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Book Bright Young People: The Lost Generation of London's Jazz Age by D. J. Taylor (2010-01-05)

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Bright Young People: The Lost Generation of London's Jazz Age by D. J. Taylor (2010-01-05)

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  • PDF | Unknown pages
  • Farrar, Straus and Giroux (1811)
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Review Text

  • By gormenghast on December 19, 2011

    This is a wonderful book, but I don't know how accessible it will be to readers not already familiar with the "Bright Young People" and the artists, socialites, and eccentrics connected with this set. References are made to Ronald Firbank, the Sitwells, Lord Berners, Siegfried Sassoon, Lytton Strachey, and Nancy Cunard with the assumption that the reader already knows who these people are. It's also taken for granted that the reader has heard of the major Bright Young Peeps (for example, Brian Howard, Harold Acton, Cecil Beaton, the Guinnesses, the Jungman sisters, and Stephen Tennant) and possesses at least a passing familiarity with the works of Nancy Mitford, Henry Green, Evelyn Waugh, Anthony Powell, and Robert Byron.However, it is not necessary to be a scholar of 1920s British social and artistic life in order to enjoy this book, and for me one of its chief delights is the way it has inspired me to seek out and read new-to-me works by Bright Young People, their associates, and those who influenced them. I've now compiled a long list of books I want to read: "Highland Fling" (1931), "Christmas Pudding" (1932), and "Pigeon Pie" (1939) by Nancy Mitford; "The Rock Pool" (1936) by Cyril Connolly; "The Flower Beneath the Foot" by Ronald Firbank (1923); "Afternoon Men" (1931) and "What's Become of Waring" (1939) by Anthony Powell; "Crazy Pavements" by Beverley Nichols (1927); "Singing out of Tune (1933) by Bryan Guinness; "The Enigma of Arrival" (1987) by V.S. Naipaul about Stephen Tennant; "The Byzantine Achievement" (1929) by Robert Byron; and "Born Old, Died Young" (1931) by the mysterious Inez Holden;The author, D.J. Taylor, has a wonderful way with words which adds to the pleasure of this book. For example, while discussing the astonishing insolence of the Bright Young People, he offers up the case of Robert Byron, a "man of extremes" whose career demonstrated "quite how multifarious were the forms that these bad manners could take...The sarcastic backhander, the thinly veiled threat, the outrageous verbal mugging - in all these departments he was the star performer of his day. Given the Bright Young People's almost limitless capacity to cause offense, this mastery is rather intriguing. Where had it come from? How was it nurtured? What was it about Byron that, in the last resort, caused him to bristle up with affronted fury at the sight of dour officialdom or turn uncontrollably farouche at the slightest impediment to his schemes? The request to see tickets, the minor editorial intervention, the club bore - all of these made Byron seethe with fury..." I love it!This is a beautifully written book, chock-full of interesting life stories, anecdotes, quotes, social/literary analysis, and great photographs from the 1920s.

  • By M. GERARD on July 20, 2010

    Considering my obsession with this period in history, and some of its tenants, I cannot believe it took me so long to find this book. I have heard, anecdotally, of the Bright Young People but I knew little about their specifics. Even with this marvelous history as a guide, they are still a fluid, amorphous bunch. Which I suppose was the point.After WWI, the French turned to surrealism. America turned to jazz. The English, it seems, turned to their aristocracy-turned-high society. The inception of exorbitant inheritance taxes burdened the landed gentry -- their parents. Older siblings returned from the war broken and confused. This lost generation needed an outlet, an escape, and above all to be heard. The result was stunning.Read the rest of the review at: [...]

  • By A J Matthews on June 9, 2017

    This is a good reference work for the period, drawing on period manuscripts, letters and photographs, although probably of more interest to British readers. As a snapshot of a strange era in social history it's hard to beat.

  • By TomR826 on December 18, 2016

    Great info, cast of characters separately would have helped, better bibliography too, jem

  • By Christian Schlect on February 8, 2009

    I think this effort by Mr. Taylor about the 1920s-30s goings on in London of a small set of hedonistic upper-crust rebellious youth would have been more successful as an in-depth magazine article as opposed to a full book. There are simply too many sentences that appear to be manufactured to fill space as opposed to convey information.The uncontrolled and empty life of one Elizabeth Ponsonby is the thin thread running throughout this book, a life seemingly featured by the author due only to his ready access to a pathetic diary kept by Miss Ponsonby's weak father, Arthur.While a number of interesting literary people pop up in Mr. Taylor's book, I suggest it would be a better use of one's scarce reading time to go to some of the actual books by participants of this age, such as Anthony Powell's very fine memoirs "To Keep the Ball Rolling." Or, better yet for a more complete view of those general hard times in England read "The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell."

  • By Timothy on October 22, 2014

    Certainly the definitive history of the Bright Young People. Mr. Taylor's research is unparalleled, with many entertaining, tragic, delightful, and too-too shame-making stories.

  • By J. D. Portnoy on March 4, 2009

    I have read a lot about the bright young people and their era. But the author here is not in sync with his subject, too grave and exacting. Facts, but no fun.


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