Enter your mobile number below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
W. H. Auden: A Biography Paperback – November 10, 2014
LaunchPad Solo for Literature
Learn and practice close reading & critical thinking skills in an interactive environment.
Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed
Top Customer Reviews
To begin with, no life of Auden could avoid the taint of being "gossipy." Auden led a completely messy life complete with all manner of free and easy sexual encounters. Auden not only led this kind of life, but documented it for the amusement of similarly inclined friends. No one who examines the primary source documents, letters, diaries and even poetry can do anything more than to write a gossipy life. When not only menages a trois, but menages a quatre are the norm, it is impossible to write any other kind of biography unless the naughty bits were rendered in Latin as they were formerly in Suetonius..
What I liked about the book is that Carpenter breaks Auden's inner life into three distinct phases. At Oxford he was under the spell of D.H. Lawrence and even Freud. During the hungry thirties, like most European intellectuals, it was Marx and Communism. It appears that time in Spain contributed to Auden's disillusionment with "the God that failed." His third intellectual period was more orthodox embracing the Anglicanism of his youth and Kirkegaard coincided with his the beginning of his years in New York City.
For me, Carpenter's book filled in a number of blanks for me, mainly concerning Auden's emigration. Knowing more of the work than the man, I was under the impression that Auden decided to take up residence in America at the beginning of World War II rather than nearly a year before. His return to Oxford and Britain coincided with failing health and desire to return to his native land (though still an American citizen).Read more ›
The trouble with the book is that Carpenter is insufficiently critical, though to be fair he says that he's writing a straight biography, not a life with literary criticism included. But the trouble with that is Auden didn't have a very eventful life, and the most interesting and exciting parts of it were his ideas and what he did with them in his poetry and criticism.
Mendelson's EARLY AUDEN and LATER AUDEN, which are intellectual biography, are, therefore, really a better choice to understand Auden's life, with Carpenter as a supplement for minor details.
But Carpenter's book is worth reading for what it is, and it would be very unAudenish to criticize him for not doing the job he didn't intend to do.
The Auden that we meet as a child and leave as he is interred, is as fascinating to us as such diverse elements in his life were to him.(lead mines in northern England, Icelandic Sagas, Opera, Screen Writing, Psychoanalysis, Religion and oh yes, poetry) The key to Auden, which is the major thesis of the book, is that Auden never stopped developing as a poet and the great controversy about whether his immigration to America is really a misunderstanding of his growth. What the twenty year old poet wrote is not the same as the fifty year old poet but there is a uninterrupted developmental line.
Readers may be surprised at the amount of space devoted to his involvement with screenplays, musical scores (he was once considered for writing the words to the music of "Man of la Mancha") translating but Auden had a burning desire to use the word in as many and varied ways as possible. And if you think that you are buying a glorified version of Cliff Notes for individual poems, you will be sorely disappointed. As a matted of personal interest, I found the relationship of Auden and T.S.Read more ›
Although Auden was an amateur psychoanalyst, Carpenter does not theorize about the poet's formative experiences as much as he presents the events in a way that lets the reader thread them together. In this way, we can see that the marital relationship to Kallman was a reflection of the maternal attachment that also was reflected in Auden's spiritual development, his political leanings, and his writing goals. We watch as his life changes after Kallman was largely residing in other countries without a formal break, and can speculate how the marital relationship grounded his friendships, teaching style, and writing. We witness the heartbreaking effects of stimulant and alcohol addiction on his face, his socializing, his memory, and his residence. We can enjoy the sweep of history that Auden participated in and become fascinated by his cohort.
The book is detailed without being dense. The poetry is vital to the story but this is not a literary analysis, rather a full-blooded biography. Auden was often a comical character as well as intellectual, giving Carpenter many chances to have the reader laughing out loud.