Bracewell, Michael 1958-
BRACEWELL, Michael 1958-
PERSONAL: Born August 7, 1958, in London, England; son of George (a civil servant) and Joyce (Crowther) Bracewell. Education: University of Nottingham, B.A. (with honors), 1980. Hobbies and other interests: London, neoromantic British art, fashion, "postmodernism," music, architecture, food, comedy.
ADDRESSES: Home—Sutton, Surrey, England. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Jonathan Cape, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Rd., London SW1V 2SA, England.
CAREER: Novelist and author of documentaries and nonfiction. British Council, London, England, former clerk in department of fine arts. Cofounder, Quick End (literary magazine).
AWARDS, HONORS: Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize shortlist, 1992, for The Conclave.
The Crypto-Amnesia Club, Carcanet (London, England), 1988.
Divine Concepts of Physical Beauty, Secker & War-burg (London, England), 1989, Knopf (New York, NY), 1990.
The Conclave, Secker & Warburg (London, England), 1992.
Saint Rachel, J. Cape (London, England), 1995.
Perfect Tense, J. Cape (London, England), 2001.
England Is Mine: Pop Life in Albion from Wilde to Goldie, Flamingo (London, England), 1998.
The Nineties: When Surface Was Depth, Flamingo (London, England), 2002.
Sam Taylor-Wood, Steidl (Göttingen, Germany), 2002.
Contributor to exhibition catalogs, including Adam Chodzko, August Media (London, England), 1999. Author of television documentaries, on Oscar Wilde and Nikolaus Pevsner, for British Broadcasting Corp.(-BBC). Work represented in anthologies, including The Quick End, Fourth Estate (London, England), 1988, The Faber Book of Pop, Faber (London, England), 1995, and The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century Fashion Writing, Penguin (London, England), 1999. Contributor to periodicals, including Guardian, Independent on Sunday, Frieze, Agenda, Arena, and Excel.
SIDELIGHTS: Michael Bracewell is a novelist and writer on contemporary art. In both genres, Bracewell has focused on the empty materialism and shallow thinking of contemporary English culture, fashion, and avant-garde trends.
Bracewell's novel Divine Concepts of Physical Beauty, for example, features extreme performance artist Kelly O'Kelly, whose dangerous acts could lead to death. Her circle of affluent London friends includes Miles, who is engaged to fashion model Stella, and a homosexual couple whose breakup leads to violent revenge. A contributor to Publishers Weekly concluded that Bracewell writes "like a metaphysical poet, with rapier shafts of irony and wit." Bracewell told Richard Marshall in 3AM that he considered the book to contain "a kind of high operatic mellow dramatic camp atmosphere."
Bracewell's novel The Conclave is an "anatomy of anxiety and strangeness" among the young people in the English middle class, as the author explained to Marshall. "There really were young people at that time thinking in terms of how near am I to somewhere where I can buy a bottle of Perrier water at eleven o'clock at night. I was interested in that state of banality. I was asking where the moral centre of that mind was." Similarly, in the novel Saint Rachel Bracewell tells of a depressed young Londoner whose reliance on drugs is told in deadpan, minimalist prose. Chris Savage King, writing in the New Statesman, found that Bracewell's prose "unwinds in a slow-motion haze that conveys the joint effect of the drugs and the malaise."
Bracewell deals with many of the same issues raised in his novels in his nonfiction title The Nineties: When Surface Was Depth, in which he argues that the English have been overwhelmed by an obsession with celebrity, passing fads, and a kind of infantilism found in the sorts of entertainment successfully marketed to adults. As Bracewell puts it in the book: "The nurturing of our inner child by any means possible achieved a new fashionableness—at the expense, perhaps, of our inner adult." Will Self, reviewing the work for the New Statesman, believed that Bracewell presents the nineties "in terms of a series of passing preoccupations." Ian Sansom in the Guardian described The Nineties as being "made up of odd interviews, think-pieces, and other off-cuts gathered from Bracewell's occasionally brilliant writings for newspapers and magazines, all mixed up together, poured into a mould, and given a book-kind of shape…. Enormously tasty, and curi ously insubstantial." But according to David Lister in the Independent, "Bracewell is amply suited to grapple with the Nineties. His writing bristles with perception and irony—and the decade's one lasting legacy might be irony."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
3AM, September, 2001, Richard Marshall, "An Interview with Michael Bracewell."
Blitz, February, 1988.
Elle, September, 1988.
Face, February, 1988.
Guardian, June 29, 2002, Nicholas Lezard, review of Perfect Tense; July 27, 2002, Ian Sansom, review of The Nineties: When Surface Was Depth.
Independent, July 18, 2002, David Lister, review of The Nineties.
Library Journal, September 15, 2002, Shauna Frischkorn, review of Sam Taylor-Wood, p. 60.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, May 15, 1988, p. 6.
New Statesman, January 29, 1988, Boyd Tonkin, review of The Crypto-Amnesia Club, p. 30; October 2, 1992, Elizabeth Young, review of The Conclave, p. 49; February 3, 1995, Chris Savage King, review of Saint Rachel, p. 40; July 15, 2002, Will Self, review of The Nineties, p. 48.
New York Times Book Review, July 24, 1988, p. 18.
Publishers Weekly, February 26, 1988, Penny Kaganoff, review of The Crypto-Amnesia Club, p. 191; March 23, 1990, Sybil Steinberg, review of Divine Concepts of Physical Beauty, p. 63.
Spectator, February 18, 1995, D. J. Taylor, review of Saint Rachel, p. 30; June 7, 1997, Jonathan Keates, review of England Is Mine: Pop Life in Albion from Wilde to Goldie, p. 44; February 10, 2001, Nicola McAllister, review of Perfect Tense, p. 37.
Times Literary Supplement, March 25, 1988, Mark Sanderson, review of The Crypto-Amnesia Club, p. 337; June 17, 1988, Eve MacSweeney, review of The Quick End, p. 680; October 27, 1989, Jane O'Grady, review of Divine Concepts of Physical Beauty, p. 1180.
Contemporary Writers, http://www.contemporary writers.com/ (November 4, 2003).
Spike, http://www.spikemagazine.com/ (April, 1997), Jason Weaver, review of England Is Mine.*