John Carey is an Emeritus Professor at Oxford University. His books include studies of Donne, Dickens and Thackeray, The Intellectuals and the Masses, What Good Are the Arts? and a life of William Golding., John Carey is an Emeritus Professor at Oxford University and a Fellow of the British Academy. His books include studies of Donne, Dickens and Thackeray, The Intellectuals and the Masses, What Good Are the Arts? and a life of William Golding.
For thirty years Karr has also taught the form, winning teaching prizes at Syracuse. (The writing program there produced such acclaimed authors as Cheryl Strayed, Keith Gessen, and Koren Zailckas.) In The Art of Memoir, she synthesizes her expertise as professor and therapy patient, writer and spiritual seeker, recovered alcoholic and “black belt sinner,” providing a unique window into the mechanics and art of the form that is as irreverent, insightful, and entertaining as her own work in the genre.
Anchored by excerpts from her favorite memoirs and anecdotes from fellow writers’ experience, The Art of Memoir lays bare Karr’s own process. (Plus all those inside stories about how she dealt with family and friends get told— and the dark spaces in her own skull probed in depth.) As she breaks down the key elements of great literary memoir, she breaks open our concepts of memory and identity, and illuminates the cathartic power of reflecting on the past; anybody with an inner life or complicated history, whether writer or reader, will relate.
Joining such classics as Stephen King’s On Writing and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, The Art of Memoir is an elegant and accessible exploration of one of today’s most popular literary forms—a tour de force from an accomplished master pulling back the curtain on her craft.
This volume includes ten essays on American, British and Canadian writers’ biographies and family histories, ranging, chronologically speaking, from Virginia Woolf’s Orlando (1928) to Lila Azam Zanganeh’s The Enchanter: Nabokov and Happiness (2011). The connection between biography and fiction is explored, and analysed in the light of different veins of postmodernism—ludic, nostalgic and subversive. The contributors give pride of place to those biographical enterprises in which generic distinctions yield to transgeneric recompositions, ontological frontiers are crossed, genders are queered, women artists empowered, and the creating subject revealed to be fundamentally elusive and plural.
Setting aside the usual interpretations of Dickens's work, A Violent Effigy delves into the wonderful, terrible fantasy world it inhabited. It shows Dickens torn between the appeal of violence and a fanatical orderliness: he was attracted by characters who commit murder or burst into flame or want to eat one another, but also required people soaped and regimented. The children he created were either the pious gnomes beloved of Victorian readers or callous, sharp-nosed children who pick out adults by the odd personal atmospheres they carry around. Among his females are mythic women whose insidious miniature weapons - needles, scissors - threaten the dominant male. He created a shadow-land between life and death, peopled by effigies, walking coffins, waxworks, stuffed creatures and disturbingly animated corpses.
John Carey skilfully shows how Dickens demolished Victorian shams, while keeping at bay the terrors of his fantasy. He celebrates, above all, Dickens' peculiar genius for renewing the world by the curious lights he saw in it.
John Donne: Life, Mind and Art is a unique attempt to see Donne whole. Beginning with an account of his life, it takes as its domain not only the whole range of the poetry, but also the sermons, the letters, the spiritual and controversial works, and such highly personal documents as the treatise on suicide. The result is a clearer picture than has hitherto emerged of one of the most intricate and compelling of literary personalities.
'The one book we have needed all along... A magnificent exercise in reappraisal. I have never read a critical work which reaches as deeply inside the mind of its subject.' Jonathan Raban, Sunday Times
'Carey's book is itself alive with the kind of energy it attributes to Donne.' Christopher Ricks, London Review of Books