cover image Bernard Shaw

Bernard Shaw

Michael Holroyd. Random House (NY), $24.95 (4pp) ISBN 978-0-394-52577-8

Hyperactive art and music critic, Fabian socialist, bicyclist, subversive open-air lecturer, vegetarian, expert on boxing, failed novelist: Shaw led a multifaceted existence during his first 22 years in London. Holroyd, biographer of Lytton Strachey and Augustus John, produces here a literary biography of the highest ordergenerous, poised, utterly fascinating, Shavian in its unmasking of Shaw's deceits, attuned to G.B.S.'s complexity. Shaw was raised in Dublin in a bizarre menage a troishis father a drunk, his mother captivated by musical impresario George Lee. From these early relationships would flow the playwright's portrayals of women as huntresses, his obsession with the themes of illegitimacy and hypocrisy. In this first installment in a projected three-volume life, Holroyd discusses the early plays perceptively and admirably unravels Shaw's many romantic affairs, to culminate when this woman-tamer was himself tamed by wealthy Charlotte Payne-Townsend, whom he married at age 41. This is a Shaw for our time. Photos. BOMC featured selection; Reader's Subscription alternate. (October)