The Literary Life

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12 December 2010

Here is a book you should know about, if you don’t already:  The Literary Life, by Robert Phelps and Peter Deane.  The book’s subtitle is, “A Scrapbook Almanac of the Anglo-American Literary Scene from 1900 to 1950,” which rather says it all.  It has the physical feel of a high school yearbook, and some of the gossipy excitement of Facebook.

Year by year we learn of seminal books published in the US and around the world, awards granted, important works in other artistic disciplines, deaths (of literary personages), and a particularly fun section called “In the Margin,” made up of tidbits like

DH Lawrence, 27, elopes with Mrs. Frieda von Richthofen Weekley, staying at Metz, Germany, where local authorities arrest Lawrence as a spy (1912), and

Employed as an assistant night manager in a New York hotel, Nathanael West, 25, works on his first novel, and “arranges” special rates and free rooms for various friends, among them Dashiell Hammett, who finishes The Maltese Falcon (1927)

The book is also filled with notable (and little-known) author quotes and photos (just like a yearbook).   The Literary Life is out of print, but ABE Books can point you to some copies.

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