Lives of the Novelists by John Sutherland
A History of Fiction in 294 Lives

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He approaches the 294 novelists he essays with the eye of a magazine profile writer as well as the judgment of an emeritus professor, always on the lookout for the telling biographical detail that might explain the books, and with a nose for Grub Street gossip.
-Guardian

Synopsis

No previous author has attempted a book such as this: a complete history of novels written in the English language, from the genre's seventeenth-century origins to the present day. In the spirit of Dr. Johnson’s Lives of the Poets, acclaimed critic and scholar John Sutherland selects 294 writers whose works illustrate the best of every kind of fiction—from gothic, penny dreadful, and pornography to fantasy, romance, and high literature. Each author was chosen, Professor Sutherland explains, because his or her books are well worth reading and are likely to remain so for at least another century. Sutherland presents these authors in chronological order, in each case deftly combining a lively and informative biographical sketch with an opinionated assessment of the writer's work. Taken together, these novelists provide both a history of the novel and a guide to its rich variety. Always entertaining, and sometimes shocking, Sutherland considers writers as diverse as Daniel Defoe, Henry James, James Joyce, Edgar Allan Poe, Virginia Woolf, Michael Crichton, Jeffrey Archer, and Jacqueline Susann.

Written for all lovers of fiction, Lives of the Novelists succeeds both as introduction and re-introduction, as Sutherland presents favorite and familiar novelists in new ways and transforms the less favored and less familiar through his relentlessly fascinating readings.

 

About John Sutherland

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John Sutherland is Emeritus Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College London and a former long-time faculty member at the California Institute of Technology. He is author of over 20 books, editor of 30 more, and a regular columnist and critic on radio and television. He lives in London.div/DIV
 
Published March 27, 2012 by Yale University Press. 833 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Lives of the Novelists
All: 4 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Christopher Benfey on May 11 2012

Like the masters of pulp memorialized in this bighearted book, Sutherland is something of a genre writer himself.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Tim Adams on Sep 14 2013

He approaches the 294 novelists he essays with the eye of a magazine profile writer as well as the judgment of an emeritus professor, always on the lookout for the telling biographical detail that might explain the books, and with a nose for Grub Street gossip.

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WSJ online

Below average
Reviewed by Allan Massie on Mar 26 2012

...Mr. Sutherland notes the "support, encouragement, assistance and (all too often) corrections" of four editors and adds that "the mistakes which remain are, alas, all mine." There are a good many of them. I spotted 50 before I stopped counting...

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LA Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Carolyn Kellogg on Apr 01 2012

It may be a reference book, but it's something more: It tells the story of the people who've told our culture's stories, high and low and otherwise, for 21/2 centuries.

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