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Robert McCrum is the author of several novels and two works of non-fiction, The Story of English and My Year Off. He is literary editor of the Observer and lives in London.
What were the beginnings of the English language?Why has American culture spread so successfully and will it continue to do so even as the country's power apparently wanes?Why are the West Indies no longer any good at cricket?What difference did slavery make to the way we speak English today?
Why do we return to Shakespeare time and again? When Robert McCrum began his recovery from a life-changing stroke, described in My Year Off, he discovered that the only words that made sense to him were snatches of Shakespeare. Unable to travel or move as he used to, McCrum found the First Folio became his 'book of life', an endless source of inspiration through which he could embark on 'journeys of the mind', and see a reflection of our own disrupted times. An acclaimed writer and journalist, McCrum has spent the last twenty-five years immersed in Shakespeare's work, on stage and on the page. During this prolonged exploration, Shakespeare's poetry and plays, so vivid and contemporary, have become his guide and consolation. In Shakespearean he asks: why is it that we always return to Shakespeare, particularly in times of acute crisis and dislocation? What is the key to his hold on our imagination? And why do the collected works of an Elizabethan writer continue to speak to us as if they were written yesterday? Shakespearean is a rich, brilliant and superbly drawn portrait of an extraordinary artist, one of the greatest writers who ever lived. Through an enthralling narrative, ranging widely in time and space, McCrum seeks to understand Shakespeare within his historical context while also exploring the secrets of literary inspiration, and examining the nature of creativity itself. Witty and insightful, he makes a passionate and deeply personal case that Shakespeare's words and ideas are not just enduring in their relevance - they are nothing less than the eternal key to our shared humanity.
As read on BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week 'Moving, intellectual and unsentimental. I think it will become a classic' Melvyn Bragg 'Thoughtful, subtle, elegantly clever and oddly joyous, Every Third Thought is beautiful' Kate Mosse In 1995, at the age of forty-two, Robert McCrum suffered a dramatic and near-fatal stroke. Since that life-changing event, McCrum has lived in the shadow of death, unavoidably aware of his own mortality. And now, in his sixties, he is noticing a change: his friends are joining him there. Death has become his contemporaries' every third thought. And so, with the words of McCrum's favourite authors as travel companions, Every Third Thought takes us on a journey towards death itself. This is a deeply personal book of reflection and conversation - with brain surgeons, psychologists, hospice workers and patients, writers and poets, and it confronts an existential question: in a world where we have learnt to live well at all costs, can we make peace with dying?
AS READ ON BBC RADIO 4 BOOK OF THE WEEK 'Thoughtful, subtle, elegantly clever and oddly joyous, Every Third Thought is beautiful' Kate Mosse In 1995, at the age of forty two, Robert McCrum suffered a dramatic and near-fatal stroke, the subject of his acclaimed memoir My Year Off. Ever since that life-changing event, McCrum has lived in the shadow of death, unavoidably aware of his own mortality. And now, twenty-one years on, he is noticing a change: his friends are joining him there. Death has become his contemporaries' every third thought. The question is no longer `who am I?' but `how long have I got?' and `what happens next?' With the words of McCrum's favourite authors as travel companions, Every Third Thought, takes us on a journey through a year and towards death itself. As he acknowledges his own and his friends' ageing, McCrum confronts an existential question: in a world where we have learnt to live well at all costs, can we make peace with what Freud calls 'the necessity of dying'? Searching for answers leads him to others for advice and wisdom, and Every Third Thought is populated by the voices of brain surgeons, psychologists, cancer patients, hospice workers, writers and poets. Witty, lucid and provocative, Every Third Thought is an enthralling exploration of what it means to approach the `end game', and begin to recognize, perhaps reluctantly, that we are not immortal. Deeply personal and yet always universal, this is a book for anyone who finds themselves preoccupied by matters of life and death. It is both guide and companion.
With an introduction by Henry Marsh, author of Do No Harm My brain, which had just let me down so badly, was perhaps never so active. The paramedics' question was a fundamental one. Who are you? Yes indeed. Who am I? Robert McCrum was forty-two when he suffered a massive stroke which left one side of his body totally paralysed, his speech drastically impaired, and his sense of himself radically altered. What followed was a prolonged period of recovery, full of heart ache and frustration, as he gradually regained sensation, movement and self-esteem and as his family pulled together in the extraordinary effort necessary to make him well again. My Year Off is a moving story of determination, courage and love that sings with wit and honesty. An invaluable insight into the reality of life after stroke, the moments of hope, the anger and despair, this is a touching classic that gives voice to millions.
It seems impossible: a small island in the North Atlantic, colonized by Rome, then pillaged for hundreds of years by marauding neighbors, becomes the dominant world power in the nineteenth century. In this provocative new look at the course of empire, Robert McCrum shows how the language of the Anglo-American imperium has become the world's lingua franca. In the twenty-first century, writes the author, English + Microsoft = Globish.
The Story of English is the extraordinary tale of the origins and development of the English language. Two thousand years ago English was confined to a handful of savage tribes on the shores of north-west Europe; today, in one form or another, it is spoken by a billion people around the world. More widely scattered, written and spoken than any other language in history, English has become a global phenomenon. Exploring its amazing success, The Story of English is an essential companion for student and general reader alike.
To Evelyn Waugh he was simply the Master. He wrote ninety novels and story collections, and among his immortal characters are Jeeves, Psmith, and the Empress of Blandings (who is, of course, a pig). Equally impressive is the range of his devotees: Dorothy Parker, John Updike, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Salman Rushdie, John le Carre, and Seamus Heaney. Wodehouse had an extraordinary Broadway career, working with Guy Bolton and Jerome Kern, and even dared to rewrite Cole Porter's Anything Goes for the London stage. Robert McCrum's magisterial biography chronicles the achievements and shadows of a gilded life. The ill-judged broadcasts from Berlin, where Wodehouse was interned during World War II, produced a violent backlash in England and tarred him, unfairly, as a Nazi sympathizer. His long love affair with America was compromised by endless acrimony with the IRS. This is the book all Wodehouse fans have been waiting for; it eclipses all previous accounts of his life. An Economist Best Book of 2004.
We read for all sorts of reasons: pleasure, education, escapism, intellectual stimulation. The act of reading is a private, personal one that we love to share with our friends and families. Reading and books form a world rich in detail, memory and emotion.In On Reading, Robert McCrum draws together his Observer columns to reflect on what reading brings us, how to best go about it and how what we read is shifting and changing as new technologies open up new ways of telling stories.A fascinating exploration of our favourite pastime, On Reading is a thought-provoking short read that asks, amongst other things, how we choose books, what our reading says about us, and what the effects of reading are on our language.On Reading is the companion volume to Robert McCrum On Authors and On Writing.
Why do authors write? How do they go about it? What is good writing?In On Writing, Robert McCrum collects together his questions and reflections on the nature of writing from his Observer newspaper column. In them he explores the sometimes tricky relationship between writing and commerce, looks at the state of modern literature, and asks where great writing really comes from - can it be taught, or is it borne out of author experience?A unique and informed view on writing and how it is affected by the shifting technological world we live in, On Writing is the perfect short read for those who love books, or are looking for a little writing guidance for themselves.On Writing is the companion volume to Robert McCrum On Authors and On Reading.
In nearly twenty years, Robert McCrum has interviewed literature's most influential subjects. His intimate conversations, peppered with humour, have shed new light on great authors, uncovered secrets, explored where their books have come from and how their oeuvre fits their lives.In On Authors, McCrum reflects on the experience of interviewing these literary giants and collects together the very best Observer interviews. Unique and brilliant in their own right, gathered together they are an absorbing tour through the world of books.The collected interviews feature: Gore Vidal; Margaret Atwood; Norman Mailer; Lorrie Moore; Don DeLillo; Philip Roth; Lynne Truss; V.S. Naipaul; Sarah Waters; and Seamus Heaney.On Authors is the companion volume to Robert McCrum On Writing and On Reading.