If: The Untold Story of Kipling's American Years eBook

If: The Untold Story of Kipling's American Years Rudyard Kipling has become rather persona non gratis in modern times due to his support of colonialism but oh my dear, he was talented I was raised reading Kipling s work and although it is now politically incorrect, it was thrilling when one was a child ininnocent days To be frank, I still find it thrilling since one has to remember when it was written.This book relates the time that Kipling and his family lived in Brattleboro, Vermont at the end of the 19th century and how it affected Rudyard Kipling has become rather persona non gratis in modern times due to his support of colonialism but oh my dear, he was talented I was raised reading Kipling s work and although it is now politically incorrect, it was thrilling when one was a child ininnocent days To be frank, I still find it thrilling since one has to remember when it was written.This book relates the time that Kipling and his family lived in Brattleboro, Vermont at the end of the 19th century and how it affected his writing and thinking He initially came to the US to interview Mark Twain for his column in a British India newspaper Twain was one of his literary heroes and he fell in love with the wilderness of the country and decided to stay.He wrote two of his masterpieces Kim and The Jungle Book at his isolated home in Vermont and was suddenly famous He eventually returned to England after a political decision made by the US which involved Britain, soured him against the policies of the US.Much of life of Kipling in the US is not well known and the author attempts to clarify some of the effect that Kipling had on US attitudes and literary tastes I was rather disappointed at the uneven flow of the narrative and the author s sometimes apologetic tone when discussing Kipling s imperialism Apologies are unnecessary since Kipling lived in other times when the sun never set on the British Empire and his loyalties, right or wrong, were the norm His exciting and moving stories poems are works of a brilliant and conflicted artist If you like Kipling, you may want to read this bookif not a fan, you may want to skip it A unique exploration of the life and work of Rudyard Kipling in Gilded Age America, from a celebrated scholar of American literatureAt the turn of the twentieth century, Rudyard Kipling towered over not just English literature, but the entire literary world At the height of his fame in , he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, becoming its youngest winner His influence on figures including the likes of Freud and William James was vast and profound But in recent decades Kipling s reputation has suffered a strange eclipse Though his body of work still looms large, and his monumental poem If is quoted and referenced by politicians, athletes, and professors, he himself is treated with profound unease as a man on the wrong side of history In If, scholar Christopher Benfey brings this fascinating writer to life and, for the first time, gives full attention to his intense engagement with the United States a rarely discussed but critical piece of evidence in our understanding of this man and his enduring legacy Benfey traces the writer s deep involvement with America over one crucial decade, fromto , when he lived for four years in Brattleboro, Vermont, and sought deliberately to turn himself into a specifically American writer It was his most prodigious and creative period, as well as his happiest, during which he wrote The Jungle Book and Captains Courageous Had a family dispute not forced his departure, Kipling almost certainly would have stayed Leaving was the hardest thing he ever had to do, Kipling said There are only two places in the world where I want to live, he lamented, Bombay and Brattleboro And I can t live in either In this fresh examination of Kipling, Benfey hangs a provocative what if over Kipling s American years and maps the imprint Kipling left on his adopted country as well as the imprint the country left on him If proves there is relevance and magnificence to be found in Kipling s work I m not entirely surprised to be the first person reviewing this book The subject, after all, is fairly esoteric Kipling is nowhere near as famous of an author as he should be, considering how popular and beloved his stories were and are Just recently there s been another admittedly inferior Jungle Book remake on Netflix If, Kipling s famous poem and the title of this book, is quite possibly the most widely quoted one at graduations, etc At one time and for many years Kipling was the best I m not entirely surprised to be the first person reviewing this book The subject, after all, is fairly esoteric Kipling is nowhere near as famous of an author as he should be, considering how popular and beloved his stories were and are Just recently there s been another admittedly inferior Jungle Book remake on Netflix If, Kipling s famous poem and the title of this book, is quite possibly the most widely quoted one at graduations, etc At one time and for many years Kipling was the best selling most popular author there was, even becoming the youngest man to win Nobel Prize for literature and the first in English language And yet sadly, the man s politically incorrect views and his outspokenness of them seem to have marred his reputation So that Kipling is often thought of as an unpopular imperialist with a jingoistic streak instead of just someone whose books you might have had the pleasure to be brought up on Sad indeed, this sign of times the insistence of viewing people through the horridly inflexible self righteous prism of modern age instead of considering them as representatives of their times, social status, etc At any rate, Kipling s life isn t very well known and this book aims to change that and triumphantly succeeds The author presents a measured unbiased portrait of a man, whose life was fascinating and at times fraught with tragedy, whose views were strong and often unfashionable and whose talent was undeniable and prodigious It has been said that Kipling was a modern Shakespeare of his time, in a way he added words and idioms to the English language He hung out with luminaries of his day, traveled wildly, impressively so considering the times and led a storied and interesting life Certainly one worth reading about Though the author chooses to concentrate on Kipling s American years, the book does a pretty good job of covering Kipling s entire life, only skimping on the later years His American years, really a decade in the late 1800s very significant because he was so happy and productive here, finding a place of his own for his new family and him in Brattleboro, Vermont Politics eventually made him leave and personal tragedy saw to it that he never returned, but for a while he was very happy there, setting out a goal for himself to become a proper American author, to write the quintessential great American novel Which, of course, he did Or maybe even one upping that, writing great novels of international resonance Some to delight children of all ages across the globe, some, oddly enough, to be used as spy manuals in military conflicts The entire final chapter is devoted to the latter, which is sad in a way, because it isn t the association someone who grew up on Jungle Book and Just So Tales might wish to have Nevertheless, it s certainly fascinating and definitely sobering to see the far reaching effects of literature on the world, intended or not But then again, it works very well within the context of the book, because it doesn t just describe one literary life, it talks about a variety of personal and professional connections, thus giving the readers a terrific view of a Gilded Age of America, where things that glittered weren t always gold and times were as challenging and turbulent racism, nationalism, immigration, to mention just a few as they are today in a way, speaking to the cyclical nature of the world and people s essential inability to learn from the past So you won t just learn of one man s life, you ll learn of many, you ll learn about the life of a country on a brink of a new era And for such a relatively slender volume, this book offers tons of information and does so in a thoroughly engaging, edifying, entertaining way It s all you can ask for from nonfiction There are even photos This was a fairly random selection for me and somewhat outside of my normal reading fare I normally don t do biographies , but now I m very glad to have found and read this book The author did a terrific job of enlightening the world on its subject, Kipling s life was just as interesting as his books in a way, though nowhere near as exciting and no talking quadrupeds either I learned a lot about Kipling and his times from this book and enjoyed it thoroughly I practically read it on one or two prolonged sittings, which is pretty unputdownable for nonfiction I can only hope my glowing review might help this book finds its audience It certainly deserves one Read this book Read Kipling too You at least in spirit and at least in theory can never be too old for an armchair adventure Thanks Netgalley Marry me, Christopher Benfey I adore your books From The Great Wave to The Summer of Hummingbirds, you synthesize American culture and history into a perfectly delineated whole And now be still my heart Rudyard Kipling during his American years This is a triumph of a book, ranging as it does from Kipling s childhood years right up to the present day and the influence his works bore on Vietnam and subsequent imperial skirmishes. According to the subtitle, The untold story of Kipling s American Years one would assume that this is a history book A quick peruse through the books pictures would lead one to believe there were great stories of RK and TR and Mark Twain There aren t This book is basically a collection of book reviews trying to tie what Kipling wrote to the events in his life Less than half the book takes place in the US Historical content is tangential to the what the author is trying to accomplish If I According to the subtitle, The untold story of Kipling s American Years one would assume that this is a history book A quick peruse through the books pictures would lead one to believe there were great stories of RK and TR and Mark Twain There aren t This book is basically a collection of book reviews trying to tie what Kipling wrote to the events in his life Less than half the book takes place in the US Historical content is tangential to the what the author is trying to accomplish If I had known this, I probably wouldn t have read it Excellent, short biography that gives a sense of Kipling s complicated place in literature, his uncontested talent and story telling ability, and how, when we think we know him, weoften imperfectly understand his aims and his meaning. Truly enjoyed this book about Rudyard Kipling s years in Vermont, USA I learned about his formative meeting with his hero Mark Twain, his Arc inspired house in Brattleboro, and his writing there of the Jungle Books, Captains Courageous and the Just So Stories, among othersHighly recommended There are threads laid out in this book that don t fully developI would have liked a longer reflection on the Philippine American War and a less hastily drawn conclusion that one day after the WMB was published, Congress voted to annex the Philippines Also, how can you mention that Allen Dulles had a well thumbed copy of Kim at his death bed, and not elaborate on his ill begotten schemes abroad including the murder of Lumumba I m also surprised by the rosy depiction of President Cleveland. Rudyard Kipling was a writer whose star rose suddenly, then fell slowly, his repute now in such doubt that award winning writer Christopher Benfey was advised against trying to rehabilitate him Fortunately, he did not heed that advice, and this fascinating biography is the result.Living in India in what he thought of as rather idyllic circumstances, at age five Kipling was sent to England to be raised by a professional foster family The shock cut deep Kipling later spoke of it as a kind of Rudyard Kipling was a writer whose star rose suddenly, then fell slowly, his repute now in such doubt that award winning writer Christopher Benfey was advised against trying to rehabilitate him Fortunately, he did not heed that advice, and this fascinating biography is the result.Living in India in what he thought of as rather idyllic circumstances, at age five Kipling was sent to England to be raised by a professional foster family The shock cut deep Kipling later spoke of it as a kind of imprisonment, forcing him to reveal nothing of his treatment lest he be punished, yet accepting it as children do, as what was required Later, his stories of lost boys like Mowgli in THE JUNGLE BOOK who was raised by wolves and the hero of CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS a rich boy forced to live like an ordinary sailor recall this sense of alienation and determination Both books were written while Kipling lived in the US, reflecting perhaps his sense of freedom to tell, finally, the truth about his upbringing.Kipling came to the US with his wife, American Carrie Balestier, who he had married days after hearing of the death of her brother Wolcott, with whom he had composed THE NAULAHKA, a winding novel that melded imagery from India with a very American setting Possibly, Kipling had been enad of Wolcott, and courting his sister was the best expression of those feelings He and Carrie were in the midst of a storybook honeymoon when they learned that his bank had collapsed Financially desperate and with a baby on the way, they found a haven in Vermont, near Brattleboro, eventually building a stately home named for that first novel.Benfey, the Andrew F Mellon Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College with a particular focus on the American Gilded Age, has brought to light and deftly connected many lesser known facts about Kipling, his contemporaries including Teddy Roosevelt , and his secret longing to become a great American writer Forced to leave the US after about 10 years, Kipling became an esteemed English literary voice, but the American links lingered Interestingly, his novel KIM, conceived during his American sojourn, became required reading for CIA agents during the Vietnam War.Though buried beside Tennyson and Chaucer, Kipling s light dimmed in the new world era, with works like The White Man s Burden making his name anathema Yet, Benfey points out, his greatest stories are still the basis for popular remakes And there is much to be discerned about the radical upheavals in current American culture from Kipling s complex American engagement, which Benfey regards as a quest for a lost paradise Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott The author s painstaking research and attention to detail is obvious in the writing of this book There were many facts that I only discovered after reading this


About the Author: Christopher E.G. Benfey

Christopher Benfey is Mellon Professor of English at Mount Holyoke He is the author, most recently, of Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay.


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