Monday, September 15, 2014

Writers Between the Covers: The Scandalous Romantic Lives of Legendary Literary Casanovas, Coquettes, and Cads by Joni Rendon & Shannon McKenna Schmidt

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: July 11, 2013

What happened off the page was often a lot spicier than what was written on it... Why did Norman Mailer stab his second wife at a party?  Who was Edith Wharton’s secret transatlantic lover? What motivated Anaïs Nin to become a bigamist? Writers Between the Covers rips the sheets off these and other real-life love stories of the literati—some with fairy tale endings and others that resulted in break-ups, breakdowns, and brawls. Among the writers laid bare are Agatha Christie, who sparked the largest-ever manhunt in England as her marriage fell apart; Arthur Miller, whose jaw-dropping pairing with Marilyn Monroe proved that opposites attract, at least initially; and T.S. Eliot, who slept in a deckchair on his disastrous honeymoon. From the best break-up letters to the stormiest love triangles to the boldest cougars and cradle-robbers, this fun and accessible volume—packed with lists, quizzes and in-depth exposés—reveals literary history’s most titillating loves, lusts, and longings

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I picked up Shannon McKenna Schmidt and Joni Rendon's Writers Between the Covers on a whim. I wanted a break from my usual fare and I'll just say it, the jacket description spoke to my somewhat perverse sense of humor. It was one of those right place, right time sort of things and though I was familiar enough with most of the affairs they details, I thought the book an amusing diversion. 

Schmidt and Rendon expose a litany of titillating secrets and erotic intrigues within this volume, but what I liked about it is the perspective the book brings to classic literature. Most of us approach Lord Byron, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Arthur Miller with a sort of reverence and I think it really interesting to look back on their work after seeing where they were and what they were dealing with when they put pen to paper. 

A blush-inducing foray into the passions behind the prose, Writers Between the Covers is a witty, and at times ridiculous romp through the strange and scandalous lives of literary legends. A wickedly diverting read that peeks behind closed doors and reignites forgotten flames.  

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It's practically a job requirement that writers live with greater intensity than the average joe. It shouldn't surprise us, then, that someone unshackled from the confines of traditional morality is more likely to turn out innovative, courageous prose than a kinder Ward Cleaver with a standing Saturday "date night." After all, Lord Byron didn't worry about a few shocking line in his poem Don Juan, having bedded his sibling and been publicly dumped by his wife. On the contrary, he got a rush from scandalizing society with his prose as much as with his libidinous activities.
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