‘An entertaining history of literary life’ Nicholas Shakespeare, Daily Telegraph
Spanning a century of literary history, from the pitched battles fought between Eliot-era modernists and Georgian traditionalists to the impact of creative writing degrees and the media don of today and taking in ‘star reviewers’, sniping critics, caballing editors and megalomaniac professors along the way, The Prose Factory explores the myriad influences on English literary life in the past century and the way in which they have shaped our preferences.
‘An amazing achievement’ David Lodge
‘A pleasingly gossipy history of literary life in England since 1918…very enjoyable’ Observer
‘Elegantly written, defiantly intelligent, scrupulously researched and richly enjoyable’ Mail on Sunday
‘Terrific’ Daily Mail ‘Tremendous’ Guardian ‘Page-turning’ The Times ‘Gripping’ Daily Telegraph
Autumn 1939. In an alternative world, where Edward VIII still sits on the throne, storm clouds gather over Europe, German troops amass and a ‘King’s Party’ of fascist peace campaigners is stealthily undermining the war effort.
For Cynthia Kirkpatrick, the war brings a new-found freedom – lunchtime drinks at the Ritz, rented attic rooms, late-night rackety parties and intriguing new acquaintances.
But two new friends loom larger than others, her glamorous colleague Anthea and Tyler, an enigmatic American working at the Embassy. Initially Cynthia is dazzled by them both but soon discovers they have secrets which could prove dangerous, both to her and the country at large…
It's Derby Day and all of England is heading for the Epsom Downs. Society beauties rub shoulders with Whitechapel street girls, as every class of society gathers with high hopes and taut nerves for the greatest race of the year.
All through winter, from London to France, plans have been laid, money exchanged, disputes begun. And uniting the destinies of old Mr Gresham and his tigerish daughter, the rakish Mr Happerton and his crony Captain Raff, brooding Mr Davenant, Mr Pardew the burglar and detective Captain McTurk is the champion horse Tiberius.
In this rich and exuberant novel, rife with the idioms of Victorian England, the mysteries pile high, propelling us towards the day of the great race, and we wait with bated breath as the story gallops to a finish that no one expects.
Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2011.
Vanity Fair, published in serial parts in 1847-8, made William Makepeace Thackeray famous 'all but at the top of the tree', he told his mother, 'and having a great fight up there with Dickens'. Behind him lay an extraordinary life - an intense, Anglo-Indian childhood, a fortune lost by his early twenties, a disastrous marriage to a wife who went mad and left him to bring up two small daughters in near penury.
But his later life was no less troubled. As D.J. Taylor shows in this incisive biography, Thackeray was a complex, touchy man, acutely sensitive to criticism and fearful of the publicity that accompanied his passage through life.
In January 1929, before 20,000 spectators, Norwich City of the Third Division South went down 0-5 in the third round of the FA Cup to an amateur side composed of ex-public school boys who disdained professional tactics in favour of instinct and teamwork. Within a decade, the Corinthians, the club that for forty years had supplied the entire English national side, had all but ceased to exist. The world was changing. By the time of the last 'Gentleman vs. Players' cricket match in 1962 a whole era in English sport had come to an end.
But the passing of amateur sportsmen - footballers, cricketers, golfers, tennis players - had implications beyond the playing field. A century ago 'amateur' was a compliment to someone who played a game simply for love of it. A hundred years later it is a byword for cack-handed incompetence. In this brilliant study of the patterns of sporting and cultural life, D J Taylor examines the process that led to professionalism's triumph and the long rearguard action fought by sportsmen - and literature - on amateurism's behalf.
On the Corinthian Spirit has many heroes - from 'Charlie Bam', the legendary Corinthian defender, who once played a game with a broken leg, to the boys' school story hero Strickland of the Sixth, Old Etonian cricket-lover George Orwell and the 14th Norwich Cub Scout XI of the early 1970s. Drawing on his own experiences of 'amateurism', D J Taylor describes a changing moral universe with profound consequences both for sport and the world beyond it.
Glamorous Alice Keach is one of 1930s London's foremost hostesses. Despite humble American origins, she has secured her place in high society through marriage to one of England's wealthiest bachelors.
But Alice has a secret. Its roots run years back, and miles away, to the dust-blasted prairies of Kansas. It corncerns a lost little boy left under the haphazard guidance of an eccentric uncle. Now, a visit from America looks set to blow apart Alice's glittering pre-eminence forever.
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY D. J. TAYLOR
These three brilliant novels span Henry Green's career as a novelist and display his unique talents as a writer. Nothing is a tale of the merry-go-round of love, marriage and infidelity, and the ceaseless tussle of innocence versus experience. Doting sets the middle-aged male infatuation for pretty girls against the comfortable affection of wives and old friends, delving into the complications of burgeoning affairs and boring marriages. In Blindness, Green's first novel, a young man is blinded in a senseless accident but thereafter discovers new imaginative powers.
Bright Young People/ Making the most of our youth/ They talk in the Press of our social success/ But quite the reverse is the truth. [Noel Coward]
The Bright Young People were one of the most extraordinary youth cults in British history. A pleasure-seeking band of bohemian party-givers and blue-blooded socialites, they romped through the 1920s gossip columns. Evelyn Waugh dramatised their antics in Vile Bodies and many of them, such as Anthony Powell, Nancy Mitford,Cecil Beaton and John Betjeman, later became household names. Their dealings with the media foreshadowed our modern celebrity culture and even today,we can detect their influence in our cultural life.
But the quest for pleasure came at a price. Beneath the parties and practical jokes was a tormented generation, brought up in the shadow of war, whose relationships - with their parents and with each other - were prone to fracture. For many, their progress through the 'serious' Thirties, when the age of parties was over and another war hung over the horizon, led only to drink, drugs and disappointment, and in the case of Elizabeth Ponsonby - whose story forms a central strand of this book - to a family torn apart by tragedy.
Moving from the Great War to the Blitz, Bright Young People is both a chronicle of England's 'lost generation' of the Jazz Age, and a panoramic portrait of a world that could accommodate both dizzying success and paralysing failure. Drawing on the writings and reminiscences of the Bright Young People themselves, D.J. Taylor has produced an enthralling social and cultural history, a definitive portrait of a vanished age.
A stuffed bear, a pet mouse, fraud and felony on the streets of London, and strange goings-on in the fens... Full of suspense and teeming with life, Kept is a Victorian mystery about the curious things men do to get - and keep - what they want.
August 1863. Henry Ireland, a failed landowner, dies unexpectedly in a riding accident, and his young widow disappears. Three years later his friend James Dixey, a celebrated naturalist, is found dead on his grounds with his throat torn out. Are these deaths connected? What has happened to Mrs Ireland? And what are the sinister bonds that link these men to the poaching of osprey eggs in Scotland, the doomned romance of Dixey's kitchen maid and the first Great Train Robbery?
Orwell has become one of the most potent and symbolic figures in western political thought. Even the adjective 'Orwellian' is now a byword for a particular way of thinking about life, literature and language yet, despite this iconic status, the man who was born Eric Blair in 1903 remains an enigma.
Drawing on a mass of previously unseen material, D J Taylor offers a strikingly human portrait of the writer too often embalmed as a secular saint. Here is a man who, for all his outward unworldliness, effectively stage-managed his own life; who combined chilling detachment with warmth and gentleness, disillusionment with hope; who battled through illness to produce two of the greatest masterpieces of the twentieth century.
Moving and revealing, Taylor's Orwell is the biography we have all been waiting for, as vibrant, powerful and resonant as its extraordinary hero.
D.J.Taylor is a novelist, critic and acclaimed biographer of William Thackeray and George Orwell (both available in paperback). His Orwell: The Life won the Whitbread Biography of the year for 2003. His most recent books are the Victorian novel Kept: A Victorian Mystery (Chatto, 2006) and The Corinthian Spirit: on the decline of Amateurism in Sport (Yellow Jersey, 2006). He is married with three children and lives in Norwich.