Thornton Wilder

Thornton Wilder Cover

Thornton Wilder

A Life

By Penelope Niven

HarperTorch, Hardcover, 9780060831363, 800pp.

Publication Date: October 30, 2012


"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.

Praise For Thornton Wilder

“A powerful and much-needed portrayal of a major American writer and social critic.”
-New York Times Book Review on Carl Sandburg: A Biography

“Niven complements her own clear, lyrical voice with the eloquent words of Steichen’s contemporaries.”
-New York Times Book Review on Steichen: A Biography

Almost everybody knows OUR TOWN, but very few people really know Thornton Wilder. Penelope Niven’s fascinating biography changes that once and for all…Meticulously researched, Niven’s book reads like a riveting novel.
-—James Earl Jones

“This new biography of Wilder -- comprehensive and wisely fashioned -- gives us sufficient view of his methods, his public and private life, and the reaches of his mind…This book is a splendid and long needed work.”
-—Edward Albee

Saturday, Oct 27, 2012

In the course of his career, Thornton Wilder wrote plays, novels and essays � but none as enduring as Our Town. Wilder biographer Penelope Niven attributes the play's success to its universal setting: a "mythical village" that "incorporates characteristics from every mythical village." More at

NPR Audio Player Requires Flash Upgrade: Please upgrade your plug-in to view this content.