To read Michael Slater’s new biography of Charles Dickens (Yale Univ., $35) is to feel distinctly lazy. Like the steam-powered empire of which London was the heart, Dickens’s writing life was a marvel of industry and innovation.  Sometimes working on one novel in the morning and another in the afternoon, in a desperate sprint to turn in installments ahead of printers’ deadlines, he made time to found several periodicals, propitiate his publishers, spearhead social campaigns, and produce increasingly elaborate theatricals.  His letters, which Slater quotes generously, demonstrate that Dickens found time for elaborate comic conceits and raillery (pretending to be desperately in love with a young Queen Victoria, for instance), as well as providing advice and practical assistance to less established writers, including a young Edgar Allan Poe. Slater also offers new insights about how a keen sense of childhood neglect shaped all of Dickens’s relationships, the most passionate and enduring of which was with the reading public he helped to create.

Charles Dickens Cover Image
ISBN: 9780300170931
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Yale University Press - May 31st, 2011

It’s easy to equate Louisa May Alcott with her literary alter ego Jo March, the feisty, dark-haired bookworm of Little Women. But as Harriet Reisen vigorously shows in Louisa May Alcott (Holt, $26), the real Louisa was far more intriguing. Reisen introduces us to the woman who churned out thrillers and pulp fiction, and who penned a romance about hashish the same year she published Little Women. Jo March eventually married, but the fiercely independent Alcott, who supported herself and her family with her writing, preferred to be a free spinster and to paddle her own canoe. This is a compelling biography.

Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women Cover Image
ISBN: 9780312658878
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Picador - October 26th, 2010

Clarice Lispector (1920-1977) was born in the Ukraine but became one of Brazil’s most admired modern writers. Her novels are steeped in Spinoza and Jewish mysticism, yet she was also a popular newspaper advice columnist. She earned a law degree, married a diplomat, and lived in Europe and the U.S., all the while writing fiction that was rich, strange, and even shocking. To produce such a remarkable writer required an incredible set of circumstances, and Benjamin Moser’s fascinating  Why This World (Oxford Univ., $29.95) looks back to the years before Lispector’s birth for the sources of her art. Her family barely escaped the pogroms in their small village of Chechelnk. Lispector, though an infant when the family fled to Brazil, always felt a particular guilt: her mother contracted syphilis as a result of a gang-rape by Russian soldiers, and her parents tried the folk remedy of conceiving a baby as a cure. Needless to say, her mother’s condition worsened and she died when Clarice was seven. Such nightmares haunt Lispector’s work, as do passion, mysteries, and the quest for authentic identity.

Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector Cover Image
ISBN: 9780199895823
Availability: Backordered
Published: Oxford University Press, USA - May 1st, 2012