Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift

The Reluctant Rebel

Book - 2017 | First American edition
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A detailed portrait of the man behind "Gulliver's Travels" traces his early loss of a parent, the contradictions that marked his character, and his achievements as a political writer and dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin.
Publisher: New York : W. W. Norton & Company, 2017
Edition: First American edition
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9780393239423
Branch Call Number: 828.509 SWI 2016
Characteristics: 739 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 25 cm


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Apr 16, 2018

“Speaking crudely, there was Swift the conformist and Swift the anarchic humorist, and together they produced the satirical writer.”
For most people, even the more literary inclined, their knowledge of Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) begins and ends with his masterpiece and most famous book, "Gulliver's Travels." It's also probably one of the most misunderstood classic books, more often than not remembered for giants (Brobingnags), little folk (Lilliputs), and talking horses (Houyhnhnms) and less for its satire and misanthropy. You'll still see it occasionally filed as a children's book and many of the film adaptations, including the most recent one with a miscast Jack Black, are geared towards families. In John Stubbs' magisterial biography, he paints an incredibly detailed, complex, and sympathetic (though not sentimental) portrait of one of the most important figures in English literature. He was actually Irish and had a lifelong love/hate relationship with his native country, although he did care about it and wrote the scathing "A Modest Proposal" (the let's eat baby tract) about Ireland. Stubb locates Swift in the fascinating and complicated religious, political, and literary culture of the times. Swift was also a minister and though he supported conservative causes, he was too intelligent and sardonic to lapse into mental conformity or complacency. He was seemingly friends with all the other major writers of the period, including Pope, Congreve, Addison, Steele, Gay, and Dryden, a distant relative. Stubbs takes a nuanced approach to Swift's staunchly traditional political and religious views, as well as the frequent accusations of misogyny in his work (He was a lifelong bachelor.). Even if you don't know much more than "Gulliver's Travels," this is a fantastic biography of an iconic writer.

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