There are common themes in writers’ lives: ‘alcohol’ appears almost 50 times, and deaths, where a really good one — Boris Vian ‘died of a heart attack while attending a screening of an unsatisfactory film adaptation of his book I Spit on Your Graves’ — can give a writer’s reputation a little frisson. As this suggests, The Penguin Modern Classics Book is at its most entertaining when filling its sidebars with juicy trivia, such as Maugham calling the Angry Young Men ‘scum’, or the Japanese bizarrist Kobo Abe patenting a new brand of snow chains for car tyres. The cross-references — author to author, movement to movement — give it dynamism, forever suggesting new routes.
Thursday, January 13, 2022
We’ve all read some of these …
… The novels that became instant classics | The Spectator. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)