Review: Literary Rogues

Dear Constant Reader,

Literary Rogues: A Scandalous History of Wayward Authors by Andrew Shaffer (2013).

I was introduced to the works of Andrew Shaffer when Naked Girls Reading did a nationwide event tied to the launch of his book Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love. The Boston chapter was fortunate enough to have an appearance by the author himself. We were surprised and delighted to learn of a thank you in the acknowledgements of his new book and decided it was only right to include a selection in our next salon (little did we know at the time that it would be the last).

Literary Rogues follows a similar format to Great Philosophers: short, entertaining profiles of bad boys (and girls) of literature, focusing on said bad behavior. The book proceeds chronologically from the Marquis de Sade through The Romantics, The Decadents, The Lost Generation, The Beat Generation, and on to Gen X. There’s lots of drugs, drinking, sexual shenanigans, mental illness, and general misbehaving from some of the greatest writers in western literature. Many of the stories end in suicide — intentional or gradual.

The book is well researched, with a section of endnotes to prove it, and a selected bibliography for further reading. Lest the dread word “research” frighten you off, the writing is light and conversational and the stories both funny and horrifying. Shaffer makes no excuses for his subjects’ behavior, but nor does he moralize. His commentary is frequently irreverent, but he never belittles the talents of the writer in question.

I think of this as a good nightstand book, a chapter or two a night is a nice treat before bed. And you’ll probably want to look up the works of some of these talented, troubled writers.


Published in: on 20 March 2013 at 3:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

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