The Many Lives of the Angry Young Man
By John Heilpern
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780375702952, 560pp.)
Publication Date: January 8, 2008
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John Osborne, the original Angry Young Man, shocked and transformed British theater in the 1950s with his play Look Back in Anger. This startling biography–the first to draw on the secret notebooks in which he recorded his anguish and depression–reveals the notorious rebel in all his heartrending complexity.
Through a working-class childhood and five marriages, Osborne led a tumultuous life. An impossible father, he threw his teenage daughter out of the house and never spoke to her again. His last written words were "I have sinned." Theater critic John Heilpern’s detailed portrait, including interviews with Osborne's daughter, scores of friends and enemies, and his alleged male lover, shows us a contradictory genius–an ogre with charm, a radical who hated change, and above all, a defiant individualist.
John Heilpern is the author of the classic book about theater Conference of the Birds: The Story of Peter Brook in Africa and of How Good is David Mamet, Anyway?, a collection of his theater essays and reviews. Born in England and educated at Oxford, his interviews for The Observer (London) received a British Press Award. In 1980 he moved to New York, where he became a weekly columnist for The Times of London. An adjunct professor of drama at Columbia University, he is drama critic for the New York Observer.
“Miraculous. . . . A model of what a literary biography ought to be. . . . The Osborne who emerges from these pages is a character of almost Shakespearean dimensions, grand as Falstaff, volatile as Hamlet, mad as Lear.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer"A terrific story. . . . An appealing, rollicking portrait. . . . The best literary biography I have read in a long time." —Harold Evans, The Wall Street Journal"I cannot recall a biography that was so amusing and intense. . . . If there is going to be a better-written, more entertaining, or more sharply observed performance this year, I'll be mighty surprised." —Carl Rollyson, The New York Sun