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Like a Fiery Elephant
JONATHAN COE

Like a Fiery Elephant by Jonathan Coe
5 reviews (2005) (486p)
National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography Finalist

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Book Description
The most critically acclaimed literary biography published in the UK in 2004, Like a Fiery Elephant tells the story of B.S. Johnson, one of Britain's most innovative, passionate, and controversial writers of the 1960s and 70s. Johnson was an unflinching advocate for the avant-garde in both literature and film, and held strong (some would say extreme) views on the future of the novel. Working firmly in the tradition of Joyce and Beckett—the latter of whom became a friend and mentor of sorts to Johnson—he tormented his agents, editors, and publishers with innovations that included a book with holes cut throught the pages (Albert Angelo) and a novel published in a box so that its unbound chapters could be read in any order (The Unfortunates). Johnson committed suicide in 1973, at the age of forty.

The story of Johnson's life is fascinating enough—but what makes this biography truly extraordinary (even for those who have never heard of Johnson) is the intelligence and honesty that Jonathan Coe brings to the form itself. Coe is a novelist, not a biographer, and he enjoys telling stories. How, then, to write the biography of his one-time hero, whose whole career as a novelist was based around the belief that "telling stories is telling lies?"

The result is a brilliant, funny, and deeply moving book about what it means to be a writer, and about what it means to stick to your principles so doggedly that you end up with nowhere left to turn


Jonathan Coe Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 1  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 1  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 0  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 1 Like a Fiery Elephant ·  
National Book Award Wins 0  
National Book Award Nominations 0  
Man Booker Prize Wins 0  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 0  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award

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