Fiction A. S. Byatt The Biographer's Tale

ISBN 13: 9780099283935

The Biographer's Tale

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9780099283935: The Biographer's Tale

From the award-winning author of Possession and Angels and Insects comes an ingenious new novel about love and literary sleuthing: a dazzling fiction woven out of one man's search for fact.
It tells the story of Phineas G. Nanson, a disenchanted young graduate student who decides to escape the world of postmodern literary theory and immerse himself in the messiness of "real life" by writing a biography of a great biographer. For what could be more real than biography, the "art of things, of arranged facts"? But Phineas quickly discovers that facts can be unreliable, and a "whole life" hard to find. No matter how hard he tries, he unearths only fragments--disconnected manuscripts, bones and husks, strands of poetry, boxes of marbles, undated photographs. How does one put together the idea of a person?

Phineas tracks his subjects' journeys to the deserts of Africa and the maelstroms of the Arctic in a series of adventures that are by turns intellectual and comic, scientific and erotic. He meets others who are building wholes from bits and pieces: a beautiful radiographer, ecologists, anthropologists, even travel agents offering the trip of your dreams. But they seem only to make his task more difficult. And as he tries to sort through the cabinet of curiosities that is the past, he must also decide his own future, and face the most difficult puzzle of all: which woman will guide him out of this dizzying labyrinth and back into his own life?

With The Biographer's Tale, A. S. Byatt--hailed by the New York Times Book Review as "a storyteller who could keep a sultan on the edge of his throne for 1,001 nights"--asks provocative questions about our perennial quest for certainty, about "truth" in biography, about the nature of the imagination and the meaning of meaning, even as she spins a tantalizing yarn of detection and desire.

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Review:

A.S. Byatt chronicles the life of the mind with the immediacy other novelists bring to the physical world. So when the graduate-student hero of The Biographer's Tale announces that he needs "a life full of things," we take his words with a grain of salt. Yes, Phineas G. Nanson has renounced the "cross-referenced abstractions" of life as a postmodern literary theorist, and vows to ground himself in what he warily calls the "facts" (the quotation marks are definitely in order). Yet he first forays into empiricism by reading a three-volume life of the Victorian traveler, writer, and diplomat Elmer Bole--then immediately undertakes a biography of Bole's biographer, Scholes Destry-Scholes.

Things, as Nanson discovers, can prove just as slippery as ideas. His research quickly leapfrogs beyond the biographer to his other subjects: scientist Carl Linnaeus, playwright Henrik Ibsen, and eugenicist Francis Galton, all of whom Destry-Scholes chronicled in three unpublished, unfinished, and, as it turns out, well-embroidered accounts. Meanwhile, our hero continues his forays into the real world. He takes a part-time job with a pair of gay travel agents, who arrange some very specialized vacations, and meets up with a Swedish bee taxonomist named Fulla, who wants to save the world. He also unearths a perplexing series of Destry-Scholes's index cards, full of sketches, facts, quotations, and unattributed lines of verse. These he attempts to shuffle into some kind of order, even as the enigmatic figure of the biographer himself seems to appear and disappear from view.

There are echoes here of Byatt's Booker Prize-winning Possession, another detective story for the MLA set. Yet The Biographer's Tale is an altogether odder--and chillier--sort of book. It is, in fact, almost terrifyingly learned, and wears its research about as lightly as a pair of Fulla's Ecco sandals. The mystery here is nothing less than the nature of mind, so it's no criticism to say that her characters have little life outside the ideas they represent. What's surprising is that the result is so readable, even beautiful at times. Here, for instance, is Nanson on truth and beauty:

There are a very few human truths and infinite variations on them. I was about to write that there are very few truths about the world, but the truth about that is that we don't know what we are not biologically fitted to know, it may be full of all sorts of shining and tearing things, geometries, chemistries, physics we have no access to and never can have. Reading and writing extend--not infinitely, but violently, but giddily--the variations we can perceive on the truths we thus discover.
The index cards themselves can be painful to read (remember the ersatz Victorian poetry in Possession?). But persevere, dear reader--meaning emerges through the play of one esoteric piece of information against another, just as it does in real life. Byatt extends her philosophical variations as far as she giddily can, and in The Biographer's Tale, she has constructed an elaborate, glittering labyrinth at the center of which lie surprisingly simple truths. --Mary Park

From the Back Cover:

"Phineas G. Nanson decides to write a biography of the noted biographer Scholes Destry-Scholes, believing biography to be the ultimate art of factual arrangement and Destry-Scholes to be the ultimate biographer. . . . [He] finds little material on Destry-Scholes himself and a plethora on Destry-Scholes' many interests. . . . [The Biographer's Tale] is all written in Victorian narrative style, and it's all fascinating. . . . We wonder what is happening to poor Phineas, lost in research and out of a job. We feel his frustration as he follows one research trail after another to a dead end. . . . When the book returns to the life of Phineas, present-day London, the writing is spare and comic. Characters emerge, brilliantly dawn and alive on the page."
–-Joanna Rose, The Oregonian

"With The Biographer's Tale A.S. Byatt embarks the reader on a wild ride-part sleuth tale, part academic parody a la Borges, part Victorian chronicle. . . . The constant back-and-forth . . . proceeds flawlessly, and the story is not devoid of plot twists, which infuse energy into the narrative. As for Byatt's prose, it is at once powerful and poetic. Byatt's sentences reverberate like great music. . . . Not just a novelist, she's also an erudite writer who keeps her readers on their intellectual toes with historical, literary, philosophical, scientific and historical references on virtually every page. . . . A feast for the brain . . . an impressive achievement, a literary mosaic at once exotic, academic, esoteric, engaging, and disconcerting." –-Jean Charbonneau, Denver Post

"Wise, sharp-witted . . . [A..S. Byatt] rarely misses a chance to build authority and authenticity. . . . As in her Booker Prize-winner, "Possession" (1990), some of her people are sniffy, self-important academics. But, again following "Possession," these unpleasant bookworms generate some exciting, provocative scenes. . . . It offers many gems along with enough intellectual depth to please the over-educated. Miss it at your peril." –-Peter Wolfe, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"Phineas G. Nanson is an unlikely hero, but the perfect protagonist-narrator for A.S. Byatt's comic tale . . . Not surprisingly, Nanson's research . . . evolves, by intricately layered turns, into . . . another delicious A.S. Byatt novel. . . . [The Biographer's Tale] drips with equal measures of learning and wit, and, I might add, not a little satire about the ways that high theory deadens literary practice, and how competing notions about what constitutes a legitimate "biography" make seeing a life, any life, both steady and whole nearly impossible. . . . Savvy readers will watch in something approaching amazement as Byatt weaves seemingly disparate stories . . . into the (nearly) unified tale . . . . It is, as they used to say about British novels of an earlier age, a rattling good tale, at the same time that it is about the peculiar mix of detective work and personal involvement that goes into the making of biography."
Sanford Pinsker, Providence Sunday Journal

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A. S. Byatt
Editorial: Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom (2001)
ISBN 10: 009928393X ISBN 13: 9780099283935
Nuevos Paperback Cantidad: 1
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Descripción Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2001. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In this witty, Borges-like Novel, A. S. Byatt weaves a dazzling fiction out of one man s search for fact. Fed up with stultifying criticism, Phineas G. decides to study the messiness of real life . Doing nothing by halves he sets out to write a biography of a great biographer. But a whole life is hard to find. How do we put the idea of a person together? Everywhere he looks he finds fragments and gaps: disconnected typescripts, bones and husks, boxes of marbles, collections of photographs. Trails run cold and mysteries are unresolved.Phineas feels he is hunting shadows. Like a shaman flying across the globe, his mind tracks the journeys of his subjects to the deserts of Africa and the maelstroms of the Arctic, where the shapes of myth meet the patterns of science. He meets others building wholes from bits and pieces: taxonomists, ecologists, even travel agents offering the trip of your dreams. In the process he also puzzles out his own future - but which woman will guide him out of the labyrinth? Tantalising, comic and rueful, The Biographer s Tale is a modern delight, a colour-filled novel of detection and desire. Nº de ref. de la librería AAZ9780099283935

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A. S. Byatt
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Descripción Estado de conservación: New. Depending on your location, this item may ship from the US or UK. Nº de ref. de la librería 97800992839350000000

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A. S. Byatt
Editorial: Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom (2001)
ISBN 10: 009928393X ISBN 13: 9780099283935
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Descripción Vintage Publishing, United Kingdom, 2001. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In this witty, Borges-like Novel, A. S. Byatt weaves a dazzling fiction out of one man s search for fact. Fed up with stultifying criticism, Phineas G. decides to study the messiness of real life . Doing nothing by halves he sets out to write a biography of a great biographer. But a whole life is hard to find. How do we put the idea of a person together? Everywhere he looks he finds fragments and gaps: disconnected typescripts, bones and husks, boxes of marbles, collections of photographs. Trails run cold and mysteries are unresolved.Phineas feels he is hunting shadows. Like a shaman flying across the globe, his mind tracks the journeys of his subjects to the deserts of Africa and the maelstroms of the Arctic, where the shapes of myth meet the patterns of science. He meets others building wholes from bits and pieces: taxonomists, ecologists, even travel agents offering the trip of your dreams. In the process he also puzzles out his own future - but which woman will guide him out of the labyrinth? Tantalising, comic and rueful, The Biographer s Tale is a modern delight, a colour-filled novel of detection and desire. Nº de ref. de la librería AAZ9780099283935

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Byatt, A. S.
Editorial: Vintage (2001)
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Descripción Vintage, 2001. Estado de conservación: New. 2001. New Ed. Paperback. Fed up with stultifying criticism, Phineas decides to study the messiness of 'real life'. Doing nothing by halves, he sets out to write a biography of a great biographer. But a 'whole life' is hard to find. How do we put the idea of a person together? Everywhere he looks, he finds fragments and gaps. Trails run cold and mysteries are unresolved. Num Pages: 272 pages, portraits. BIC Classification: FA. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 198 x 131 x 18. Weight in Grams: 200. . . . . . . Nº de ref. de la librería V9780099283935

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Byatt, A. S.
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Descripción Vintage. Estado de conservación: New. 2001. New Ed. Paperback. Fed up with stultifying criticism, Phineas decides to study the messiness of 'real life'. Doing nothing by halves, he sets out to write a biography of a great biographer. But a 'whole life' is hard to find. How do we put the idea of a person together? Everywhere he looks, he finds fragments and gaps. Trails run cold and mysteries are unresolved. Num Pages: 272 pages, portraits. BIC Classification: FA. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 198 x 131 x 18. Weight in Grams: 200. . . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Nº de ref. de la librería V9780099283935

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A S Byatt
Editorial: Vintage (2001)
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Descripción Vintage, 2001. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. BRAND NEW ** SUPER FAST SHIPPING FROM UK WAREHOUSE ** 30 DAY MONEY BACK GUARANTEE. Nº de ref. de la librería mon0000190396

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A S Byatt
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Descripción Vintage, 2001. Estado de conservación: New. Nº de ref. de la librería GH9780099283935

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Descripción Vintage Publishing. Paperback. Estado de conservación: new. BRAND NEW, The Biographer's Tale, A. S. Byatt, In this witty, Borges-like Novel, A. S. Byatt weaves a dazzling fiction out of one man's search for fact. Fed up with stultifying criticism, Phineas G. decides to study the messiness of 'real life'. Doing nothing by halves he sets out to write a biography of a great biographer. But a 'whole life' is hard to find. How do we put the idea of a person together? Everywhere he looks he finds fragments and gaps: disconnected typescripts, bones and husks, boxes of marbles, collections of photographs. Trails run cold and mysteries are unresolved.Phineas feels he is hunting shadows. Like a shaman flying across the globe, his mind tracks the journeys of his subjects to the deserts of Africa and the maelstroms of the Arctic, where the shapes of myth meet the patterns of science. He meets others building wholes from bits and pieces: taxonomists, ecologists, even travel agents offering the trip of your dreams. In the process he also puzzles out his own future - but which woman will guide him out of the labyrinth? Tantalising, comic and rueful, The Biographer's Tale is a modern delight, a colour-filled novel of detection and desire. Nº de ref. de la librería B9780099283935

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A S Byatt
Editorial: Random House 2001-06-01, London (2001)
ISBN 10: 009928393X ISBN 13: 9780099283935
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Descripción Random House 2001-06-01, London, 2001. paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Nº de ref. de la librería 9780099283935

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A. S. Byatt
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Descripción Estado de conservación: New. Bookseller Inventory # ST009928393X. Nº de ref. de la librería ST009928393X

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