From Publishers Weekly
Celebrated novelist and biographer O'Brien (The Country Girls trilogy) is a keen cicerone to the strange and insatiable love life of œthe lame poet with the features of Adonis. Drawing on Marchand's three-volume biography of Lord Byron, while adding to this her immersion in letters and journals, O'Brien presents a figure we can see all-around. With a perennial worry about his weight, not to mention his right clubfoot, Byron, O'Brien says, compensated by indulging in homosexual relationships, most notably with John Edleston, and heterosexual trysts. Indeed, Byron always seemed to be in love and on the run, traversing Europe from Spain and Portugal to Albania and Greece. His travels and his loves inspired Manfred
, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage
and, above all, Don Juan.
Of interest as well are Byron's hot-and-cold relations with publisher John Murray, the Shelleys (who were largely appalled by Byron's lifestyle) and Dr. Polidori, whose novel on œthe vampyre would inspire an industry. At times a bit breathless, this compact life sets the emotional background for a poet who today is more famous for his life story than his work. 8 pages of illus. (June 15)
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In this jaunty biography, O’Brien eschews considerations of Byron’s poetry to examine his amorous adventures, offering her reader the kind of fabulous anecdotes that made the poet a celebrity throughout Europe. A string of volatile relationships, interrupted only by bouts of gonorrhea or the onset of “the poetry mania,” began with his mother, who liked to taunt him about his clubfoot before smothering him with kisses. Women (and sometimes men) found his “combination of genius and Satanism” irresistible and, often, maddening: one thwarted paramour sent him a lock of her pubic hair “tinged with blood” and burned him in effigy. Out of O’Brien’s kinetic recounting of scandal after scandal, a sense of the poet’s pathos emerges: Byron did, at times, love deeply. But by eliding his literary personality O’Brien risks voyeurism.
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