Penelope Niven Thornton Wilder: A Life

ISBN 13: 9780060831363

Thornton Wilder: A Life

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9780060831363: Thornton Wilder: A Life

"Thornton Wilder: A Life brings readers face to face with the extraordinary man who made words come alive around the world, on the stage and on the page."
—James Earl Jones, actor

"Comprehensive and wisely fashioned….This book is a splendid and long needed work."
—Edward Albee, playwright

Thornton Wilder—three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, creator of such enduring stage works as Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth, and beloved novels like Bridge of San Luis Ray and Theophilus North—was much more than a pivotal figure in twentieth century American theater and literature. He was a world-traveler, a student, a teacher, a soldier, an actor, a son, a brother, and a complex, intensely private man who kept his personal life a secret. In Thornton Wilder: A Life, author Penelope Niven pulls back the curtain to present a fascinating, three-dimensional portrait one of America's greatest playwrights, novelists, and literary icons.

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From the Back Cover:

Art is confession; art is the secret told. . . . But art is not only the desire to tell one's secret; it is the desire to tell it and hide it at the same time. And the secret is nothing more than the whole drama of the inner life.
—Thornton Wilder

Thornton Wilder: A Life, the first biography of the playwright and novelist since 1983, is also the first to be based on thousands of pages of letters, journals, manuscripts, and other documentary evidence of Wilder's life, work, and times. For more than a decade, biographer Penelope Niven has worked with unprecedented access to Wilder's papers, including his family's private journals and records, searching for the secrets that illuminate Wilder's public life and work, as well as the hidden inner self sometimes concealed and sometimes revealed in his art and in his papers.

Thornton Wilder was a multifaceted man: a teacher, novelist, playwright, lecturer, actor, musician, soldier, man of letters, outspoken citizen, and international public figure. He was also an enigmatic, intensely private man. He belonged to a close-knit, complicated family—two brilliant parents, four gifted siblings, and the specter of his twin brother lost at birth. His biography is also a compelling family saga, starring Thornton Wilder, with strong supporting roles played by his father, mother, brother, and sisters.

He was a gypsy, wandering the world, writing, he said, for and about everybody—a fact international audiences still embrace. The Bridge of San Luis Rey, The Eighth Day, and his other novels are still read in the United States and abroad. His plays, especially the iconic Our Town and the revolutionary Skin of Our Teeth, are still performed on stages around the globe.

Yet despite the international fame and visibility of Wilder the writer, far too little has been known or understood about Wilder the man—until now. Comprehensively researched and richly detailed, Thornton Wilder: A Life brings the private man center stage and sheds new light on his published and unpublished work.

About the Author:

Penelope Niven is the author of critically acclaimed biographies of poet Carl Sandburg and photographer Edward Steichen, as well as Swimming Lessons, a memoir, and Voices and Silences, coauthored with the actor James Earl Jones. She is the recipient of three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Thornton Wilder Visiting Fellowship at the Beinecke Library at Yale, and other fellowships and awards.

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