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Thornton Wilder: A Life

Penelope Niven. Edward Albee, foreword.
Publisher Harper  
Format hardcover
Product Dimensions 9.25 x 6.35 x 1.7 inches
ISBN 9780060831363
Pages/Publication Date 832/2012
Daedalus Item Code 42798
This item is not available.
The winner of three Pulitzer Prizes—for the novel The Bridge of San Luis Ray and the plays Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth—as well as a National Book Award for his novel The Eighth Day and the author of numerous other plays, novels, and short stories, Thornton Wilder was a pivotal figure in 20th-century American theater and literature. He was also a world traveler, a student, a teacher, a soldier, an actor, a son, a brother, and a complex, intensely private man who kept his personal life a secret. The biographer of Carl Sandburg and Edward Steichen, Penelope Niven here presents a rich, fascinating, fully dimensional portrait of Wilder.

"Ms. Niven's deeply researched and fluidly readable book spends much of its first third delving into the relationships among the members of the remarkable family Wilder came from, and to which he remained close throughout his life. Some of the book's most engrossing passages chart the peregrinations of the Wilders during the writer's formative years—years that prepared him, she persuasively argues, for the humane, literate and searching novelist and playwright he would become. The man who emerges from Ms. Niven's fine-grained, sympathetic portrait is remarkable for his easygoing nature, his loyal affections, his generosity of spirit and above all his boundless, enthusiastic foraging in the fields of art and literature.... Niven is able to make his continuing education a journey that often outshines the more superficially engaging aspects of his career, including friendships with an amazingly disparate array of figures: Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, the English society hostess Sibyl Colefax, the actress Ruth Gordon, Jean-Paul Sartre and even the prizefighter Gene Tunney, with whom Wilder trekked through Europe when both were more or less at the height of their fame. Few writers have emerged from the crucible of the biographer's attentions in recent years with their reputations as honorable human beings intact. Wilder does. He was not just a great artist, he seems to have been a great man too, in matters both large and small."—NYTimes

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