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T.S. Eliot: A Life Hardcover – Nov 1984


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st American Ed edition (Nov. 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671530437
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671530433
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 16 x 4.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 133,454 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Peter Ackroyd is the author of biographies of Dickens, Blake and Thomas More and of the acclaimed non-fiction bestsellers London: The Biography and Thames: Sacred River. Peter Ackroyd is an award-winning novelist, as well as a broadcaster, biographer, poet and historian. He has won the Whitbread Biography Award, the Royal Society of Literature's William Heinemann Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Guardian Fiction Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award and the South Bank Prize for Literature. He holds a CBE for services to literature.

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Bob Ventos on 18 Mar. 2010
Format: Hardcover
Writing without support from the Eliot Estate, this book makes up for it by being gannet-like in its use of memoirs, letters and biographies of artistic contemporaries. It has Eliot as alienated, sensitive, aloof, snobbish, detached, intellectual, arrogant and cold. He was over-protected as a child. His sexuality was repressed; his marriage was unhappy. But he also liked practical jokes, the music hall and sailing. He could be ironically humorous. He had a strong work ethic. He liked order and organisation, but felt that his own life was a mess. He was tall and handsome but had a congenital hernia, for which he always wore a truss. Ackroyd alleges that Eliot was unhappy for most of his adult life, but that this helped inspire his poetry. He thought that literature helps us to understand the wider culture and was a way of disciplining private feelings and experience.

Regarding his work, Peter Ackroyd praises Eliot's `unerring' understanding of individual writers, but is savage, in his factually authoritative but mild-mannered way, about Eliot's magisterially-expressed general critical judgements. He says Eliot's justifications often vague or inconsistent, and Eliot often, "and with ease" contradicts himself. (The fact that we learn the essays were written and published under pressure provides some mitigation.) Self-obsessed, Eliot "found himself everywhere, transforming dull or inexplicable lines into plangent mirrors of his own preoccupations." To learn that `Prufrock' was originally `fragments' helps explain its (lack of) structure. Ackroyd also explains how its `unpoetic' subject matter and lack of a single tone confused contemporaries. And how many other people (especially Aitken, Pound and Eliot's first wife Vivien) contributed to the early poems' final forms.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Justerman on 2 Aug. 2013
Format: Hardcover
I agree with almost everything another reviewer, J. Mann, has written.

Amidst a lot of inconsequential detail, among which the frequency of his illnesses indeed stands out, I learned that he was widely acclaimed, and that he was awarded the Nobel prize for literature. But I gained no understanding of why he was so acclaimed or of what was distinctive about Eliot's sensibility. (I'm not familiar with his works.) These are critical omissions.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By J. Mann VINE VOICE on 15 Oct. 2004
Format: Paperback
This book told me three interesting things about T.S. Eliot
1. He was ill a lot. All through the book Eliot has some ailment or other. At the start both he and his wife suffer from various minor but debilitating disorders, at the end he manages to produce a one man list of trivial yet naggings diseases.
2. He liked to live an ordered and respectable life. For many years he works at a bank. Many artists think it is outrageous that such a talented poet should spend all his time in bureaucracy yet clearly he enjoyed this sort of life. Even when he finally leaves the bank he gets a job at Faber and Faber where he can go to meetings all day. He just loved living a boring middle class life.
3. He took ages to write anything. He always has writers block, he always thinks he has dried up and won't write anything else. Even when he does write something he does so very very slowly and sends it around to all his friends to modify and improve - leaving you wondering what his work was like before everyone had a hand in correcting the mistakes.
Having learned these facts about Eliot, what do I really think of the book? The thing about Eliot's work is that you immediately think "that sounds brilliant but what the hell is he writing about?" and I'm afraid this book won't bring you any nearer. In Ackroyd's defence he will say he wrote a book about Eliot's life and that therefore is what you get.
The frustrating thing about this book is that a third of the way through you realise you didn't actually want to know just about his life, you wanted to understand more about his work and you thought that if you knew more about his life you would. Basically, you won't. Perhaps you need to read this book and some books about his work and then you can put them both together and try to figure out Eliot.
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By jean cooper on 12 Feb. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Good value great condition
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Paraffle on 3 Mar. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I just hope someone made some money out of this, 1p doesn't give much room though.
The book was in good nick, arrived next day, and I know will be a very good read, as are all of P.Ackroyd's books.
I feel like sending him a donation!
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