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Daniel Defoe: The Life and Strange, Surprising Adventures Hardcover – September, 1998

4.3 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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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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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: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,194,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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