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Writers Gone Wild: The Feuds, Frolics, and Follies of Literature's Great Adventurers, Drunkards, Lo vers, Iconoclasts, and Misanthropes Paperback – November 2, 2010
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About the Author
Bill Peschel is a lifelong reader whose five thousand-book library keeps his home in Hershey, Pennsylvania, firmly anchored to the earth. When not collecting weird and wild stories, he edits news articles and designs pages at the Harrisburg Patriot-News.
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Writers Gone Wild: The Feuds, Frolics, and Follies of Literature's Great Adventurers, Drunkards, Lovers, Iconoclasts, and Misanthropes by Bill Peschel is both thoughtful and thoroughly entertaining. I can pick it up, read a few pages, and set it down, pick it up a few hours later, read a few more pages, and never miss a beat.
Another reviewer mentioned that it's perfect because you can read one essay between appointments, but I'm afraid I sat and devoured a third of the book at one go. It's like potato chips. I CAN eat just one - but why ever would I? I give the book five out of five stars. Well done!
For as far back as (and for who) we have records of their lives, authors have generally been a rowdy, conniving, unbalanced lot. They had to milk benefactors, fight editors and censors, deal with their inner demons, and still insure that the public thought well enough of them to read them. In many cases, their inner demons were the very inspirations for their interesting and ground-breaking work. They were also the cause of their more outlandish and at times inexplicable real life episodes.
In most cases the vignettes I've read in this book don't go into the psychological detail to fully integrate from psychosis to behavior to written word, but if you also know something about these authors from other reading, you can often connect the dots yourself. That's just a fun game to play as you read the entries contained herein though. Each one contains enough essential background to lay a foundation for what is to come, then provides one or more anecdotes and observations of interest.
Peschel's style is warm and witty, as if a learned, well spoken, and charming friend were recounting the juiciest recent gossip over cocktails on the terrace.
I'll just give you a taste of the mishaps our authors got into:
When Voltaire was beaten, his friend just said, "You are a poet and you have been beaten. This is the order of things." Ain't that the truth.
Stuart Little was banned from the New York Public Library for "interspecies miscegenation." Upton Sinclair published an obituary for one of his characters to gain public attention. See, even back then authors had to market themselves. William Faulkner worked at the post office and would go through people's mail, throwing away what he thought they didn't need and keeping the magazines for himself. Virginia Woolf dressed up as an Abyssinian prince and fooled the British Royal Navy.
Honestly, most of these stories will make you laugh. Some are disgusting. I have a lot less respect for Ernest Hemingway and a few others. Some authors are examples of how very thin the line can be between genius and madness. I felt sorry for these and several authors, whose talent went unnoticed or ignored, or whose great writing arose from great personal struggle.
I really enjoyed this collection because it does give us a more realistic picture of some of these authors. In a way, it's nice to know that they had to deal with life just as we do. Some caved under the pressure, but others channeled their experiences into their work.