By: Paul Ferris
Subject Matter: Dylan Thomas; Biography; Welsh authors; 20th century
I am a sucker for a good biography.
And a good biography about a wildly interesting poet?
Count me in.
(If you’re not sure who Dylan Thomas is, you might recognize his poem “Do not go gentle into that good night” or “And death shall have no dominion” or “Fern Hill“. He was also famous for his readings because of his rich voice.)
Dylan Thomas: A Biography is – surprise, surprise – a biography of Thomas’s life and legend, and Ferris spends the entire book trying to separate the fact from the fiction. Thomas himself liked to exaggerate his life in letters to his friends and in his public actions, and as we all know, legends only grow after the fact.
Dylan was a poet who adamantly proclaimed that he wrote poetry for the sound, not the meaning. He had a fascination and adoration and frustration with words that is impressive and difficult. In an interview, he said this of poetry: “You don’t give up poetry. It may give you up, but you don’t abandon it. It’s always chasing you, relentlessly…”
I’m not sure what a Thomas scholar would have to say about this book. Some of it read fishy or biased or opinionated. But it is rich in detail and evidence, and if nothing else Ferris writes a captivating story.
I really enjoyed this biography. It takes you from Swansea, Wales, and Dylan’s youth and family all the way to his marriage to Caitlin and his eventual death in America at age 39. It shows you Dylan the playboy, Dylan the sentimental, Dylan the family man, Dylan the melancholic, Dylan the self-conscious, Dylan the drunk, and, of course, Dylan the poet.
Of course, you probably need to enjoy biographies in order to enjoy this one, but then again, everyone should enjoy biographies, and this is a great one to experiment with.
If you enjoyed Dylan Thomas: A Biography, here are some suggestions:
(for really good biographies/autobiographies)
Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
A Woman Named Jackie by C. David Heymann
(for Thomas’s works)
18 Poems by Dylan Thomas
Collected Poems by Dylan Thomas
Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas
(for more by Ferris)
Dr. Freud: A Life by Paul Ferris
Caitlin by Paul Ferris
Richard Burton by Paul Ferris
Great Irish Humor by Peter Haining