Friday, June 24, 2011

Review: Writers Gone Wild: The Feuds, Frolics, and Follies of Literature’s Great Adventurers, Drunkards, Lovers, Iconoclasts, and Misanthropes.

Everybody knows that skeletons of the past fill up an average person’s closet, usually up to the brim. When I got my hands on this gossipy compendium of anecdotes centering mostly on the foibles of a bunch of well-known, well-loved wordsmiths, I was given a peep through the keyholes of their closets. That’s when I realized that some people’s closets are not only choked with ghosts of yesterday, they also provide portals to places that are way crazier than Wonderland or Narnia.

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But this is non-fiction. I’ve always known that most writers are bonkers—it’s almost like a requirement actually—but that didn’t stop the pin of my Insanity Meter to go totally haywire while flipping the pages of this book. For so many years some of these writers worked hard to inflate their literary brainchildren to life, fleshing out characters to a 3D fullness. A little did they know, even little bits of their lives make the best stories ever, and they themselves are insanely amazing characters. Incredibly intriguing, addictive, and awe-inspiring, Writers Gone Wild is a gem that literature buffs will surely love.

From the author info in the book I learned that Bill Peschel is a copy editor and layout designer(?) at the Harrisburg Patriot-News, and that he loves collecting weird and wild stories. Being written by someone who’s got some journalistic background is a reassuring fact that these stories have credibility. With his cool and simple writing tone, the reading is made more enjoyable.

Here we get to see Franz Kafka’s ‘Kurious Kollection’ of porn materials, Philip K. Dick’s prophetic visions, Virginia Woolf sneaking onto a Royal Navy ship disguised as an Abyssinian Prince, Sylvia Plath bite-kissing Ted Hughes on their first meeting in a literary party, Theodore Dreiser resigning from a newspaper company after fake-reviewing a performance that has been cancelled, and many more. For a few more teasers I’d like to share a few direct lines from the book:
  • Of his many affairs with both sexes, and even with his half-sister Augusta, Byron by far preferred teenage boys. But he had to be careful expressing his desire. Before publishing his love poems, he carefully changed the pronouns from masculine to feminine.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald liked champagne or gin, but when he was trying to cut back would limit himself to thirty bottles of beer. A day.
  • When Shakespeare found love, it certainly wasn’t with his wife, Anne. At his death he left her only “my second best bed with the furniture.” While some biographers have tried to put a positive spin on it, it should be noted that in his first draft of the will, he didn’t mention his wife at all.
  • Chekhov’s funeral was anything but serious. The procession to the graveyard crossed paths with the funeral cortege of a Russian general, and some mourners ended up following the wrong body.
All in all this is a fun, juicy romp through the lives of the authors that most of us loved during our high school days. :p
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Get it from amazon

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