A revelatory narrative charting the lives and works of legendary authors Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster and D. H. Lawrence during 1922, the birth year of modernism
'The world broke in two in 1922 or thereabouts,' the American author Willa Cather once wrote. Yet for Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster and D. H. Lawrence, 1922 began with a frighteningly blank page. Eliot was in Switzerland recovering from a nervous breakdown. Forster was grappling with unrequited love. Woolf and Lawrence, meanwhile, were both in bed with the flu. Confronting illness, personal problems and the spectral ghost of World War I, all four felt literally at a loss for words. At the same time, with the publication of Joyce's Ulysses and Proust's In Search of Lost Time, the literary ground was shifting beneath their feet.
As dismal as things seemed, 1922 turned out to be a year of outstanding creative renaissance for them all. By the end of the year Woolf had started Mrs Dalloway, Forster had returned to work on A Passage to India, Lawrence had written his heavily autobiographical novel Kangaroo, and Eliot had finished – and published to great acclaim – 'The Waste Land'. Each discovered their own private literary way to bridge their problems and the lost time of the war. In doing so, they changed the face of literature.
Full of surprising insights and original research, Bill Goldstein's The World Broke in Two chronicles the intertwined lives and works of these four writers in a crucial year of change.
About the Author
Bill Goldstein is the founding editor of the The New York Times books website and the book critic for the weekend edition of WNBC's 'Today in New York'. He is also curator of public programs at Roosevelt House, the public policy institute of New York's Hunter College. A graduate of the University of Chicago, he received a PhD in English from City University of New York Graduate Center in 2010, and is the recipient of writing fellowships at MacDowell, Yaddo, Ucross and elsewhere. He lives in New York.
This is a brilliant book about the birth of modernism, one that taught me something on every page ... You will feel - and be! - much smarter after you read it -- Edmund White
A fascinating and engrossing tale ... Goldstein creates an original, moving and at times wryly amusing account of four literary demi-gods during the course of these few months that shaped a new direction in English literature, incorporating a wealth of detail which builds, layer upon layer, until the picture is satisfyingly complete * Times Literary Supplement *
A splendidly written chronicle of 1922 and the birth of literary modernism -- Must Reads * Sunday Times *
Goldstein's triumph is the way he evokes these great writers as real people in all their banality and oddness ... his book is wonderfully readable and full of top-notch gossip -- James Marriot * The Times *
Goldstein flits between writers, charting the progress of his sorry quartet towards fulfilment as though following plot strands in a soap opera ... brilliantly researched and splendidly written -- John Walsh * Sunday Times *
The intimate peek into the lives, rivalries, and heartbreaks of these celebrated writers sustains an entertaining story about how great literature is made, and will please scholars and hardcore fans alike * Publisher's Weekly *
Goldstein writes assuredly and well of the work of his chosen four exemplars... and he brings fresh eyes to all of them. An engaging, lightly worn literary study * Kirkus *
Goldstein's ardently detailed, many-faceted story of a pivotal year illuminates all that these tormented visionaries had to overcome to "make the modern happen" * Booklist *
Goldstein has done tremendous and valid work here to find the small but crucial changes in these writers' lives that resulted in their various attempts to capture consciousness on the page -- Nick Major * Herald (Glasgow) *
The World Broke in Two beautifully captures a seismic moment of cultural rupture that, despite its shock and awe, left something new and exciting in its path * BookPage *
The enduring interest of 1922 lies in the brilliance, madness, beauty, comedy and devastation with which writers that year fused the fragments of the ages to a noisily vapid postwar present ... Readers who, from sources other than Goldstein, know these monuments - haunting and inscrutable, vital and deathly, visceral and recondite, funny and weird - will cherish the immediacy that "The World Broke in Two" brings to the biographies of their creators * International New York Times *
Scholarly ... Goldstein traces his subjects' activities during the year to show how they reached breakthroughs that got their careers back on track * Library Journal *
Brilliant, compelling, incisive. It transforms our understanding of modern literature -- Blanche Wiesen Cook, author, Eleanor Roosevelt, Volumes I, II, and III
Stunningly written ... The World Broke in Two brilliantly illuminates the adventure that is the creative process -- Sherill Tippins, author of 'February House' and 'Inside the Dream Palace: The Life and Times of New York's Legendary Chelsea Hotel'
The World Broke in Two is a gem of collective - and interwoven - biography. Like the great modernists of fiction, Bill Goldstein pays keen imaginative attention to simultaneity; he surveys the literary landscape, and these four great peaks upon it, as if he were the pilot flying that famous airplane over Mrs. Dalloway. The reader is made to see the writers - paused, burgeoning, and on the brink - in strong relationship to one another. The result is a view and vision we've not had before -- Thomas Mallon, author of 'Yours Ever: People and Their Letters'
The World Broke in Two is more fun to read than it has any right to be. Its subject - the overlapping neuroses, illnesses, and inspirations of four 20th Century greats - would seem familiar territory. But Bill Goldstein is such a companionable writer and his narrative is so full of telling detail that we encounter each of these writers anew. The result is a book that anyone interested in the vicissitudes of the writing life - then or now - will read with hunger. Like all good accounts of writing, it draws us back to the books themselves. -- Adam Haslett, author of 'Imagine Me Gone'
What a masterpiece this book is! So captivating, so original, so full of energy, insights and analysis! Bill Goldstein's brilliant work will be read with great pleasure not only by those who think they already know his famous subjects, but by all readers who love history and biography -- Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of 'Team of Rivals' and 'The Bully Pulpit'