Skip navigation

Biography and Memoir

  • Page 2 of 4

Siegfried Kracauer’s biography of the composer Jacques Offenbach is a remarkable work of social and cultural history. First published in German in 1937 and in English translation in 1938, the book uses the life and work of Offenbach as a focal point for a broad and penetrating portrayal of Second Empire Paris.

A heavily expanded edition of Joe Mellen’s legendary, long out-of-print auto-trepanation memoir, Bore Hole takes us deep into the dawning of the UK’s psychedelic counter culture, and into a mind breaking free from the confines of a traditional English upbringing.

Travelling to Morocco and Ibiza, then back to the first spring of swinging London, Joe Mellen discovers the pleasures of hashish, is captivated by the visionary intensity of LSD and, after meeting the Dutch psychedelic guru Bart Huges, attempts the ultimate head trip, the bore hole.

A Pataphysical Life

When Alfred Jarry died in 1907 at the age of thirty-four, he was a legendary figure in Paris—but this had more to do with his bohemian lifestyle and scandalous behavior than his literary achievements. A century later, Jarry is firmly established as one of the leading figures of the artistic avant-garde.

A moving meld of essay, memoir, and story, When the Sick Rule the World collects Dodie Bellamy’s new and recent lyric prose. Taking on topics as eclectic as vomit, Kathy Acker’s wardrobe, and Occupy Oakland, Bellamy here examines illness, health, and the body—both the social body and the individual body—in essays that glitter with wit even at their darkest moments.

A moment later, Lacan is chattering with me, and giving me some crayons to draw with.
—from I, Little Asylum

The Real Life and Celestial Adventures of Tristan Tzara

Tristan Tzara, one of the most important figures in the twentieth century’s most famous avant-garde movements, was born Samuel Rosenstock (or Samueli Rosenștok) in a provincial Romanian town, on April 16 (or 17, or 14, or 28) in 1896. Tzara became Tzara twenty years later at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, when he and others (including Marcel Janco, Hugo Ball, Richard Huelsenbeck, and Hans Arp) invented Dada with a series of chaotic performances including multilingual (and nonlingual) shouting, music, drumming, and calisthenics.

An Indian Woman's American Journey

Padma Desai grew up in the 1930s in the provincial world of Surat, India, where she had a sheltered and strict upbringing in a traditional Gujarati Anavil Brahmin family. Her academic brilliance won her a scholarship to Bombay University, where the first heady taste of freedom in the big city led to tragic consequences—seduction by a fellow student whom she was then compelled to marry. In a failed attempt to end this disastrous first marriage, she converted to Christianity.

On September 2, 1971, the chemist Paul Lauterbur had an idea that would change the practice of medical research. Considering recent research findings about the use of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) signals to detect tumors in tissue samples, Lauterbur realized that the information from NMR signals could be recovered in the form of images—and thus obtained noninvasively from a living subject. It was an unexpected epiphany: he was eating a hamburger at the time. Lauterbur rushed out to buy a notebook in which to work out his idea; he completed his notes a few days later.

From Enlightenment to Neuroscience

Although Hermann von Helmholtz was one of most remarkable figures of nineteenth-century science, he is little known outside his native Germany. Helmholtz (1821–1894) made significant contributions to the study of vision and perception and was also influential in the painting, music, and literature of the time; one of his major works analyzed tone in music.

The Life and Legend of London's Lost Artist

London has harboured many curious characters, but few more curious than the artist and visionary Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956).

A controversial enfant terrible of the Edwardian art world, the young Spare was hailed as a genius and a new Aubrey Beardsley, while George Bernard Shaw reportedly said “Spare’s medicine is too strong for the average man.”

  • Page 2 of 4