Confessions: A Life of Failed Promises
Here at last is the story of one of the leading contemporary critics, literary and otherwise, who has become celebrated for his waspish and subversive writing. As a writer, Wilson is polymathic. As the literary editor of the Spectator and Evening Standard he pioneered the commissioning of celebrity reviewers like the former Duchess of Devonshire and her sister Diana Moseley. He has published a number of well received novels but he is also the master of the biographer's art. His prize-winning biographies of C. S. Lewis and Tolstoy remain classics, and for the latter he taught himself Russian.
But now, Wilson turns the light upon himself. At Oxford, he married his tutor but then entered St Stephen's House to train for the Anglican priesthood. His portrait of this Anglican seminary and its high camp ethos is hilarious and full of anecdote, yet he also describes how he was on the threshold of a stellar career as writer and critic.
His account of being a Booker Prize judge is witty and cynical, as is his description of how his close friend the novelist Beryl Bainbridge failed for the fifth time to get beyond the Booker shortlist and finally win. The bridesmaid who never became the bride.
This sharp and gossipy memoir will delight Wilson's admirers who are legion. But it will also give others an exceptional insight into the charade which is the literary and publishing world in our times.
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