Bernard Shaw: A Life

A M Gibbs

Dammit, so I get to add Shaw to the list of Artists I Admire Who Flirted With, And In Some Cases Actively Collaborated With, Fascism. (Stein, Pound, Wyndham Lewis, P G Wodehouse, Xavier Herbert, David Bowie; even Mark E Smith went to a nightclub wearing a swastika armband but that may be pushing the case somewhat.) Shaw completely sucked up to Stalin, too, but I already knew about that.

I often give up on biographies of my literary favourites out of sheer boredom: not just because so many writers have uneventful lives, but because of the leaden conventions of the genre. When a book commences with the birth of the subject’s paternal grandfather, you should give up immediately, because things aren’t going to get any better.

Gibbs’ biography is much more fun. It doesn’t have many barrows to push, and those it has are pushing in the right direction – against hagiography, and the stereotype of Shaw as a prig: “the first man to cut a swathe through the theatre and leave it strewn with virgins.” Although the quip is due to Frank Harris, which puts it in context.

In other news: I’m going down the coast next week. See you when I get back.


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