Cover image for Where did it all go right? : a memoir
Where did it all go right? : a memoir
Alvarez, A. (Alfred), 1929-
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : William Morrow, [1999]

Physical Description:
viii, 344 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
Originally published: London : Richard Cohen Books, 1999.

Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PR6051.L9 Z474 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In his bestselling "The Savage God", poet, novelist, critic, and sportsman A. Alvarez began his story. He now completes it, offering an intimate perspective on his illustrious life and the many literary myths who passed through it, including Robert Lowell, W. H. Auden, John Berryman, Ezra Pound, Wallace Shawn, and Sylvia Plath.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

English poet and critic Alvarez, who is best known for The Savage God (1972)^-which combines a study of suicide and Sylvia Plath with an account of his own attempt to take his life^-now has written another, far different memoir, attempting to explain where it all went right in his life. He begins with his childhood as the sickly son of deeply unhappy parents. Alvarez courted danger as a way of overcoming his infirmities and found in the "deadly ballet" of the Battle of Britain--Messerschmitts and Spifires dancing and dueling across the London sky--an image of beauty and risk that would never leave him. And, yet, poetry and the literary life were his first loves as an adult, and he describes the excitement of his early successes at Oxford and as poetry critic at the Observer ("a fresh young tadpole in the puddle of poetry"). Profiles of his mentors, including V. S. Pritchett and R. P. Blackmur, as well as descriptions of his encounters with Auden, Berryman, Lowell, Hughes, and Plath are acutely perceptive and full of rich anecdote. Those Spitfires still dancing in his mind's eye, however, Alvarez abandoned the literary life to indulge his "fascination with how other people function." Soon he was writing about poker players, rock climbers, and North Sea oil drillers, seeing for himself "the world of action, where people take real risks with their bodies or machinery or money." And escaping his father's fate, a man "who had spent his life in a business he didn't care for and had never been anywhere." The best memoirs always go beyond anecdote to give us the shape of a life. Free-falling between art and action, between despair and exhilaration, Alvarez struggled to find a shape for his conflicted life, and we share his surprise and his joy that it all went right. A remarkable book about a remarkable life. --Bill Ott

Library Journal Review

In 1960, when Alvarez found himself in an unhappy marriage and at the lowest point of his life, he tried to commit suicide. He survived to write what has become the world's best-selling book on suicide, The Savage God. In this new memoir, Alvarez writes that the publication of that book, his meeting with W.H. Auden, and his marriage to his second wife, Anne, are events that caused things to "go right" for him. Alvarez traces his life from his cheerless childhood to his days at Oxford, where he studied under the famous F.W. Bateson (editor of The Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature) and to the flowering of his own career as a writer and literary critic. Along the way, Alvarez meets literary luminaries such as Frank Kermode, F.R. Leavis, Robert Lowell, John Berryman, Kingsley Amis, Ted Hughes, and Sylvia Plath. Since the publication of his first book, he has written on topics as diverse as poker and mountain climbing. Given Alvarez's idiosyncratic focus on a slice of life that will interest only a narrow group of readers, this is recommended only where his other books are popular and for academic libraries.DHenry Carrigan, Lancaster, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.