6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars
A parody of a biography, rather than a biography, 7 April 2003
Not quite a biography, not a lit crit study either, this extensive demolition job is designed to show that Burgess was "a parody of a great writer, rather than a great writer". Lewis's tone, though, is better conveyed by comments that Burgess was a "self-deluding prick" and generally by his asking at every turn what he hell Burgess thought he was playing at. Unfortuntely the biographer's mateyness is just as contrived as any of his subject's pretentiousness, and his footnotes, which sometimes take up 80 or 90% of a double page, go into great biographical detail about minor characters, which proves just as boring as the worst of Burgess's novels.
To be fair, Lewis is spot-on with most of his criticisms -- but the delivery is unkind, and the impression you're left with is of a hopelessly disillusioned former fan. By the end of the book, he has firmly associated Burgess with inhumanity (without much textual back-up), and with every writer he discusses he finds some common ground with Burgess -- the kiss of death. So Iris Murdoch grew too sentimental, the Elizabethans were "anti-art", the Beats were "evil" - never mind his main subject, Lewis doesn't like anyone else either. The irony is that the inhumanity he has come to loathe in Burgess's books is in evidence nowhere more than in his own work. The use of what he calls, in a different context, a "disillusioned Boswell" means that the book has a real narrative energy, but ultimately the question of why he wanted to spend 20 years writing about a writer he can't stand remains something of a mystery.