Some Sort of Genius: A Life of Wyndham Lewis

Some Sort of Genius: A Life of Wyndham Lewis

by Paul O'Keeffe


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“A man of undoubted genius,” T.S. Eliot said of Wyndham Lewis, “…but genius for what precisely it would be remarkably difficult to say.” Painter and draughtsman, novelist, satirist, pamphleteer and critic, Wyndham Lewis’s multifarious activities defy easy categorization. He launched the only twentieth century English avant-garde art movement, Vorticism, in 1914. Brilliant both as painter and writer, the precise, mechanistic formality of his visual style crossed over into a unique satirical prose which, emphasizing the external, turned his characters into automata. It enabled Lewis to pit himself against a prevailing orthodoxy, the stream of consciousness technique favoured by contemporaries as diverse as James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and Gertrude Stein.

Combining years of research with dry wit and creative storytelling, Paul O’Keeffe’s Some Sort of Genius crackles with intense details of Lewis’s work, life and times, simultaneously dismantling longstanding assumptions about his subject and offering brilliant new perspectives. Employing narrative creativity that reinvents the genre of biography itself, O’Keeffe delivers an unparalleled portrait that does full justice to Lewis’s complexity.

Throughout O’Keeffe’s definitive account, readers will be introduced to one of the most compelling and misunderstood figures of twentieth century modernism.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781619025301
Publisher: Counterpoint Press
Publication date: 06/09/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 704
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 2.00(d)

About the Author

Paul O’Keefe is a freelance lecturer and writer based in Liverpool, UK. He gained his Ph.D. with a scholarly edition of Wyndham Lewis’s Tarr and is also the author of Gaudier-Brzeska: An Absolute Case of Genius.

Read an Excerpt

“…in February 1900, the estranged wife of Charles Edward Lewis made a solemn declaration at the Mansion House in the City of London, in accordance with the Statutory Declarations Act. Her only son had been born on the 18th day of November, 1882, at Amherst, Nova Scotia, in the Dominion on Canada. The declaration was being made, she claimed, because there had been no Registry of Births in Amherst at that time and, as a result, the boy did not have a birth certificate. In his 18th year, the last of the 19th century, and for the price of a shilling stamp, it was belatedly certified by Anne Stuart Lewis and the Lord Mayor of London that Percy Wyndham Lewis had been born.
With no other documentation to back his mother’s statement, an individual’s birthdate becomes a matter of hearsay. For a man who was to spend the major part of his life creating an aura of mystery and drama around his vigorously self-promoted personality, the lack of a birth certificate would be a symbolic but potent advantage. It would afford him the opportunity, denied to those who had embarked upon more conventionally documented lives, the retrospective choice in the time, place and circumstances of his birth. It would shroud the fantastic event in mystery. Evasion would become a lifelong habit: evasion of creditors, of infatuated women, of importunate offspring.
The lack of birth certificate meant he could invent himself."

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