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Bright Young People: The Lost Generation of London's Jazz Age

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Before the media circus of Britney, Paris, and our modern obsession with celebrity, there were the Bright Young People, a voraciously pleasure-seeking band of bohemian party-givers and blue-blooded socialites who romped through the gossip columns of 1920s London. Evelyn Waugh immortalized their slang, their pranks, and their tragedies in his novels, and over the next half century, many — from Cecil Beaton to Nancy Mitford and John Betjeman — would become household names. But beneath the veneer of hedonism and practical jokes was a tormented generation, brought up in the shadow of war. Sparkling talent was too often brought low by alcoholism and addiction. Drawing on the virtuosic and often wrenching writings of the Bright Young People themselves, the biographer and novelist D. J. Taylor has produced an enthralling account of an age of fleeting brilliance.

Review:

"Fans of Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies and Decline and Fall will recognize the glittering world of the 'Bright Young People', the London socialites of the 1920s who had their costume parties and other exploits celebrated (and excoriated) in the tabloid media. Taylor, a literary critic and biographer, acknowledges that this crowd — which included Cecil Beaton and Nancy Mitford — were the Britney Spears and Paris Hilton of their day, but doesn't belabor the point excessively. Taylor's account is not so much a straightforward history as a bundle of thematic essays arranged chronologically; one chapter, for example, discusses the ways some gay 'Brights' were able to avoid much of the repression prevalent throughout British society at the time, while another covers the themes of the fiction that came out of the scene. There are still plenty of juicy anecdotes to go around, although Taylor says that reports of drug-fueled orgies are 'exaggerated,' and points out that Britain in the 1920s was a tightly regulated society. The text is enlivened by several Punch cartoons from the period, vividly depicting the hold these rich young partygoers once held on the public's imagination." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

Jampacked and delicious, crammed with a cast of selfish, feckless, darling, talented, almost terminally eccentric, good-looking men and women, "Bright Young People" chronicles the doings of London's gilded youth in the Roaring Twenties. Even if you think you know a lot (or enough) about them; even if you've read the acerbic novels of the early Evelyn Waugh or plowed your way through Anthony Powell's... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"[The book is] laced with mordant period quotations and delicious satiric cartoons from newspapers and magazines....[A] richly detailed work." New York Times

Review:

"Taylor is writing splendid social history, not fiction, and he brings a more tempered and rueful approach, showing the sadness beneath an entire generation's compulsion to waste its promise and dance in the spotlight." Los Angeles Times

Review:

"[A] meticulously researched account of a notorious group of 1920s London partygoers." Library Journal

Review:

"Taylor has done a masterful job of detailing this hedonistic moment." Booklist

Review:

"Absorbing....The book really takes hold when Taylor seizes on the actual trajectory of the lives of individual members, most...poignantly that of Elizabeth Ponsonby." The Boston Globe

Review:

"Immensely readable, and of real value as a sharply pointed cautionary tale." Kirkus Reviews

Synopsis:

Before the media circus of Britney, Paris, and our modern obsession with celebrity, there were the Bright Young People, a voraciously pleasure-seeking band of bohemian party-givers and blue-blooded socialites who romped through the gossip columns of 1920s London. Evelyn Waugh immortalized their slang, their pranks, and their tragedies in his novels, and over the next half century, manyfrom Cecil Beaton to Nancy Mitford and John Betjemanwould become household names.
 
But beneath the veneer of hedonism and practical jokes was a tormented generation, brought up in the shadow of war. Sparkling talent was too often brought low by alcoholism and addiction. Drawing on the virtuosic and often wrenching writings of the Bright Young People themselves, the biographer and novelist D. J. Taylor has produced an enthralling account of an age of fleeting brilliance.
D. J. Taylor is a literary critic and the author of two acclaimed biographiesThackeray and Orwell: The Life, which won the Whitbread biography prize in 2003and six novels, including Kept: A Victorian Mystery. He lives in Norwich, England.
Before the media circus of Britney, Paris, and our modern obsession with celebrity, there were the Bright Young People, a voraciously pleasure-seeking band of bohemian party-givers and blue-blooded socialites who romped through the gossip columns of 1920s London. Evelyn Waugh immortalized their slang, their pranks, and their tragedies in his novels, and over the next half century, manyfrom Cecil Beaton to Nancy Mitford and John Betjemanwould become household names.
 
But beneath the veneer of hedonism and practical jokes was a tormented generation, brought up in the shadow of war. Sparkling talent was too often brought low by alcoholism and addiction. Drawing on the virtuosic and often wrenching writings of the Bright Young People themselves, the biographer and novelist D. J. Taylor has produced an enthralling account of an age of fleeting brilliance.

"The laziest way to put someone down is to call him or her an egomaniac. Its what we say when we loathe someone but cant think of anything more precise. That label was often and too easily applied, in London in the late 1920s and early 30s, to members of the so-called Bright Young People: a small, carefully circumscribed circle of elite 20-somethings who seemed to glide, as D. J. Taylor puts it in his nimble new book, on 'a compound of cocktails, jazz, license, abandon and flagrantly improper behavior.' The Bright Young People were the most glamorous, influential, self-absorbed, quasi-bohemian and overeducated creatures in existence. During their flickering moment they were adored and despised in almost equal measure. Good parties are enemy-making machinesYou werent asked? Surely your invitation was lost in the mailand no one orchestrated them like the Bright Young ones. Nearly every event was an eye-popping spectacle, fully played out in the eras gossip columns. In his novel Vile Bodies, published in 1930 (and still hilarious), Evelyn Waugh gave an overview of the Champagne-fueled social carnage: 'Masked parties, savage parties, Victorian parties, Greek parties, Russian parties, circus parties, parties where one had to dress as somebody else, almost naked parties in St. Johns Wood, parties in flats and studios and houses and ships and hotels and nightclubs, in windmills and swimming baths . . . all the succession and repetition of massed humanity. . . . Those vile bodies.' Waugh, of course, was a Bright Young Thing himself, or at the least he existed at the groups margins. So did others who would go on to become well-known artists: John Betjeman, Nancy Mitford, Anthony Powell, Cecil Beaton and Henry Green among them. These bold-face names were among the lucky survivors. More than a few burned out, got lost or threw their promise away. Other would-be Bright Young People, Lytton Strachey snarked, seemed to have 'just a few feathers where brains should be.' Mr. Taylor, the British author of Bright Young People: The Lost Generation of Londons Jazz Age, is a biographer (he has written lives of Thackeray and Orwell) and literary critic, and he tells this story with a good deal of essayistic flair, precision and flyaway wit. Just as important, he relates this ultimately elegiac narrative with a surprising amount of intellectual and emotional sympathy. He plainly wants to be bothered by the Bright Young Peoples antics, too. 'One of the great consolations of English literary life,' Mr. Taylor observes, wonderfully, is the idea that 'seriousness is automatically the preserve of people with cheery, proletarian values and prosaic lifestylesthat a barfly with a private income and a web of well-connected friends has already damned himself beyond redemption.'"Dwight Garner, The New York Times

"The saga of Beaton, Evelyn Waugh and the less famous social butterflies that everyone called the Bright Young People may be the ideal escapist fantasy for these sober economic times. Theirs was a life of glittering frivolity, of scavenger hunts that stopped traffic in Sloane Square, cocktails and dancing until dawn, notorious gatherings like the Bath and Bottle Party at a swimming pool ('bring a Bath towel and a Bottle' the invitation said), sprees that envious mortals read about in gossip columns. To make the fantasy complete, the story even offers a satisfying touch of schadenfreude. As D. J. Taylor emphasizes in this incisive social history, these flighty creatures crashed with a thud louder than youd imagine butterflies could make. Taylor compares the Mozart party photo to a 'medieval morality play' capturing how the Bright Young People got their comeuppance: their zaniness became more self-conscious and attenuated; they tried to ignore the fragile postwar economy and the crumbling aristocracy, but those changes were ready to bite them. It was fun while it lasted, though, for much of the 1920s . . . Lightened by the books beautiful design, laced with mordant period quotations and delicious satiric cartoons from newspapers and magazines. Taylors richly detailed work also calls attention to two breezy, auspicious first novels about the Bright Young People that are unfortunately out of print: Nancy Mitfords Highland Fling and Anthony Powells Afternoon Men."Caryn James, The New York Times Book Review

"Combining diaries, biographies, news reports and novels to paint the social life of 1920s London, D.J. Taylor has created that rarest of booksone you can safely recommend both to scholars of Evelyn Waugh and the entourage of Paris Hilton. The engaging Bright Young People, written by a critic and novelist best known for his biography of George Orwell, reads like a case study in youth culture, trendsetting, log-rolling and cultivated bohemianism. It examines the symbiotic relationship between a loose-knit group of partygoers and a media that, in gossip columns and mocking denunciations, made them the first celebrities who were famous, in our contemporary sense, for being famous. By the most generous estimate, there were never more than 2,000 souls among the ranks popularly known at the time as the Bright Young People. By most accounts, those souls were self-absorbed, self-mythologizing and terribly jaded. Their defining exploits included boisterous scavenger hunts, extravagant hoaxes and the 'stylized debauchery' of more fancy-dress balls than you can shake an engraved 16-inch-high invitation atincluding the Bath and Bottle Party, the

Synopsis:

The modern obsession with celebrity began with the Bright Young People, a voraciously pleasure-seeking band of bohemian party-givers and blue-blooded socialites who romped through the gossip columns of 1920s London. Drawing on the virtuosic and often wrenching writings of the Bright Young People themselves, the biographer and novelist D. J. Taylor has produced an enthralling account of an age of fleeting brilliance.

About the Author

D. J. Taylor is a literary critic and the author of two acclaimed biographies — Thackeray and Orwell: The Life, which won the Whitbread biography prize in 2003 — and six novels, including Kept: A Victorian Mystery. He lives in Norwich, England.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780374116835
Subtitle:
The Lost Generation of London's Jazz Age
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Author:
Taylor, D. J.
Subject:
General
Subject:
General History
Subject:
History
Subject:
Great britain
Subject:
Sociology - General
Subject:
Europe - Great Britain - General
Subject:
Social history
Subject:
Great Britain Social life and customs.
Subject:
Great Britain Social conditions.
Subject:
Modern - 20th Century
Subject:
Popular Culture
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
20100105
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Includes 16 Pages of Black-and-White Ill
Pages:
384
Dimensions:
9.00 x 6.00 in

Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Europe » Great Britain » 20th Century

Bright Young People: The Lost Generation of London's Jazz Age
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Product details 384 pages Farrar Straus Giroux - English 9780374116835 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Fans of Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies and Decline and Fall will recognize the glittering world of the 'Bright Young People', the London socialites of the 1920s who had their costume parties and other exploits celebrated (and excoriated) in the tabloid media. Taylor, a literary critic and biographer, acknowledges that this crowd — which included Cecil Beaton and Nancy Mitford — were the Britney Spears and Paris Hilton of their day, but doesn't belabor the point excessively. Taylor's account is not so much a straightforward history as a bundle of thematic essays arranged chronologically; one chapter, for example, discusses the ways some gay 'Brights' were able to avoid much of the repression prevalent throughout British society at the time, while another covers the themes of the fiction that came out of the scene. There are still plenty of juicy anecdotes to go around, although Taylor says that reports of drug-fueled orgies are 'exaggerated,' and points out that Britain in the 1920s was a tightly regulated society. The text is enlivened by several Punch cartoons from the period, vividly depicting the hold these rich young partygoers once held on the public's imagination." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "[The book is] laced with mordant period quotations and delicious satiric cartoons from newspapers and magazines....[A] richly detailed work."
"Review" by , "Taylor is writing splendid social history, not fiction, and he brings a more tempered and rueful approach, showing the sadness beneath an entire generation's compulsion to waste its promise and dance in the spotlight."
"Review" by , "[A] meticulously researched account of a notorious group of 1920s London partygoers."
"Review" by , "Taylor has done a masterful job of detailing this hedonistic moment."
"Review" by , "Absorbing....The book really takes hold when Taylor seizes on the actual trajectory of the lives of individual members, most...poignantly that of Elizabeth Ponsonby."
"Review" by , "Immensely readable, and of real value as a sharply pointed cautionary tale."
"Synopsis" by ,
Before the media circus of Britney, Paris, and our modern obsession with celebrity, there were the Bright Young People, a voraciously pleasure-seeking band of bohemian party-givers and blue-blooded socialites who romped through the gossip columns of 1920s London. Evelyn Waugh immortalized their slang, their pranks, and their tragedies in his novels, and over the next half century, manyfrom Cecil Beaton to Nancy Mitford and John Betjemanwould become household names.
 
But beneath the veneer of hedonism and practical jokes was a tormented generation, brought up in the shadow of war. Sparkling talent was too often brought low by alcoholism and addiction. Drawing on the virtuosic and often wrenching writings of the Bright Young People themselves, the biographer and novelist D. J. Taylor has produced an enthralling account of an age of fleeting brilliance.
D. J. Taylor is a literary critic and the author of two acclaimed biographiesThackeray and Orwell: The Life, which won the Whitbread biography prize in 2003and six novels, including Kept: A Victorian Mystery. He lives in Norwich, England.
Before the media circus of Britney, Paris, and our modern obsession with celebrity, there were the Bright Young People, a voraciously pleasure-seeking band of bohemian party-givers and blue-blooded socialites who romped through the gossip columns of 1920s London. Evelyn Waugh immortalized their slang, their pranks, and their tragedies in his novels, and over the next half century, manyfrom Cecil Beaton to Nancy Mitford and John Betjemanwould become household names.
 
But beneath the veneer of hedonism and practical jokes was a tormented generation, brought up in the shadow of war. Sparkling talent was too often brought low by alcoholism and addiction. Drawing on the virtuosic and often wrenching writings of the Bright Young People themselves, the biographer and novelist D. J. Taylor has produced an enthralling account of an age of fleeting brilliance.

"The laziest way to put someone down is to call him or her an egomaniac. Its what we say when we loathe someone but cant think of anything more precise. That label was often and too easily applied, in London in the late 1920s and early 30s, to members of the so-called Bright Young People: a small, carefully circumscribed circle of elite 20-somethings who seemed to glide, as D. J. Taylor puts it in his nimble new book, on 'a compound of cocktails, jazz, license, abandon and flagrantly improper behavior.' The Bright Young People were the most glamorous, influential, self-absorbed, quasi-bohemian and overeducated creatures in existence. During their flickering moment they were adored and despised in almost equal measure. Good parties are enemy-making machinesYou werent asked? Surely your invitation was lost in the mailand no one orchestrated them like the Bright Young ones. Nearly every event was an eye-popping spectacle, fully played out in the eras gossip columns. In his novel Vile Bodies, published in 1930 (and still hilarious), Evelyn Waugh gave an overview of the Champagne-fueled social carnage: 'Masked parties, savage parties, Victorian parties, Greek parties, Russian parties, circus parties, parties where one had to dress as somebody else, almost naked parties in St. Johns Wood, parties in flats and studios and houses and ships and hotels and nightclubs, in windmills and swimming baths . . . all the succession and repetition of massed humanity. . . . Those vile bodies.' Waugh, of course, was a Bright Young Thing himself, or at the least he existed at the groups margins. So did others who would go on to become well-known artists: John Betjeman, Nancy Mitford, Anthony Powell, Cecil Beaton and Henry Green among them. These bold-face names were among the lucky survivors. More than a few burned out, got lost or threw their promise away. Other would-be Bright Young People, Lytton Strachey snarked, seemed to have 'just a few feathers where brains should be.' Mr. Taylor, the British author of Bright Young People: The Lost Generation of Londons Jazz Age, is a biographer (he has written lives of Thackeray and Orwell) and literary critic, and he tells this story with a good deal of essayistic flair, precision and flyaway wit. Just as important, he relates this ultimately elegiac narrative with a surprising amount of intellectual and emotional sympathy. He plainly wants to be bothered by the Bright Young Peoples antics, too. 'One of the great consolations of English literary life,' Mr. Taylor observes, wonderfully, is the idea that 'seriousness is automatically the preserve of people with cheery, proletarian values and prosaic lifestylesthat a barfly with a private income and a web of well-connected friends has already damned himself beyond redemption.'"Dwight Garner, The New York Times

"The saga of Beaton, Evelyn Waugh and the less famous social butterflies that everyone called the Bright Young People may be the ideal escapist fantasy for these sober economic times. Theirs was a life of glittering frivolity, of scavenger hunts that stopped traffic in Sloane Square, cocktails and dancing until dawn, notorious gatherings like the Bath and Bottle Party at a swimming pool ('bring a Bath towel and a Bottle' the invitation said), sprees that envious mortals read about in gossip columns. To make the fantasy complete, the story even offers a satisfying touch of schadenfreude. As D. J. Taylor emphasizes in this incisive social history, these flighty creatures crashed with a thud louder than youd imagine butterflies could make. Taylor compares the Mozart party photo to a 'medieval morality play' capturing how the Bright Young People got their comeuppance: their zaniness became more self-conscious and attenuated; they tried to ignore the fragile postwar economy and the crumbling aristocracy, but those changes were ready to bite them. It was fun while it lasted, though, for much of the 1920s . . . Lightened by the books beautiful design, laced with mordant period quotations and delicious satiric cartoons from newspapers and magazines. Taylors richly detailed work also calls attention to two breezy, auspicious first novels about the Bright Young People that are unfortunately out of print: Nancy Mitfords Highland Fling and Anthony Powells Afternoon Men."Caryn James, The New York Times Book Review

"Combining diaries, biographies, news reports and novels to paint the social life of 1920s London, D.J. Taylor has created that rarest of booksone you can safely recommend both to scholars of Evelyn Waugh and the entourage of Paris Hilton. The engaging Bright Young People, written by a critic and novelist best known for his biography of George Orwell, reads like a case study in youth culture, trendsetting, log-rolling and cultivated bohemianism. It examines the symbiotic relationship between a loose-knit group of partygoers and a media that, in gossip columns and mocking denunciations, made them the first celebrities who were famous, in our contemporary sense, for being famous. By the most generous estimate, there were never more than 2,000 souls among the ranks popularly known at the time as the Bright Young People. By most accounts, those souls were self-absorbed, self-mythologizing and terribly jaded. Their defining exploits included boisterous scavenger hunts, extravagant hoaxes and the 'stylized debauchery' of more fancy-dress balls than you can shake an engraved 16-inch-high invitation atincluding the Bath and Bottle Party, the

"Synopsis" by ,
The modern obsession with celebrity began with the Bright Young People, a voraciously pleasure-seeking band of bohemian party-givers and blue-blooded socialites who romped through the gossip columns of 1920s London. Drawing on the virtuosic and often wrenching writings of the Bright Young People themselves, the biographer and novelist D. J. Taylor has produced an enthralling account of an age of fleeting brilliance.
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