Life and Times of Stewart Parker." It provides the fascinating historical context of Stewart Parker's life in Belfast during "The Troubles" that began in the 1970s, as well as the close details of the life of one of Ireland's best playwrights of the 20th century. Dr. Richtarik "discovers" this previously under-rated Irish writer and the book is a fascinating read. It memorializes what those terrible times were like, in an even-handed, non-partisan way. Anyone interested in contemporary Irish literature and continuing "Troubles" should read this book.
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