Gods, Mongrels and Demons
Oddballs, tinks, heidbangers, saints, keelies, nutters, philosophers and freaks. These apparently marginal lives are not only interesting in their own right but often tell us more about the mores of a country or a time than the lives of its better known citizens (and some of them are included here too). Here, the Japanese poet Basho, the baseball star Babe Ruth and the singer Billie Holiday rub shoulders with Ganesh, Johnny Faa, the Gypsy Laddie and Eliza Donnithorne (true-life model for Dickens' Miss Havisham). Angus Calder has created an original, ex-centric and richly entertaining compendium of brief but essential lives.
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GODS MONGRELS & DEMONSUser Review - Book Verdict
In this fascinating and idiosyncratic reference work, social historian Calder (The People's War: Britain 1939-1945) gathers together brief biographies of"creatures who have extended my sense of the potentialities, both comic and tragic, of human nature." Unlike the usual subjects of biographies, the figures Calder chooses are not all people with brilliant, public careers, but rather people (and gods and mongrels) who have lived unusual lives. The book mingles the high with the low and the good with the bad. The jazz musician Lester Young, for example, shares pages with the 19th-century criminal Sheik Adam, who ingeniously escaped from a prison on the island of Mauritius. Ludwig Wittgenstein is commemorated along with Vera Delf, whom Calder describes as"a belated Victorian heroine of the British peace movement." The Devil himself gets an entry four pages later. Though Calder's work bursts with facts and dates, his prose is never dry or plodding. Charming and well designed, this biographical dictionary is a pleasure to dip into for both entertainment and inspiration.
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Limited preview - 1982