Paul West (writer)

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Paul West in Florida, 2010.

Paul West (born 23 February 1930) is a novelist and poet. He was born in Eckington, Derbyshire in England to Alfred and Mildred (Noden) West. Currently, he resides in upstate New York with his wife Diane Ackerman, a writer, poet, and naturalist. West is the author of twenty-four novels.[1] "He has published poetry, criticism, essays, memoirs (including an extended, sometimes hilarious meditation on learning to swim in middle age) and...novels of an unsettling nonuniformity."[2]

Early life[edit]

West grew up in a family that loved books and considered the written word to be sacred. This love of books pushed him to gain a diverse education through his studies at Oxford and Columbia Universities.


West's literary craft has earned him the American Academy of Arts and Letters Literature Award (1985), the Lannan Prize for Fiction (1993), the Grand Prix Halperine-Kaminsky Award (1993), and three Pushcart Prizes (1987, 1991, 2003). West is also a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a New York Public Library Literary Lion (1987), and a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters (Ordre des Arts et Lettres, 1996, France).[3]


West has an eclectic style. Common themes in his works include psychic abuse, failed relationships, and societal inadequacy. However, there is also a strong sense of self-discovery and survival. His works are an outpouring on his view of the human condition. In an interview with David W. Madden, West remarked that he always listens to some kind of classical music while writing and composes all of his works using a typewriter. The revision process is fundamental for him and one he laboriously proceeds through with each literary piece.

West and his novel The Very Rich Hours of Count von Stauffenberg figure prominently in a chapter in Nobel Laureate J. M. Coetzee's book Elizabeth Costello. Coetzee's title character is so disturbed by the horrors West describes in his book that she questions, in a lecture given at a conference in Amsterdam on evil, whether a writer can immerse themselves in such darkness without suffering some sort of personal harm. West, unbeknown to Costello until only hours before her very pointed lecture, is also attending the conference.[4]

Personal life[edit]

In 2003, West had a stroke, which his wife, Diane Ackerman, has written about in her book One Hundred Names for Love: A Stroke, a Marriage and the Language of Healing. [5]


Long fiction[edit]

  • A Quality of Mercy, 1961
  • Tenement of Clay, 1965
  • Alley Jaggers, 1966
  • I'm Expecting to Live Quite Soon, 1970
  • Caliban's Filibuster, 1971
  • Bela Lugosi's White Christmas, 1972
  • Colonel Mint, 1972
  • Gala, 1976
  • The Very Rich Hours of Count von Stauffenberg, 1980
  • Rat Man of Paris, 1986
  • The Place in Flowers, Where Pollen Rests, 1988
  • Lord Byron's Doctor, 1989
  • The Women of Whitechapel and Jack the Ripper, 1991
  • Love's Mansion, 1992
  • The Tent of Orange Mist, 1995
  • Sporting with Amaryllis, 1996
  • Life With Swan, 1997
  • Terrestrials, 1997
  • OK: The Corral, the Earps and Doc Holliday, 2000
  • The Dry Danube: A Hitler Forgery, 2000
  • A Fifth of November, 2001
  • Cheops: A Cupboard for the Sun, 2002
  • The Immensity of the Here and Now: A Novel of 9.11, 2003

Short fiction[edit]

  • The Universe and Other Fictions, 1988


  • Poems, 1952
  • The Spellbound Horses, 1960
  • The Snow Leopard, 1964
  • Alphabet Poetry
  • Tea with Osiris, 2006



  • The Growth of the Novel, 1959
  • Byron and the Spoiler's Art, 1960 – 2nd ed. 1992
  • I, Said the Sparrow, 1963
  • The Modern Novel, 1963
  • Robert Penn Warren, 1964
  • The Wine of Absurdity: Essays in Literature and Consolation, 1966
  • Words for a Deaf Daughter, 1969
  • Out of My Depths: A Swimmer in the Universe, 1983
  • Sheer Fiction, 1987
  • Portable People, 1990
  • Sheer Fiction, vol. 2, 1991
  • Sheer Fiction, vol. 3, 1994
  • James Ensor, 1991
  • My Mother's Music, 1996
  • A Stroke of Genius: Illness and Self-Discovery, 1995
  • The Secret Lives of Words, 2000
  • Master Class, Scenes From A Fiction Workshop, 2001
  • Oxford Days, 2002
  • Sheer Fiction, vol. 4, 2004
  • My Father's War, 2005
  • The Shadow Factory, 2008


  • West, Paul (January 2009). "Memoir : Cadets : On not flying in the Royal Air Force". Harper's Magazine 318 (1904): 58–62. 
  • West, Paul (Summer 2012). "A Feast of Fat Things". The American Scholar 81 (3): 68–80. 

Edited text[edit]

  • Byron: Twentieth Century Views, 1963


  1. ^ The American Scholar. "Paul West, "Mem, mem, mem", accessed 16 December 2010.
  2. ^ Segal, Lore. "The Flasher of the Apocalypse," The New York Times Book Review, 16 February 1986. [1] accessed 16 December 2010.
  3. ^ McPherson and Company, Publishers. "Paul West, Selected Bibliography, including Vita" [2] accessed 16 December 2010.
  4. ^ Lodge, David. "Disturbing the Peace," The New York Review of Books, 20 November 2003. [3] accessed 16 December 2010.
  5. ^ Ackerman, Diane "After a Stroke, Relearning Home," The New York Times, 11 May 2011 [4]
  • Madden, David W. (1993). Understanding Paul West. University of South Carolina. ISBN 0-87249-886-7. OCLC 27815373. 
  • Cycolopedia of World Authors, 3rd Ed. Vol. 5, Sim-Z. "Paul West". pp 2137–2138.

External links[edit]