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The Tragedy of Arthur: A Novel Paperback – February 21, 2012
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More About the Author
His first novel, Prague, was named a New York Times Notable Book, and receivedThe Los Angeles Times/Art Seidenbaum Award for best first novel. His second novel, The Egyptologist, was an international bestseller, and was on more than a dozen "Best of 2004" lists. Angelica, his third novel, made The Washington Post best fiction of 2007 and led that paper to call him "One of the best writers in America." The Song Is You was a New York Times Notable Book, on the Post's best of 2009 list, and inspired Kirkus to write, "Phillips still looks like the best American novelist to have emerged in the present decade."
His work has been published in twenty-seven languages, and is the source of three films currently in development.
His fifth book, The Tragedy of Arthur, was named one of the best books of 2011 by
The New York Times
The New Yorker
The Wall Street Journal
The Chicago Tribune
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune
The San Francisco Chronicle
The Philadelphia Inquirer
The American Library Association
The Toronto Globe & Mail (Canada)
The Toronto Star (Canada)
The New Statesman (U.K.)
Barnes and Noble
He lives in New York with his wife and two sons.
Top Customer Reviews
Did he really have a gay twin sister named Dana, a scam artist father who spent his adult life in prison, a Czech wife and twin sons of his own? Methinks not. What I do know is that Arthur Phillips shares his birthday with the Bard himself, that he was born in Minnesota, and that he is indeed a writer to be watched very carefully. Because what he's accomplished in this novel - er, memoir - is sheer genius.
Arthur Phillips - the character - is an unreliable narrator if there ever was one, and points it out in various excerpts. Right from the start when he says, "I have never much liked Shakespeare," we feel a little off-center. The book is, after all about the ultimate Shakespeare scam: his neer-do-well father, at the end of his life, shares with Arthur a previously unknown play by Shakespeare titled The Tragedy of Arthur and entices him to use his Random House connections to get the play published.
To say his connection with his father is complicated is an understatement. Arthur Phillips, memoirist, reflects, "His life was now beyond my comprehension and much of my sympathy - even if I had been a devoted visitor, a loving son, a concerned participant in his life. I was none of those." Now he wonders: did his father perform the ultimate con? If so, how did he pull it off? And how do the two Arthurs - Arthur the ancient king portrayed in the "lost" play and Arthur the memoirist - intertwine their fates?
It's a tricky project and Arthur Phillips - the novelist - is obviously having great fun with it.Read more ›
All three Arthurs -- hopefully not also the fourth author Arthur -- are doomed heroes careening from crisis to crisis. Reading the story is like watching a savant work a rubik's cube -- each move appears random, but you know the inevitable end point and after a while the elegance of the pattern emerges. I enjoyed the anticipation, wondering how all the disparate pieces were going to snap into the final image. Most of all, I enjoyed the prose, the puns, the imagery. I'm a sucker for anyone who loves and leverages language.
I'll end with a plea that readers not be dismayed by what I'm sure will be a flood of reviews acclaiming Arthur's brilliance, cleverness, and Shakespearean complexity. It's all that, sure, but it's also great fun. It's not difficult or intimidating, especially if you choose not to read the "Shakespeare" at the end. (But do read it; it's quite witty and I love the dueling footnotes.)
When the play has reached its promised end, flip back to the introduction, where you'll find the real story. Its protagonist, Arthur Phillips, shares the name of the novel's author, and certain details of biography, but of course that's part of a literary game, and would quickly become dull if the book wasn't interesting in others. Fortunately, Phillips weaves both a satisfying story about parents, siblings, and the search for identity and a wise, witty meditation on the way Shakespeare's reputation has led to such cultural eccentricities as the authorship debate, Harold Bloom's bloviations on the invention of the human, and fiercely contested battles of attribution.
Separately, these agendas would collapse: the story of the fictional Arthur's troubled relationship with his con artist father would become the kind of navel-gazing upper-class angst novel some reviewers have dismissed it as, and the Shakespeare commentary would feel too intellectual and cold, suffering what a possibly fictional reviewer of one of the real Phillips' previous books called "a curious absence of empathy.Read more ›
The "Introduction" , which is written as a memoir is a testament to the sometimes painful relationship between fathers and sons. Especially should that father be a less than stellar character. Throw a twin sister into the mix and the relationship becomes far more complex based on the close ties between the two siblings.
As Arthur Philips points out in this story, I and many generations of readers have grown up with Shakespeare as part of our literary heritage and the Bard is never far from the tongue....how often we quote lines from his works would probably make an interesting case study. However I am not well versed in Shakespeare, nor would I consider myself a "fan".....not my choice of reading material.
Having said that, I would like to say that one need not be familiar with Shakespeare's works to enjoy this novel. Though the book is, in part, about the great writer, it is much more than just that.
It was ambitious of Phillips to take this on, especially in the manner he did but he pulled it off.
As I read "The Tragedy of Arthur" I learned a bit about the great Shakespeare and his work I was entertained, laughed out loud and felt deeply for the main character's struggle to connect with a father he had little reason to trust.
This reader enjoyed the time spent with the pages of words contained in this book.......isn't this what it is all about ?
Thank you Mr. Phillips !
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Good reviews but a disappointing read for me. Just a personal opinion.Published 12 months ago by tay
Clever. Brilliant. Unceasingly funny! Humorous to the point of utter self-deprecation. I have never read a novel (memoir?) quite like this one. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Rico D. Del Rosario
Clearly whether or not this is a memoir, this book takes on down a path of a clearly disfunctional parent whose children miraculously leaped over the DNA of this insanity and... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Nancilee Wydra
This novel is purportedly the introduction to a newly-discovered (and possibly fraudulent) play by William Shakespeare, entitled The Tragedy of Arthur. Read morePublished on December 29, 2013 by Anne Mills
I did not enjoy this book and only read it because it was recommended by a friend who was listening to it on tape. Read morePublished on December 20, 2013 by Blue Ridge Mountains
In the (presumably fictional) autobiographical (presumably fictional, but borrowing heavily from threads of his "real" life) introduction to this recently discovered long-lost... Read morePublished on October 8, 2013 by Designing Books
This is an inventively conceived books. It is well written and original. It is a tragedy of dysfunctional characters. Admired it for the concept.Published on August 12, 2013 by cherry bost
Equal parts Shakespeare, Nabokov, and Pirandello, this novel is a blast. It is the best riff on the reality v. Read morePublished on July 20, 2013 by S. McCoy