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Daniel Defoe: The Life and Strange, Surprising Adventures Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 427 pages
  • Publisher: Carroll & Graf Pub; 1st Carroll & Graf Ed edition (September 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786705574
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786705573
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #691,490 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

It's not surprising that West, an Englishman and the veteran author of numerous books on history and travel, is an admirer of "the fertility of Defoe's brain as well as the physical strength of his writing hand." West's life of the prolific if unconventional journalist who invented so much of his nonfiction that he moved easily into the novel, begins rather stiffly but becomes livelier as Defoe (1660-1731) grows up, writes more and gets into more trouble. West concedes at the start that he has not written "a definitive, academic, or even scholarly analysis of Defoe's writing." Nor has he produced a biography, he confesses, to replace Paula Backschneider's far more substantial Daniel Defoe (1989). Rather, inspired by Defoe's semifictional three-volume A Tour of the Whole Island of Great Britain (to West the writer's masterpiece), he turns to Defoe's neglected, often imaginative travel books and the author's equally slighted run of lively and pioneering news-and-gossip papers of 1704-13. West's life, then, is for readers who want to know more about the compulsive writer, royal secret agent and bankrupt London merchant than the author of Robinson Crusoe, Moll Flanders and his pseudo-histories and pseudo-memoirs. Defoe's method, West contends, was "the exercise of imagination?quite a different thing from invention or lying." Much more than a political pamphleteer and political spy, or the tireless hack penning bogus autobiographies, Defoe emerges in West's colorful (if sourceless) biography as an adventurer whose authentic life might have made his best book. 16 pages of b&w illustrations.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

West, a journalist and travel writer, provides a nonscholarly yet detailed and sympathetic biography of Daniel Defoe (1660-1731), an author who was also adept at journalism, pamphleteering, and fiction and travel literature. Known today for such novels as Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders, Defoe was initially famous for his polemical writings on politics, religion, and social issues. West also details 17th- and 18th-century England, and?though readers may periodically feel inundated by the wealth of information?establishes the political and social climate that shaped Defoe's life and literature. By the end, readers will feel compelled to return to the works discussed. Recommended for all public and academic libraries; those that have the more scholarly biography by Paula Backscheider (Daniel Defoe: His Life, LJ 10/15/89) will want to add West's book for readers who desire a more popular overview of Defoe's career and written achievements.?Morris Hounion, New York City Technical Coll. Lib., Brooklyn
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on June 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
In Daniel Defoe: The Life And Strange, Surprising Adventures, biographer Richard West tells the story of Daniel Defoe, a maverick, a Puritan, and a dissenter without a constituency. Defoe was also a bankrupt who rubbed elbows with a king, a hack who never failed to pursue the truth. And the writer who produced such literary classics as Moll Flanders, Roxana, A Journal of the Plague Year, and Robinson Crusoe. Defoe's life was every bit as dramatic and unexpected as the protagonists of his famous novels. West has wonderfully and scrupulously recreated the remarkable personality and the colorful times that shaped and were shaped by this noted, fascinating, unique and historic literary figure.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 10, 1999
Format: Hardcover
With the tools of a storyteller, Richard West takes his readers on a journey to the world of the enigmatic Daniel Defoe and the political machinations of Britain at the dawn of the 18th century. To any reader,even to one who has a limited understanding of British history, West paves a path among the intrigue of the Whigs and Tories, and has his reader follow the footsteps of Defoe into the Tower of London, the roads of Great Britain, and the gardens of rulers. With the ability to explain Defoe's mysterious background, West guides the reader toward an understanding of a man who has remained elusive for centuries. West offers the reader an explanation for the many masks that Defoe wore as writer, invester, spy and traveler. With the skill of a story-teller, West opens a world of historic fact even to the most reluctant non-fiction reader.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By ecoderringer on August 29, 1999
Format: Hardcover
West provides a very readable, unfussy biography, presenting a vivid and detailed portrait of Defoe's life and times. He falls short with his "analysis" of the novels, which amounts to little more than plot summary, but his insight into Defoe's character--as a man of high moral principle who occasionally succumbed to expediency--is priceless.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 21, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Today Daniel Defoe is known primarily for two brilliant works of imaginative fiction - "Robinson Crusoe" and "Moll Flanders" (or, to give more complete titles, "The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe" and "The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders"). But Defoe was much, much more than a writer of fiction. Offhand I cannot think of another distinguished "fictionalist" who led a more varied and interesting life - as recounted in this knowledgeable, readable, and non-academic biography.

Daniel Defoe was born about 1660. He did not write "Robinson Crusoe" until he was fifty-nine and "Moll Flanders" until he was sixty-two. Before that he was a rebel against James II; he was a merchant, who ended up bankrupt and served time as a debtor in Newgate Prison; he was the owner of a successful brickworks; he was a Secret Service agent, whose roles included that of spy, propagandist, and confidential advisor; and he was an independent journalist. Arguably, he was the first great journalist in the English language.

"He was the first master, if not the inventor, of almost every feature of modern newspapers, including the leading article, investigative reporting, the foreign news analysis, the agony aunt, the gossip column, the candid obituary, and even the kind of soul-searching piece which Fleet Street calls the `Why, Oh Why'."

As that quote from the book indicates, author Richard West is British. He too is a noted journalist, and DANIEL DEFOE is a tribute of sorts to the "principal pathfinder and pace-setter" of his profession.

West's book, in addition to being a biography of Defoe, also serves as an instructive history of England during a crucial period. The year of Defoe's birth, 1660, was the year of the Restoration.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Elm Ivy on May 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The foreward is interesting and helps to put this biography in perspective. Richard West candidly indicates that he was much influenced by Paula R. Backscheider's Daniel Defore: His Life which is now out of print. I got the impression that this biography may be based on that book plus West's enjoyment reading Defoe. A biography can often provide an interesting window into a particular time and place. It's interesting reading about the Glorious Revolution and the reign of Queen Anne, but disconcerting to have so many quotes from classic history by Macaulay and Trevelyan. It feels like one is getting a narrow and somewhat dated version of the period. One does not get the full texture that only a historian who has read widely and deeply in particular period of history can provide. But we get a lot of Defoe's own words and West himself is a good story teller so if one is looking for an entertaining biography why quibble whether the setting is Macaulay's storybook England rather than the real thing (whatever that may be).
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