Writers: Literary Lives In Focus

Edited by Alessia Tagliaventi, trans. from the Italian by Grace Crerar-Bromelow and Clare Costa. Contrasto (Consortium, dist.) $35 (514p) ISBN 978-88-6965-525-8
This massive collection of 250 profiles of literary stars, all accompanied by artful portraits, will likely send readers scurrying to their bookshelves, favorite bookstore or both. Arranged alphabetically, readers can peruse brief biographies on everyone from Chinua Achebe to Andrea Zanzotto and all points and genres in between. Selected authors include many of the expected: Franz Kafka, Haruki Murakami, Raymond Carver, Pablo Neruda, and more. There are some inevitable glaring omissions: gritty crime writers Dashiell Hammett, James Ellroy, and Raymond Chandler, all appear, but Elmore Leonard is conspicuously absent, as are horror writers—Stephen King's portrait is included but Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft are nowhere to be found. Despite the random selection, the book's breadth as well as its frequently surprising images (such as Aldous Huxley in mid-air, Thomas Pynchon's passport photo from 1955, and a photomontage of Philip K. Dick's head on a subway seat, staring at a fellow passenger). The accompanying text offers a pithy summation of the author's key works and their contribution to the literary canon. Many of these entries read like brief encyclopedia entries. That said, lovers of literature will likely appreciate this unique collection. Illus. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/22/2014
Release date: 09/01/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
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