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Authors, Heroes—and a Spy
Jeffrey Meyers

BUY Cloth · 248 pp. · 5.5 × 8.5 · ISBN 9780813941684 · $27.95 · Oct 2018
BUY Ebook · 248 pp. · ISBN 9780813941691 · $27.95 · Oct 2018

Jeffrey Meyers’ Resurrections: Authors, Heroes—and a Spy brings to life a set of extraordinary writers, painters, and literary adventurers who turned their lives into art. Meyers knew nine of these figures, in some cases intimately, while five others he admires and regrets never meeting. As he writes in the preface, "The chapters in this book represent in miniature my career as a life-writer. My biographies have always been driven by fascination with the source of artistic creativity, with people who wrote or painted and with the worlds they inhabited."

Ian Watt, who taught Meyers at Berkeley, struggled with the legacy of his ordeal as a Japanese prisoner of war, and with its depiction in the film, The Bridge on the River Kwai. The story of Paul Theroux’s feud with Sir Vidia Naipaul is well known, but Meyers finds greater meaning in their quarrel through the lens of his own long friendship with Theroux. While James Salter, fighter pilot and brilliant stylist, epitomizes Meyers’ heroic ideal, the fiction writer also responds with an epistolary friendship, punctuated by visits, and Meyers is delighted by Salter’s great reputation late in life. Anthony Blunt, art historian and communist spy, fascinates the biographer for a darker reason: the depth of his capacity for intellectual and personal deceit. The feckless, lesser-known Hugh Gordon Porteus, told Meyers many revealing and amusing stories about his friends Wyndham Lewis, T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound.

In the process of writing these profiles, Meyers discovers a common thread relating to himself: not only do these subjects provoke a kind of personal testing, they also represent his search for the ideal father in his vivid intellectual and imaginative inquiry.


Jeffrey Meyers is an original. Through his work, he has knit together lives and assembled narratives that are a distinguished contribution to literary, historical, and cultural history. The cumulative weight and depth of that work is on display in this volume. One of the delights of reading Meyers is that he does not overinterpret or speculate too much about his subjects’ behavior. Instead, he shows them in action, reacting to him and to others. Future biographers will consult Meyers’ book as the first pass, so to speak, at lives he has documented and interpreted.

Carl Rollyson, author of Marilyn Monroe: A Life of the Actress and American Isis: The Life and Art of Sylvia Plath

Composed of short profiles on authors like Phillip Knightley and Paul Theroux, the book provides an insider's view of their personal and professional lives. Drawn from 'learned gatherings' and the author's lengthy correspondence with his subjects, the narrative consists of intriguing, brief portraits, rendering each into 'a colorful legend among the colorless academic drudges.’... Intellectually stimulating... a portrait of the artist in portraits of other artists.

Kirkus Reviews

Meyers reminds me of classical writers like Livy and Gibbon: sharp-eyed, brilliant, a bit aloof, analytical, rather like a spy who gains his subject’s trust. This is what biographers hope to do: raise the dead back to life.

Paul Mariani, author of Lost Puritan: A Life of Robert Lowell

About the Author(s): 

Thirty-three of Jeffrey Meyers’ books have been translated into fourteen languages and seven alphabets and published on six continents. In 2005 he received an Award in Literature "to honor exceptional achievement" from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2012 he gave the Seymour Lectures in Biography at the National Library of Australia in Canberra, Melbourne, and Sydney.

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