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Dylan Thomas: The Biography (New Edition) Hardcover – March 3, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

This new edition of Paul Ferris's perceptive biography, which was originally published in 1977, is primarily notable for its frank portrait of the poet's marriage to Caitlin Macnamara Thomas, who died in 1994. "The essential truth about the Dylan-Caitlin relationship," Ferris writes, "was that his dependent nature left him vulnerable in later years when his wife withdrew her affection and became blatantly promiscuous." Yet the author is not unsympathetic to Caitlin, whose biography he wrote in 1993. The accounts of Thomas's raucous, drunken visits to America, where he died in 1953 at age 39, will certainly incline readers to forgive anything his wife did in revenge. The book's principal strengths remain what they were in 1977: a knowledgeable, in-depth account of the poet's childhood in Wales (Ferris himself was born a mile from Thomas's childhood home); a lucid disentangling of myth from fact in both interviews and contemporary sources; and a sensitive understanding that "behind the public cavortings was a private agony." This is Ferris's real subject, the agony of a boy who was "pretty ... spoiled ... the darling of the family," and who never managed to grow up enough to create a life that would support his poetic gifts. It's a sad story but a fascinating one. --Wendy Smith


"Based on massive research in this country and the U.S., it puts paid to the myth of the rollicking, beer-swilling bard and makes a sad, funny, poignant story." -- Observer

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; New Sub edition (March 3, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582430756
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582430751
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,779,479 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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15 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Mary E. Sibley VINE VOICE on July 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Having read John Malcolm Brinnin's account of Dylan Thomas in America and Caitlin Thomas's autobiographical work LEFTOVER LIFE TO KILL I find this biography fair and comprehensive. It contains appropriate scholarly apparatus. Both Dylan and his sister Nancy had great imaginations. Dylan's father came from a rural family. He became a schoolmaster. He grew to be an unhappy man. Thomas poems are songs about mysteries without solution. They are melancholy, Celtic, non-English. Thomas denied the influence of Gerard Manley Hopkins. He liked technical virtuousity. In school he was protected by being his father's son.

In 1935 he met Vernon Watkins and came to respect him as a poet and as a critic. Thomas also came to know Geoffrey Grigson, Norman Cameron, and A.J.P. Taylor. The idea developed that Thomas needed to be protected from women and drink and that he had difficulty with his lungs, bronchitis. Pamela Hansford Johnson was a girlfriend in the early years. In 1936 Edith Sitwell became Thomas's chief advocate.

In 1936 he met Caitlin. They married in 1937. As he grew older he wrote less quickly. By age twenty one he had written half of the poems in his COLLECTED POEMS. He wrote surrealist stories and reviews for which he was paid poorly. Caitlin was buxom and he was thin. In 1938 they went to Laugharne. For Thomas Wales was a place and a frame of mind. The reader is struck by how early in Dylan Thomas's career themes menacing survival surfaced. There are issues of poverty, drink, work for the BBC, revision of work to evade censors, and merry times in London versus periods of restraint and work in Wales.
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