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February House: The Story of W. H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Jane and Paul Bowles, Benjamin Britten, and Gypsy Rose Lee, Under One Roof in Brooklyn Paperback – July 12, 2006
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From The New Yorker
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Top Customer Reviews
This is the kind of biographical history I most enjoy reading. It focuses on a very specific period of time, communicating brilliantly the personal and professional triumphs and failures, as well as the ravaging effects of current world events these artists were dealing with while living together. It provides just the right balance of background material on each resident without ever becoming bogged down in trivial details that interrupt the natural progression of the story. Yes, there is a certain amount of "dirt." The spats between Auden and Paul Bowles are well documented, and the endless parade of sailors, the parties that lasted until dawn, the battling McCullers. Most of the residents, even those who were married, were either homosexual or bisexual. The book, and this history, is simply fascinating. If you care at all about 20th century art - literature and music especially - this is a book you shouldn't miss.
Tippins wisely focuses her attention on the leading figures (without neglecting to name the many others who partied but did not reside at 7 Middagh--Salvador and Gala Dali, Lincoln Kirstein, George Balanchine, Erika Mann and her brothers Klaus and Golo, to name a few). One passer-through, Anais Nin, christened the dwelling "February House" because so many of the residents had February birthdays.Read more ›
Tippins' research is exhaustive and impeccable, and she lets her characters speak naturally and eloquently. I could not put this book down and practically read it at one sitting. I was hungry for the kind of information Tippins delivered, and I finished the book with the deepest satisfaction. Gracefully written, carefully organized and researched, and extremely relevant: this book wins on all counts.
The potent time is 1940 and 1941 when WW II was chewing up Europe and Asia and daily threatening to gorge the globe. But at 7 Middagh Street in the somewhat seamy part of Brooklyn, a house owned by former Harper's Bazaar literary editor George Davis, several artists many of whose birthdays happened to be in the month of February set up an artist commune, eager for interplay with each other and all joined in the role of pacifists. The housefolk included Carson McCullers, WH Auden and his 18 year old lover Chester Kallman, Thomas Mann's children Erika and Klaus Mann, Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, Gypsy Rose Lee (!)(as well as the occasional guests George Balanchine, Salvador Dali, Paul Cadmus, Diana Vreeland, Paul Bowles, Leonard Bernstein, Lincoln Kirsten among others.
Uniting in both financial need and in political and artistic agendas, these greats interacted in ways both creative and destructive with the results ranging from famous collaborative efforts to drunken orgies to various intimate couplings and exchanges. Gypsy Rose Lee was the titular 'mother' and Auden the 'father' figure.
'Biographies' such as this could easily become racy sensationalism were it not for the fact the writer Sherill Tippins relates this amazing household of geniuses with such skill and obvious love that we are able to simply enjoy the inner spins on the creative minds in February House. For devotees of any or many of these creative minds' works, this little book is indispensable. Warm, humorous, and very enlightening it illuminates a group of folk who for a period of time gave America its own Bloomsbury. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, May 05
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Sherill Tippins has done a very thorough job of pulling together the many strings that bind the story of this house together, mainly over the relatively short period from the... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Hugh Young
Fantastic book! Good for learning about NY and the world at the time and these amazing people. I thought I knew everything about Carson McCullers, but somehow missed this period,... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Christine F.
This book is terrific. I would recommend it to anyone interested in any of the artists who lived there (McCullers, Britten, Auden, Gypsy Rose Lee, Jane and Paul Bowles, Dali,... Read morePublished on January 23, 2014 by ks
I was totally fascinated by this book and the era in which it takes place. It certainly gave me a whole new perspective on the U.S. and world war II. Read morePublished on November 10, 2013 by Larry Shattuck
You'll be amazed and fascinated as this TRUE story unfolds.......lots of very well-known names and lots of unexpected stories. Beautifully written.Published on February 4, 2013 by Frank Rizzo