...engaging and very well researched ... Goldstein’s insightful and graceful prose reveals four authors during troubled moments of their careers, and he is fortunate in having a trove of writings from which to draw. Forster, Woolf and Eliot knew each other very well, read one another’s writings with an eye to what might be artistically useful, and reviewed one another’s work in journals. This year-in-the-life chronicle gives us a remarkable look at the gestation of literature.
In letting these four writers speak in their own words — their own witty, gossipy, often waspish words — Goldstein neatly avoids a dutiful chronicling of anything so weighty and abstruse as The Rise of Modernism. Cannily, he sacrifices historical sweep and gravitas for something much more grounded and intimate. In his hands, these literary lions prove surprisingly — and bracingly — catty ... The book comes alive in the ceaseless churn of these intersecting egos, as they turn their withering writerly gazes upon one another — and, less eagerly, upon themselves. Their professional and personal jealousy, spite, anxiety and outrage — the familiar hallmarks of the writer's personality — become a kind of humanizing background noise, drawing us in and allowing us to see them more fully ... enumerating how the year transformed their work proves the heavier lift, and Goldstein finds more success with some writers than others.
Bill Goldstein’s The World Broke In Two is an indispensable guide to four legendary writers who were largely responsible for the creation of modern literature. What could have been a musty, fusty, dusty academic tome is, instead, an easily accessible encomium to a group of artists who did as much as any to shape 20th century fiction and poetry. Goldstein illuminates their personal crises, their professional failures, and finally their successes … Once Goldstein establishes the chief biographical elements of each of the four writers, he devotes the remainder of The World Broke in Two to detailing the shifts and accommodations each had to make to their lives and their work. He also clearly shows how Woolf, Eliot, Lawrence, and Forster benefited from the influence and inspiration of other major writers in their circle, most notably James Joyce, Marcel Proust, and Ezra Pound.