Pleasure has not ruled all aspects of Richard Costa's world, but books and their writers have brought innumerable hours of it to his thought-filled years. In this insightful journey through a life suffused with literature, he introduces readers to the literary figures whose paths crossed his: Somerset Maugham, H. G. Wells, Conrad Aiken, Edmund Wilson, Kingsley Amis, Dorothy Parker, Edith Wharton, and others.
In these pages lie answers to questions, and questions for many answers. What did Wells fear more than the bombs during the London Blitz? What is Edmund Wilson's favorite of all his books? What writer, after declaring his walking-stick unbreakable, watched as Ernest Hemingway broke the stick over his own head? Why is it impossible to "discover" a new book today?
Readers who accompany Costa on his journey of the mind and heart will have the opportunity to experience the vicarious pleasures of a tea, a chat, and a good read in the light of literary stars.
What Readers Are Saying:
"Like his mentor Edmund Wilson, Richard Hauer Costa makes unfashionable connections between life and books. Starting from personal experience, he brings his reporter's eye to his interviews with the urbane and successful Somerset Maugham, and the defeated and irascible Conrad Aiken. He provides vivid sketches of two literary widows, Mrs. Malcolm Lowry and Mrs. Ernest Hemingway. At the same time, his study of the evolution of Lowry's Under the Volcano and his comparison of Dostoevsky and Joseph Heller show the value of the scholarly approach when it is backed by a genuine love of the work in question.This is a work whose lively and relaxed attitude never belies the importance of its content. I believe that it is likely to be of lasting interest."--Frank Tuohy, author of Collected Stories
"Like his mentor Edmund Wilson, Richard Hauer Costa makes unfashionable connections between life and books. Starting from personal experience, he brings his reporter's eye to his interviews with the urbane and successful Somerset Maugham, and the defeated and irascible Conrad Aiken. He provides vivid sketches of two literary widows, Mrs. Malcolm Lowry and Mrs. Ernest Hemingway. At the same time, his study of the evolution of Lowry's Under the Volcano and his comparison of Dostoevsky and Joseph Heller show the value of the scholarly approach when it is backed by a genuine love of the work in question. --Frank Tuohy, author of Collected Stories
This is a work whose lively and relaxed attitude never belies the importance of its content. I believe that it is likely to be of lasting interest." --Frank Tuohy, author of Collected Stories
"In defiance of fashionable critical theories, Costa (Edmund Wilson: Our Neighbor from Talcottville) refuses to isolate literature from life, so his loosely knit collection of essays interweaves scholarship and memoirs and is frequently more anecdotal than analytical. Focusing on those writers who were `pattern makers' in his personal and professional development, he begins with a reverential section on Maugham; then turns to sometimes problematic literary relationships; devotes part three to comments on such writers as Kingsley Amis and Dorothy Parker; and concludes with reflections on several antiheroes in recent fiction. Costa is certainly aware of trendy criticism: His analysis of Joseph Heller's Something Happened incorporates the ideas of Bakhtin, and the essay titled `The Anxiety of Confluence' displays more than a nodding acquaintance with Harold Bloom. Nevertheless, he presents himself as a `plain reader' rather than an academic specialist. By his own admission, he is sometimes pretentious in accounts of meetings with Maugham and other literary greats, but such excess may result from his determination to rescue books and their authors from over-eager deconstructionists and neohistoricists." --Publishers Weekly
"Costa left the field of journalism at age 44 to pursue graduate work and ultimately a literary life. Here he skillfully blends memoir with biographical essay, lucidly illustrating one single premise, that literature is the fuel capable of nourishing every aspect of one's life. Fortunately, Costa's observations are free of academic posturing in personal reminiscences brought to bear on controversial personalities, including Edmund Wilson, Conrad Aiken, and Somerset Maugham. Other essays reflect provocatively on Malcolm Lowry's life (and his tour de force novel, Under the Volcano) and bestow due credit on Richard Ellmann's definitive work on James Joyce. Readers who share Costa's passion and look toward books for sustenance will revel in this writer's astute observations and literary sentiments." --Booklist
" . . . an animated, intelligent, and engrossing approach to sometimes offbeat, sometimes regrettably forgotten books. . . . His semi-autobiographical recounting of his experience with it enlivens our own and leads us to follow him in living with the books that he has found so important." --Houston Chronicle
"Mr. Costa weaves memoir and scholarship in a style of literary appreciation very much like Maugham's own, most effectively when he's describing the impact Edmund Wilson has had as a critic and social historian; and in his analysis of the influence of Joyce's `Ulysses' via Conrad Aiken on the composition of `Under the Volcano,' he sends the reader back to that book with a fresh enthusiasm and a fresh eye." --New York Times Book Review
"There is nothing in this volume which would be off-putting for a layperson. . . . What is new, and what is most valuable for those who are not professional critics, is the portrait of the man who was the critic. That critics can be people, that they can be real, and down-to-earth, and still be enthralled by the magic of literature and want to share their appreciation of what they read . . . is [the] aspect of An Appointment with Somerset Maugham which most readers will find most intriguing." --English Literature in Transition, no. 1