Bradbury, Malcolm (Stanley) 1932-2000

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BRADBURY, Malcolm (Stanley) 1932-2000

PERSONAL: Born September 7, 1932, in Sheffield, England; died following a long illness and heart problems, November 27, 2000, in Norwich, England; son of Arthur and Doris Ethel (Marshall) Bradbury; married Elizabeth Salt, October, 1959; children: Matthew, Dominic. Education: University College, University of Leicester, B.A. (first-class honors), 1953; Queen Mary College, University of London, M.A., 1955; attended Indiana University, 1955-56, University of Manchester, 1956-58, Yale University, 1958-59; University of Manchester, Ph.D., 1962.

CAREER: University of Hull, Hull, England, staff tutor in literature and drama in department of adult education, 1959-61; University of Birmingham, Birmingham, England, lecturer in English language and literature, 1961-65; University of East Anglia, Norwich, England, lecturer, 1965-67, senior lecturer, 1967-69, reader in English, 1969-70, professor of American studies, 1970-95, professor emeritus, 1995-2000. Teaching fellow, Indiana University, 1955-56; junior fellow, Yale University, 1958-59; fellow, Harvard University, 1965-66; visiting professor, University of California—Davis, 1966; visiting fellow, All Souls College, Oxford University, 1969; visiting professor, University of Zurich, 1972; Fanny Hurst Professor of Writing, Washington University, 1982; Davis Professor, University of Queensland, and visiting professor, Griffith University, 1983; Senior Visiting Research Fellow, St. John's College, Oxford, 1994; Wells Professor, Indiana University, 1997. Chair of British Council English Studies Seminar, 1976-84; Booker-McConnell Prize for Fiction, chair of judges, 1981, member of management committee, 1984-91; member of management committee, Book Trust, 1987-89; judge of Royal Television Society Drama Awards, 1993; judge for British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 1995, 1998; chair of judges, Whitbread Prize, 1997. Founding director of Radio Broadland (independent radio station), 1984-96; director, East Anglian Radio, 1990-96.

MEMBER: British Association of American Studies, Society of Authors, PEN (executive committee, 1973-75), Royal Society of Literature (fellow).

AWARDS, HONORS: British Association of American Studies junior fellow in United States, 1958-59; American Council of Learned Societies fellow, 1965-66; Heinemann Prize, Royal Society of Literature, 1975, for The History Man; named among twenty best British writers by Book Marketing Council, 1982; shortlisted for Booker-McConnell Prize for Fiction, 1983, for Rates of Exchange; International Emmy Award, 1987, for Porterhouse Blue; Decorated Commander of the Order of the British Empire, 1991; Silver Nymph award for best screenplay for a series, Monte Carlo Television Festival, 1991, for The Gravy Train; Writers' Guild Macallan Award nomination, best drama serial for television, 1993, for The Gravy Train Goes East; best film made for television award, Banff Film Festival, 1995, for Cold Comfort Farm; Edgar Award nomination for best television feature, Mystery Writers of America, 1997, for "An Autumn Shroud," episode of television series Dalziel and Pascoe. D. Litt., University of Leicester, 1987, Birmingham University, 1989, University of Hull, 1994, and Nottingham University, 1996.


Eating People Is Wrong (novel), Secker & Warburg (London, England), 1959, Knopf (New York, NY), 1960.

Phogey!; or, How to Have Class in a Classless Society (also see below), Parrish, 1960.

All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go: The Poor Man'sGuide to the Affluent Society (also see below), Parrish, 1962.

Evelyn Waugh (critical study), Oliver & Boyd (London, England), 1962.

Stepping Westward (novel), Secker & Warburg (London, England), 1965, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1966; reprinted, Penguin (New York, NY), 1995.

(With Allan Rodway) Two Poets (verse), Byron Press, 1966.

What Is a Novel?, Edward Arnold (London, England), 1969.

The Social Context of Modern English Literature (criticism), Schocken (New York, NY), 1971.

Possibilities: Essays on the State of the Novel, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1972.

The History Man (novel), Secker & Warburg (London, England), 1975, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1976.

Who Do You Think You Are?: Stories and Parodies, Secker & Warburg (London, England), 1976.

The Outland Dart: American Writers and EuropeanModernism, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1978.

Saul Bellow (critical study), Methuen (London, England), 1982.

All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go (contains revised versions of Phogey! and All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go), Pavilion (London, England), 1982, reprinted, Picador (London, England), 2000.

Rates of Exchange (novel), Knopf (New York, NY), 1983.

The Modern American Novel (criticism), Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1983, revised edition, Viking (New York, NY), 1993.

Why Come to Slaka?, Secker & Warburg (London, England), 1986.

Cuts: A Very Short Novel (novella), Harper (New York, NY), 1987.

My Strange Quest for Mensonge, Penguin (New York, NY), 1988, also published as Mensonge: Structuralism's Hidden Hero, n.d.

No, Not Bloomsbury (collected essays), Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1988.

Unsent Letters: Irreverent Notes from a Literary Life, Penguin (Harmondsworth, England), 1988.

The Modern World: Ten Great Writers (criticism), Penguin (New York, NY), 1989.

(With Richard Ruland) From Puritanism to Postmodernism: A History of American Literature (criticism), Viking (New York, NY), 1991.

Doctor Criminale (novel), Viking (New York, NY), 1992.

The Modern British Novel (criticism), Penguin (New York, NY), 1994.

Dangerous Pilgrimages: Trans-Atlantic Mythologies and the Novel (criticism), Secker & Warburg (London, England), 1995, Viking (New York, NY), 1996.

To the Hermitage (novel), Picador (London, England), 2000, Overlook Press (Woodstock, NY), 2001.

Contributor of more than 1,500 articles and reviews to periodicals, including Punch, New Yorker, New York Times, London Times, Times Literary Supplement, New York Review of Books, Spectator, and New Republic.


(With David Lodge and James Duckett) Between TheseFour Walls (stage revue), first produced in Birmingham, England, 1963.

(With David Lodge, James Duckett, and David Turner) Slap in the Middle (stage revue), first produced in Birmingham, England, 1965.

(With Chris Bigsby) The After-Dinner Game (television play), British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), 1975.

(With Chris Bigsby) Stones (television play), BBC, 1976.

Love on a Gunboat (television play), BBC, 1977.

The Enigma (television play; based on a story by John Fowles), BBC, 1980.

Standing in for Henry (television play), BBC, 1980.

Congress (radio play), BBC, 1981.

The After-Dinner Game: Three Plays for Television, Arrow Books, 1982, revised edition, 1989.

Rates of Exchange (television series; based on Bradbury's novel of the same title), BBC, 1985.

Blott on the Landscape (television series; adapted from the novel by Tom Sharpe), BBC, 1985.

Porterhouse Blue (television series; adapted from the novel by Tom Sharpe), Channel 4, 1987.

Imaginary Friends (television series; adapted from the novel by Alison Lurie), Thames, 1987.

The Green Man (television series; adapted from the novel by Kingsley Amis), BBC, 1990.

Cold Comfort Farm (television series; adapted from the novel by Stella Gibbons), BBC, 1996.

Inside Trading: A Comedy in Three Acts (drama; produced at the Norwich Playhouse, November-December, 1996), Methuen Drama (London, England), 1996, Heinemann (Portsmouth, NH), 1997.

In the Red (television series; adapted from the novel by Mark Tavener), BBC-2, 1998.

Author of plays Scenes from Provincial Life, based on the novel by William Cooper, and Pemberton Billing and the Little Black Book. Author, with wife, Elizabeth Bradbury, of radio play This Sporting Life, 1974-75. Author of six episodes of series Anything More Would Be Greedy, Anglia, 1989; four episodes of The Gravy Train, Channel 4, 1991; and four episodes of The Gravy Train Goes West, Channel 4, 1992. Adaptor of works by Reginald Hill, including "An Autumn Shroud," BBC-1, 1996, for the series Dalziel and Pascoe. Also author or adaptor of episodes of television series A Touch of Frost, Kavanagh QC, Dalziel and Pascoe, and Inspector Morse. Literary advisor for South Bank Show television series The Modern World: Ten Great Writers, LWT, 1988.


E. M. Forster: A Collection of Critical Essays, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1965.

Mark Twain, "Pudd'nhead Wilson" and "ThoseExtraordinary Twins," Penguin (Harmondsworth, England), 1969.

E. M. Forster, A Passage to India: A Casebook, Macmillan (London, England), 1970.

(With David Palmer) Contemporary Criticism, Edward Arnold (London, England), 1970, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1971.

(With Eric Mottram and Jean Franco) The PenguinCompanion to American Literature, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1971, published as The Penguin Companion to Literature, Volume III: U.S.A., Allen Lane (London, England), 1971, published as The Avenal Companion to English and American Literature, Avenal, 1981.

(With David Palmer) Metaphysical Poetry, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1971.

(With David Palmer) The American Novel and theNineteen Twenties, Edward Arnold (London, England), 1971.

(With David Palmer) Shakespearean Comedy, Edward Arnold (London, England), 1972.

(With James McFarlane) Modernism: A Guide toEuropean Literature, 1890-1930, Penguin (Harmondsworth, England), 1976, revised edition, 1990.

The Novel Today: Contemporary Writers on ModernFiction, Rowman & Littlefield, 1977, revised edition, 1991.

(With David Palmer) Decadence and the 1890s, Edward Arnold (London, England), 1979.

(With David Palmer) The Contemporary EnglishNovel, Edward Arnold (London, England), 1979.

(With David Palmer) Contemporary Theatre, Holmes & Meier (London, England), 1979.

(With Howard Temperley) An Introduction to AmericanStudies, Longman (London, England), 1980, revised edition, 1997.

Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage (critical edition), Dent (London, England), 1983.

(With David Palmer) Shakespearean Tragedy, Holmes & Meier (London, England), 1984.

(With Sigmund Ro) Contemporary American Fiction, Edward Arnold (London, England), 1987.

The Penguin Book of Modern British Short Stories, Penguin (Harmondsworth, England), 1988.

(With Judy Cooke) New Writing, Heinemann (London, England), 1992.

(With Andrew Motion) New Writing 2, Heinemann (London, England), 1993.

Washington Irving, The Sketch Book of GeoffreyCrayon, Gent., J. M. Dent (London, England), 1993.

Present Laughter: An Anthology of Modern ComicFiction, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1994.

Class Work: An Anthology of University of East AngliaStories (anthology), Sceptre (London, England), 1995.

The Atlas of Literature, D'Agostini (New York, NY), 1996.

Henry James, The American, Everyman, 1997.

(And author of introduction and notes) E. M. Forster, A Room with a View, Penguin (New York, NY), 2000.

General editor, "Stratford-upon-Avon Studies" series, Edward Arnold, 1970-81, and "Contemporary Writers" series, Methuen. Associate editor, Leicester University literary magazine, Luciad, 1952-53, Indiana University literary magazine, Folio, 1955-56; joint editor of Yale Penny Poems, Yale University, 1958-59; advisory and guest editor to several literary magazines.

ADAPTATIONS: The History Man was adapted as a four-part television series by Christopher Hampton, BBC, 1979.

SIDELIGHTS: Malcolm Bradbury was a highly regarded English novelist and critic. Considered among England's preeminent scholars, Bradbury was also esteemed for his critically lauded satirical novels, including Eating People Is Wrong, The History Man, Doctor Criminale, and To the Hermitage. In addition to novels and literary criticism, Bradbury also authored short stories, stage revues, teleplays and dramas, and worked on many well-known television series in Great Britain, including A Touch of Frost and Inspector Morse. Bradbury was professor emeritus at the University of East Anglia, where he taught from 1965 until his death in 2000.

Herbert Burke in Library Journal called Malcolm Bradbury's first novel, Eating People Is Wrong, "a novel . . . about how weary academic life is in the English Midlands of the '50s—but this is not a weary novel. Often truly comic, its satire has many barbs and they often draw blood. . . . If seriousness of intent—a sociology of the British establishment of the times as seen through the microcosm of the academy—gets in the way of hearty satire, bawdiness is not lacking." According to Martin Tucker in the New Republic, the author wrote "a first novel that is sloppy, structurally flabby, occasionally inane, frequently magnificent and ultimately successful. It is as if [Charles] Dickens and Evelyn Waugh sat down together and said 'Let's write a comic novel in the manner of Kingsley Amis about a man in search of his lost innocence who finds it.' The result is one of the most substantial and dazzling literary feasts this year." Not all reviewers were so generous in their appraisal of the book, however. In the New York Herald Tribune Book Review, Patrick Dennis wrote: "While Malcolm Bradbury's first novel is brilliant, witty, sensitive, adult, funny and a lot of other pleasant and desirable things, it is not a good novel. And I know why: Mr. Bradbury has been so busy entertaining himself with his brilliance, wit, etc., that he has quite forgotten about those less gifted people who are expected to buy, read and enjoy his book. . . . While his knaves and fools are elegantly written, his 'sympathetic' characters are so feckless or so grotesque that one has almost no feeling for them." And a New Yorker critic found that "there are no funny situations, and the few comic episodes that occur are much too light, and perhaps also too tired, to stand up against the predominant, tragic predicament that is [the main character's] life . . . and even if this spectacle were more richly decorated than it is with jokes and puns and so on, it would not be good enough. Mr. Bradbury has created a serious and very human character, and has obscured him with jugglers."

Stepping Westward, Bradbury's second novel, also about university life, was hailed by a Times Literary Supplement reviewer as "a vade mecum for every youthful or aspiring first visitor to the United States. Every situational joke, every classic encounter is exactly and wittily exploited. The dialogue is often marvellously acute, the tricks of American speech expertly 'bugged.'" On the other hand, however, Rita Estok in Library Journal wrote that "the school, faculty and students do not ring true; in fact, it is almost a travesty on university life. James Walker, the principal character, never becomes believable and remains unsympathetic throughout the story. Stepping Westward, be it a travesty or satire on university life, fails to hit the mark as either." And Bernard McCabe in the Saturday Review wrote: "Within this very funny book Mr. Bradbury proposes a serious novel about freedom and community and friendship's inevitable failures. The result is interesting, but too schematic and analytical to be really successful. The comedy works, though, thanks to Bradbury's artful writing. I leave to some future scholar the precise significance of the recurrent buttocks-motif and ear-motif. . . . [The author's] exaggerated versions of [university life] work by lending a British ear and eye to the oddities of the American scene."

Robert Nye commented in the Christian Science Monitor that Bradbury, in his third novel, The History Man, achieved "some charming comic efforts—and not a few cruel ones. Bradbury has a baleful eye for human weakness. He describes with skill and obvious relish. The result is a clever, queer, witty, uncomfortable sort of book—a book whose prose possesses considerable surface brilliance but with a cutting edge concealed beneath." Margaret Drabble, in the New York Times Book Review, called the book "a small narrative masterpiece," and felt that "one of the reasons why this novel is so immensely readable is its evocation of physical reality; it may be a book about ideas, but the ideas are embodied in closely observed details. . . .A thoroughly civilized writer, [Bradbury] has written a novel that raises some very serious questions about the nature of civilization without for a moment appearing pretentious or didactic—a fine achievement."

Bradbury's fourth novel, Rates of Exchange, was published in 1983 to praise from critics such as New York Times Book Review contributor Rachel Billington, who labeled it "an astonishing tour de force." The tale of a linguist traveling to a fictive Eastern bloc country, Rates of Exchange takes on the subject of language itself and "manages to be funny, gloomy, shrewd and silly all at once," according to Joel Conarroe in the Washington Post Book World. Bradbury's inventive use of language—both the locals' fractured English and their native Slakan, a hybrid of several European languages—is a highlight for many reviewers. Noted Anatole Broyard in the New York Times: "Bradbury is in such virtuoso form that he can even make you enjoy an entire book in which the majority of the characters speak various degrees of broken English." Although some critics took issue with the book's pacing, characterization, and sometimes uneasy mixture of humor and seriousness, many valued its wit and pungent observations on travel. Wrote Los Angeles Times reviewer Elaine Kendall, "Hilarious and accurate, deepened by the author's concern for subtle political and social factors, Rates of Exchange turns tour de force into an unequivocal compliment, elevating the genre to a major literary category."

In the 1992 novel Doctor Criminale, Bradbury returns to the intellectual circuit for a satirical look at the charming and worldly Dr. Criminale, a fictional "superpower of contemporary thought." The doctor's shadowy past contributes to his mysterious appeal; students, scholars, and virtually all available members of the female gender are dazzled by his social, political, economic, philosophical, and literary wisdom. When a young journalist lands the job of researching the doctor's life for a TV documentary, the hunt for the real Criminale begins. This is, according to Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times, "an ambitious novel about large, unwieldly ideas. Mr. Bradbury raises questions about Criminale's past to examine the meaning of political commitment, the relationship between moral responsibility and esthetic principles, and the consequences of ethical pragmatism in an individual's public and private lives. . . . The . . . novel," she concluded, "is provocative and smart but also somehow bloodless." Other reviewers also felt that the character of Dr. Criminale needed fleshing out. "The eponymous subject is meant to be absolutely intriguing, but he is so 'elusive' that we have to attend instead to a thwarted narrator, in whom we're allowed no interest at all," asserted Mick Imlah in the Times Literary Supplement.

"In alternating chapters, our narrator, an unnamed British novelist, describes two journeys to St. Petersburg," wrote Hugo Barnacle in the New Statesman about Bradbury's 2000 novel, To the Hermitage. "One is his own, made as part of a slightly mysterious international junket in October 1993. The other is a visit paid by the French encyclopedist and philosopher [Denis] Diderot to the court of Catherine the Great in the 1770s." The novel, inspired in part by Laurence Stern's Tristram Shandy, is the story of the narrator's trip to a conference called the Diderot Project, the goal of which is to track down Diderot's papers after "his library had been bought by the Empress Catherine the Great, who also bought the philosopher himself as librarian," noted Brian Martin in the Financial Times. "In counterpoint to the shenanigans of the Project taking place in 1993," summarized Martin, "Bradbury tells the 1773 story of Diderot journeying to St. Petersburg and passing endless afternoons in philosophical and political discussions with the legendary tsarina." "The book has its faults," found David Horspool in the London Daily Telegraph, "which are less to do with the intended lack of focus than the occasional relaxation of control. . . . But these are stray brush-strokes on a very broad canvas. The novel is a sweeping, engrossing and overwhelmingly impressive piece of work." Other critics had a similar reaction. "To the Hermitage is delightfully stimulating," argued Martin. "As readers, we watch and admire Bradbury's intellectual fireworks display." Barnacle, however, felt that if "the novel were roughly a third shorter, the amount of wit and ideas on display would fill it nicely. As it is, it feels rather padded." David Coward in the Times Literary Supplement cautioned that there is "no drama, no urgency, no characters to love or hate," but nonetheless concluded, "Ultimately it is his [Bradbury's] teasing, winking Shandyism which gives a centre to what may not be a story but is a wise and engaging entertainment."

In 1994, Bradbury's sweeping literary survey, The Modern British Novel, was published to mixed reviews. Times Literary Supplement critic Peter Kemp listed several instances in which the names of characters and the titles of books under discussion are cited incorrectly; furthermore, he called the author's accounts of various literary movements "little more than reaccumulations of the hackneyed. . . . As original critical analysis, [this book] is virtually nonexistent." But, Kemp conceded, "where it does briefly spark into life is as polemic. . . . Bradbury stirs into energetic and eloquent defence of the twentieth-century British novel's variety, versatility, and vitality. With comic regularity, he demonstrates, jeremiahs throughout the century have been announcing the death of the novel, only to be elbowed aside by the emergence of vigorous new practitioners of the genre."

Dangerous Pilgrimages: Trans-Atlantic Mythologies and the Novel, Bradbury's 1996 look at the reciprocal influence of British and American literary content and style, is generally regarded as an impressive and much-needed addition to the study of literary history. The book focuses largely on about a dozen American novelists and a half dozen Europeans (a couple of French writers along with British heavyweights of the last three centuries) and concludes that myths, rather than mimicry, have fueled the rich flow of ideas that make up "trans-Atlantic fiction." John Sutherland proclaimed in the Times Literary Supplement: "Academic criticism of American literature is currently densely theorized, introverted and, for anyone not professionally obliged to work with it, repugnant. This book is clearly a tool for the scholar but is generously accessible to any generally literate reader."

Bradbury also wrote numerous stage revues and television mini-series and teleplays, including the original television series Anything More Would Be Greedy, The Gravy Train, and The Gravy Train Goes East. In addition to writing original episodes for well-known television series, including A Touch of Frost, Kavanagh QC, Dalziel and Pascoe, and Inspector Morse, Bradbury adapted numerous works as teleplays. Bradbury's adaptation of Tom Sharpe's Porterhouse Blue garnered an International Emmy award; his adaptation of Stella Gibbons's Cold Comfort Farm, later released as a full-length motion picture directed by John Schlesinger that was based on the screenplay by Bradbury, received the best film-made-for-television award at the Banff Film Festival.

Bradbury once commented: "As a novelist, I achieved four novels (and a volume of short stories) in twenty-five years. It may seem a slow record, but then I have been a critic, reviewer, and professor of American studies too, as well as a regular writer for television. I believe the writer has a responsibility for literary study, and this belief has gone into my teaching of creative writing and my editorship of series like Methuen's "Contemporary Writers," where I and my fellow editor Chris Bigsby have sought to show that we live in a major period of literary creation very different from that of the earlier part of the century. I believe in fact we live in a remarkable international age of fiction, and this has affected my own writing. Though I started with provincial themes and in a relatively realistic mode I have grown vastly more international in preoccupation and far more experimental in method. Looking back over my books, they now seem to me to follow the curve of the development of British fiction from the 1950s: from the comic social realism of the postwar period through to a much harsher, more ironic vision which involves the use of fictiveness and fantasy—though always, in my case, with an edge of tragic commentary on the world we live in as this dark century moves to its end. I think I have grown far more exact as a writer, more concerned to deal with major themes, to escape provincial limitations, and to follow the fate of liberal hopes through the many intellectual, moral, and historical challenges it has now to face. As I said earlier: 'Serious writing is not an innocent act; it is an act of connection with the major acts of writing achieved by others. It is also . . . a new set of grammars, forms, and styles for the age we live in.'

"My books have been widely translated and are set-texts in schools and universities, and two—The History Man and Rates of Exchange—have been made into British Broadcasting Corporation television series. This has done a good deal to free me of the unfortunate label of being a 'university novelist,' since my aims are wider. I have myself been considerably influenced by writing for television, and I think the imagery and grammar of film and television has brought home new concepts of presentation and perception to the novel. I have also been influenced by (and perhaps also have influenced) younger writers like Ian McEwan and Clive Sinclair who have been in my creative writing classes at the University of East Anglia. I have fought for a view of the novel in Britain as a serious and experimental form, and I believe it has increasingly become so. I believe in our great need for fiction; in Rates of Exchange, set in Eastern Europe, I have tried to relate our awareness of an oppressive modern reality forged by the fictions of politicians and the structures of ideology to our need for true fictions that can challenge them. My basic themes, though, remain the same: the conflict between liberal humanism and the harsh systems and behaviorisms of the modern world, and the tragic implications, which, however, I believe must be expressed in comic form. In an age when the big ideologies grow tired, I think we need the abrasive vision of the writer, and in some of our great contemporaries of the novel, from Saul Bellow to Milan Kundera, I think we find that. So the novel is what gives me hope, and lasting pleasure."



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Bradbury, Malcolm (Stanley) 1932-2000

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