Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Three Reviews of Edna O'Brien's BYRON IN LOVE.

O'Brien, Edna. Byron in Love: a Short Daring Life. New York: Norton, 2009.

Pollitt, Katha. "Lord Byron's Great Insight." Slate Magazine July 13, 2009.  Not many writers furnish enough material for a biography focused entirely on their love lives. In his short life (1788-1824), George Gordon, Lord Byron, managed to cram in just about every sort of connection imaginable—unrequited pinings galore; affairs with aristocrats, actresses, servants, landladies, worshipful fans, and more in almost as many countries as appear on Don Giovanni's list; plus countless one-offs with prostitutes and purchased girls; a brief, disastrous marriage; and an incestuous relationship with his half-sister. And that's just the women! It's a wonder he found the time, considering everything else on his plate. He composed thousands of pages of dazzling poetry, traveled restlessly on the continent and in the Middle East, maintained complex relationships with friends and hangers-on, wrote letters and kept diaries and read books constantly, boxed and took fencing lessons and swam, drank (prodigiously), suffered bouts of depression and paranoia and physical ill-health, and, in his later years, joined in Italian and Greek liberation struggles. Just tending the menagerie that he liked to have about him—monkeys, parrots and macaws, dogs, a goat, a heron, even, while he was a student at Cambridge, a bear—would have driven a lesser man to distraction. . . . (Read the rest here:

Shakespeare, Nicholas. "Byron in Love by Edna O’Brien - Review." Telegraph January 15, 2009. Books on Byron tend to resemble the contraptions clamped to the poet’s deformed right foot by a long line of questionable doctors: they twist him into shapes that must make his spirit hobble. The “terrible step” his wife would hear from her bed, clomping into his half-sister’s bedroom below, has reverberated from the moment of his death in a dismal Greek swamp, covered in leeches and bandages. In Edna O’Brien’s words: “Books of gossip, smut, malice, lies and 'intrinsic nothings’, as Thomas Love Peacock called them, were soon to proliferate.” Even his friends, as Byron put it, “Boswellised” him, his last true (female) love, the Countess Guiccioli, communicating with him in a séance so that she might write her account of their life together in Italy. “So why another book on Byron?” To O’Brien, answering her own question, he was “the first and ongoing celebrity” with “a mystery and a magnetism that defy time”. Byron in Love is the Irish author’s response to the remark that first attracted her to him, made by Lady Blessington, that Byron was “the most extraordinary and terrifying person” she had met. Reading this compact and hugely enjoyable retelling of his life, one feels the inevitability of the biographer and her subject. (Read the rest here:

Shilling, Jane. "Byron in Love by Edna O'Brien." Times January 16, 2009. One may consider it a stroke of genius, then, that a commissioning editor at Weidenfeld & Nicolson should have come up with the wheeze of asking Edna O'Brien, a novelist famous for writing about sex, to undertake a short biography of Lord Byron, a poet famous for doing it. The result is Byron in Love, an account of the poet's emotional life, which is to say (for Byron, like his fellow artists of the Romantic movement, made little if any distinction between the art, the sensibility and the life) an account of his life. There is, of course, no shortage of these: “a legion of books, treatises, essays and biographies - scholarly, probing, affectionate, discursive, titillating, scurrilous and fantastical”, writes O'Brien in her introduction, asking rhetorically, “So why another book on Byron?” and immediately answering her own question. Her interest was whetted years ago, she explains, when she read a remark by Byron's friend, Lady Blessington, that the poet was “the most extraordinary and terrifying person [she had] ever met”. Also, “Writers writing about other artists has always appealed to me - Rilke on Rodin, addressing that mysterious mediation between the life and the art. Virginia Woolf's The Common Reader, providing those quick, deft glimpses that give us the human quotidian and a whiff of the genius within.” . . . (Read the rest here:

No comments:

Post a Comment