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Edmund Wilson

Edmund Wilson

A Life in Literature

Lewis M. Dabney

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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From the Jazz Age through the McCarthy era, Edmund Wilson (1895-1972) stood at the center of the American cultural scene. In his own youth a crucial champion of the young Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Wilson went on to write three classics of literary and intellectual history (Axel's Castle, To the Finland Station, and Patriotic Gore), searching reportage, and criticism that has outlasted many of its subjects. Wilson documented his unruly private life--a formative love affair with Edna St. Vincent Millay, a tempestuous marriage to Mary McCarthy, and volatile friendships with Fitzgerald and Vladimir Nabokov, among others--in openly erotic fiction and journals, but Lewis Dabney is the first writer to integrate the life and work.

Dabney traces the critic's intellectual development, from son of small-town New Jersey gentry to America's last great renaissance man, a deep commentator on everything from the Russian classics to Native American rituals to the Dead Sea Scrolls. Along the way, Dabney shows why Wilson was and has remained--in his cosmopolitanism and trenchant nonconformity--a model for young writers and intellectuals, as well as the favorite critic of the general reader. Edmund Wilson will be recognized as the lasting biography of this brilliant man whose life reflected so much of the cultural, social, and human experience of a turbulent century.

Edmund Wilson

PART ONE
Edmund Wilson, Jr.
1
12 Wallace Street
A Nest of Gentlefolk
Born May 8, 1895, Edmund Wilson, Jr., was a shy boy, the only child of Edmund...

Praise for Edmund Wilson

“Dabney, who edited The Sixties (1993), the final volume of Wilson's published journals, presents a meticulous biography that is lapidary and illuminating in its proficient explications of Wilson's volatile personal relationships and benchmark writings.
” —Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)

“A searching life of the eminent literary critic and journalist . . . A solid, much-needed work of literary biography.” —Kirkus

“Dabney meticulously unfolds the circumstances behind the writing of his most significant books while tracing the evolution of Wilson's thought…Readers seeking an introduction to Wilson will find their perseverance through this hefty tome rewarded with a rich context for approaching his writings.” —Publishers Weekly

“This thorough biography gives the definitive treatment to the life and work of one of the early 20th century's most highly revered men of letters…A complex account…Comprehensive, well-researched.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“Edmund Wilson was the most distinguished and influential literary critic of the twentieth century; he was also a fascinating character and fascinated by life. Lewis Dabney does justice to all aspects of Wilson's career in this incisive, measured, and reflective biography.” —Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

“Edmund Wilson survives as a critic because of his endless vitalism and fierce love of literature. These are the qualities admirably conveyed in Lewis Dabney's eloquent biography.” —Harold Bloom

“Bris… More…

“Dabney, who edited The Sixties (1993), the final volume of Wilson's published journals, presents a meticulous biography that is lapidary and illuminating in its proficient explications of Wilson's volatile personal relationships and benchmark writings.
” —Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)

“A searching life of the eminent literary critic and journalist . . . A solid, much-needed work of literary biography.” —Kirkus

“Dabney meticulously unfolds the circumstances behind the writing of his most significant books while tracing the evolution of Wilson's thought…Readers seeking an introduction to Wilson will find their perseverance through this hefty tome rewarded with a rich context for approaching his writings.” —Publishers Weekly

“This thorough biography gives the definitive treatment to the life and work of one of the early 20th century's most highly revered men of letters…A complex account…Comprehensive, well-researched.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“Edmund Wilson was the most distinguished and influential literary critic of the twentieth century; he was also a fascinating character and fascinated by life. Lewis Dabney does justice to all aspects of Wilson's career in this incisive, measured, and reflective biography.” —Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

“Edmund Wilson survives as a critic because of his endless vitalism and fierce love of literature. These are the qualities admirably conveyed in Lewis Dabney's eloquent biography.” —Harold Bloom

“Briskly written and packed with revealing details about a very complicated man, Lewis Dabney's Edmund Wilson is the most satisfying account to date of this accomplished critic, literary journalist, and cultural historian. Lurid episodes in Wilson's personal life blend with Dabney's incisive commentary on the diverse books and articles Wilson steadily turned out for more than fifty years. This is a solid, serious, and entertaining book.” —Daniel Aaron, author of Writers on the Left

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Reviews from Goodreads

Lewis M. Dabney

Lewis Dabney edited Wilson's last journal, The Sixties as well as Edmund Wilson: Centennial Reflections. He is professor of English at the University of Wyoming.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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