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Jonathan Swift


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About the Author

Leo Damrosch is Ernest Bernbaum Research Professor of Literature at Harvard University. He is the author of nine books, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Restless Genius, a National Book Award Finalist. He lives in Newton, MA.


"[A] commanding new biography ... Damrosch is gifted with a fluent style, sturdy sense of humor."-John Simon, New York Times Book Review (Editor's Choice) -- John Simon New York Times Book Review "Damrosch tells this story ... with great energy and elegantly worn erudition. He restores to Swift the dignity he deserves, reminding us that the really shocking things about him lie not in his life but in his work."-Fintan O'Toole, New York Review of Books -- Fintan O'Toole New York Review of Books "[S]uperb... Damrosch's outstanding book has raised Swift's provocative genius to life... Damrosch has brought [Swift's] vision into sharp focus and exposed its disquieting relevance."-Jeffrey Collins, Wall Street Journal -- Jeffrey Collins Wall Street Journal A Best Book of 2013, The Daily Beast, literary editor Lucas Wittmann The Daily Beast Received an Honorable Mention for the 2013 American Publishers Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence (PROSE), in the Biography & Autobiography category. -- PROSE Awards American Publishers Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence "Leo Damrosch conjures up Jonathan Swift with hallucinatory vividness, allowing the contradictions of this baffling, elusive genius full rein. He recovers in rich detail the world in which Gulliver's Travels and other enduring masterpieces were created. This is a brilliant and humane biography."-Stephen Greenblatt, author of The Swerve: How the World Became Modern -- Stephen Greenblatt "Thoroughly researched, vividly written and convincingly argued, Leo Damrosch's new biography of Jonathan Swift more than holds its own among such great predecessors as Walter Scott and Irvin Ehrenpreis, and presents a standard that contemporary scholarly prose is rarely capable of matching."-Robert Mahony, The Catholic University of America -- Robert Mahony "Immensely enjoyable and fast-paced."-Louis Menand, author of The Metaphysical Club -- Louis Menand This "lively new biography" by "the immensely talented biographer Leo Damrosch" is "piercingly intelligent ... [and] will surely be the definitive one-volume Swift biography of our time."-Steve Donoghue, Open Letters Monthly -- Steve Donoghue Open Letters Monthly "Damrosch is incisive about Swift's personality ... and writes with fine Swiftian clarity, but does not simplify. He acknowledges that, investigating Swift, you run into a revolving door of contradictions... But Damrosch sees him, rightly, not just as a tragic figure but as a fearless thinker whose works are an antidote to optimism's happy lies." - John Carey, London Sunday Times -- John Carey The Sunday Times "A fine biography... Damrosch is an ingenious, learned hypothesizer on matters lost to history and an adept guide to Swift's works... Even Swift's contemporaries were, often enough, not sure what to make of them. One such called Swift 'my hieroglyphic friend.' And that's fine with me. Let the mystery continue, the interpretations and speculations flourish, and the greatest ironist in the English language continue to be read and puzzled over."-Katherine A. Powers, Barnes & Noble Review Barnes & Noble Review "Damrosch's approach is forensic...For me the Swift who emerges from these patient investigations is a more rounded personality."-George Walden, The Times -- George Walden The Times "We live in an age when we sorely need a Swift; instead we have Jon Stewart. Modest recompense is to be found in Leo Damrosch's new life of Swift."-Lucas Wittmann, The Daily Beast -- Lucas Wittmann The Daily Beast "A feisty, first-class life of the sage and scourge of English literature... Damrosch is bent on both correcting the record and adding to it, creating a fresh and vivid life even as he wrestles with previous biographers... This is the kind of biography where you come to feel you know the subject personally. A rich and rewarding portrait of an irreplaceable genius."-Kirkus Reviews, starred review Kirkus Reviews "[C]onvincing and vivid...Damrosch has...let us glimpse the human roots of Swift's sometimes inhuman irony."-John Mullan, The Guardian -- John Mullan The Guardian "The enigma of Swift's life and character continues to tease us. This magisterial biography reminded me how much, in his writings, there is to relish - even outside the mainstream of the great, the immortal, works."-A. N. Wilson, The Tablet -- A. N. Wilson The Tablet "Leo Damrosch's... wonderful and absorbing biography of Swift . . [is] by far the most balanced, nuanced and persuasive biography of Swift so far. Damrosch is a fine scholar who knows Swift's works and his age very well indeed...It should remind the reader what a wonderful writer Swift is and send us enthusiastically back to the texts - something few biographies ever succeed in doing."-Andrew Carpenter, Irish Times -- Andrew Carpenter Irish Times 'Leo Damrosch has written a conscientious and worthy book, full of meat and handsomely illustrated.'-Paul Johnson, Literary Review -- Paul Johnson Literary Review "Masterly in its control of the material, ... contriving to blend informality with solid argumentation... Excellent passages are devoted to A Tale of a Tub, The Drapier's Letters, A Modest Proposal, and above all Gulliver's Travels... What Damrosch has given us is superior to anything that has gone before, in its mastery of all aspects of the subject, ... a work where everyone will find a fascinating store of information and enjoyment." - Pat Rogers, New Criterion -- Pat Rogers New Criterion "An excellent book. Leo Damrosch ... writes entertainingly and is comfortable with political and philosophical ideas as well as with literary matters."-Michael Dirda, Washington Post -- Michael Dirda Washington Post Winner of the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award in the category of Biography. -- NBCC National book critics circle "Damrosch's tolerance for mystery is one of the outstanding features of his spellbinding biography... Such questions are a sign of scrupulous intellectual integrity. They also deepen Damrosch's narrative, giving us a visceral sense of biography's essential tasks, which are not only to solve a life's puzzles but to remark them... Swift's passions still burn through Gulliver's uncanny adventures, and in Damrosch's exceptional book."-Marcela Valdes, Critical Mass: The Blog of the National Book Critics Circle -- Marcela Valdes Critical Mass "Damrosch writes with wit and constructs a compelling portrait of the Irish clergyman, whose satires delighted and scandalized eighteenth-century Britain." -New Yorker, "Briefly Noted" New Yorker "Masterly in its control, ... contriving to blend informality with solid argumentation... What Damrosch has given us is superior to anything that has gone before, in ... a work where everyone will find a fascinating store of information and enjoyment."-Pat Rogers, New Criterion -- Pat Rogers New Criterion "Convincing and vivid... Damrosch has ... let us glimpse the human roots of Swift's sometimes inhuman irony."-John Mullan, The Guardian -- John Mullan Guardian Columbia University 2014 Pulitzer Prize Finalist in the Biography/Autobiography category. -- Pulitzer Prize, Finalist Columbia University Finalist for the Biographers International Organization 2014 Plutarch Award for Best Biography of the Year, Selected by other biographers. -- Plutarch Award, Finalist Biographers International Organization 'If Damrosch follows Ehrenpreis in anything, it's in the ambition, indicated by his 'life and world' subtitle, to ground biography in social context. He does that job with efficiency and a sure touch.'-Thomas Keymer, London Review of Books -- Thomas Keymer London Review of Books "Do read Leo Damrosch's compelling biography... Here is a book to delight and instruct both the general reader and the specialist. Damrosch masterfully fleshes out the fascinating and complex life of this Anglican clergyman, champion of the oppressed Irish, and brilliant satirist who lived in an age equally fascinating and complex."-Karen Swallow Prior, Books & Culture -- Karen Swallow Prior Books & Culture

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