Michael Holroyd is one of the finest biographers of the century. And yet he was never interested in exploring his own family's history. His parents' deaths in the 1980s, however, left an unexpected vacuum, which he gradually felt the need to fill with their stories, his narrative. This, in his fashion, is Michael Holroyd's autobiography, a biography of a biographer and a continuation of his never-ending love affair with human nature. Part detective story, part family saga and part an oblique voyage of self-discovery, Basil Street Blues is an entrancing and elegiac story, startlingly funny, profoundly moving: a very English tragi-comedy.
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The distinguished biographer of Lytton Strachey and Bernard Shaw turns his trained eye on his kin in a thoughtful work that is as much a meditation on the nature of biography as a family memoir. Basil Street Blues has its origins in recollections Michael Holroyd asked his parents to write in the late 1970s, long after their 12-year marriage had ended. They agreed about little, not even the date of their son's birth in 1935, and Holroyd probes these discrepancies with the same brisk lucidity he has brought to subjects less intimately connected to his own life. Readers accustomed to the woe-is-me authorial stance frequently assumed in currently fashionable memoirs of familial dysfunction will be surprised by the impartial sympathy and considerable humor with which Holroyd depicts the financial, social, and sexual missteps of his parents, grandparents, and other relatives. Perhaps it's Anglo-Saxon stoicism inherited from his British father, perhaps the Scandinavian fatalism of his Swedish mother, but Holroyd has an impressive ability to view even his own youthful unhappiness with calm detachment. His elegantly written chronicle of "secret episodes and half-suspected dramas" nicely achieves its declared purpose: "to pare back a little the cuticle of time and to apply the research methods I have learnt as a biographer to my own life." --Wendy SmithAbout the Author:
Michael Holroyd is the author of acclaimed biographies of George Bernard Shaw, the painter Augustus John, Lytton Strachey, and Ellen Terry and Henry Irving, as well as two memoirs, "Basil Street Blues "and "Mosaic". Knighted for his services to literature, he is the president emeritus of the Royal Society of Literature and the only nonfiction writer to have been awarded the David Cohen British Prize for Literature. His previous book, "A Strange Eventful History", won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for biography in 2009. He lives in London with his wife, the novelist Margaret Drabble.
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Book Description Vintage, 2010. Book Condition: New. In two volumes of wry memoirs (here published together), Britain's foremost biographer turns his attention to his own family and reflects on the strange interconnectedness of our lives. Bookseller Inventory # 218160