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Bernard Shaw: A Life


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Australian scholar Gibbs, a founding member of the Council of the International Shaw Society, is less revisionist in his view of Shaw than he would have us believe. Gibbs quotes Shaw (1856-1950) a little less than previous biographers, but finds only marginal alternative sources on his subject's early life. Charting his progression from Victorian novelist and journalist-reviewer to popular playwright and political gadfly, Gibbs emphasizes Shaw's passionate relations with women, both amatory and filial, which provided the emotional subtext for his best work. His affairs with Florence Farr, Erica Cotterill and Stella Campbell are placed more in the context of his creative treatment of "the New Woman" than his progressive politics. And beyond the maneuverings within the Fabian Society with Beatrice and Sidney Webb and H. G. Wells, Shaw's particular brand of socialism receives casual treatment, and Gibbs is mild in his judgment of Shaw's missteps; for instance, Shaw's unrevised positive opinion of Stalin and Soviet totalitarianism shows an "uncharacteristic credulity." Despite Gibbs's immersion in all things Shavian, his tacitly deferential work shows how difficult it can be to bring even the liveliest character to life. B&w photos. (Dec.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

One of the most famous authors of the 1900s, Irish-born George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) wrote five novels, more than 50 plays, short stories, political works, and theater, music, and book reviews. He was a provocateur, vegetarian, free thinker, Socialist, and womanizer who, ironically, embraced the women's suffrage movement and revolutionized Victorian society and its drama. Such a productive and extraordinary life presents a sizable task for the biographer, yet Gibbs (A Bernard Shaw Chronology) brings us closer to this great man by shedding new light on some of the self-created myths concerning his life. In this intricately detailed yet readable account, Gibbs reveals how the writer's early years with his parents in Ireland and his relationships with an assortment of female relatives and friends influenced his writing. He presents such new evidence as a previously unpublished piece of autobiographical writing by Shaw's mother, letters from Shaw's father to Shaw and his mother, diaries and letters from Shaw's wife, and letters from his various female friends and lovers. Early sketches by Shaw and previously unpublished photos are also included. A lively and informative scholarly reference, this book is recommended for academic and large public libraries.-Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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