Right now three of the four books in the Icons series of biographies are on sale for $1.99 each. The Edgar Allan Poe biography is listed at $1.99 (with the opportunity to add Audible narration for just 99 cents more at time of purchase) as a Kindle Daily Deal, so be sure to get that one today to take advantage of the Daily Deal price. As always, prices are subject to change on Amazon at any time.
Widely regarded as the greatest filmmaker of the twentieth century, Alfred Hitchcock had a gift for creating suspense and a shrewd knowledge of human psychology. His film career, spanning more than half a century, is studded with classics from The 39 Steps to Psycho, North by Northwest to Vertigo (which in 2012 unseated Citizen Kane as the best movie of all time according to Sight and Sound). A master of intricate storytelling, Hitchcock was one of the first directors whose films belonged to both popular culture and high art. By the end of his life, he had gone from being the overweight son of a greengrocer in a London suburb to Hollywood’s reigning director, whose cameo roles in his own films were one of their most anticipated features, and whose profile was recognized by millions (thanks to the television show Alfred Hitchcock Presents).
Michael Wood describes this journey with the wit and erudition that are the trademarks of his work, showcasing his singular ability to detect hidden patterns within apparently disparate forms. Whether he is writing about Henry James or Hollywood in the 1920s, he is alert to the fundamental truth lurking behind the stated meaning. In Hitchcock, Wood has found his ideal subject—an artist for whom explicit statement was anathema, who made conventional plot a hiding place rather than a source of revelation.
Looming large in the popular imagination as a serious poet and lively drunk who died in penury, Edgar Allan Poe was also the most celebrated and notorious writer of his day. He died broke and alone at the age of forty, but not before he had written some of the greatest works in the English language, from the chilling “The Tell-Tale Heart” to “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”—the first modern detective story—to the iconic poem “The Raven.”
Poe’s life was one of unremitting hardship. His father abandoned the family, and his mother died when he was three. Poe was thrown out of West Point, and married his beloved thirteen-year-old cousin, who died of tuberculosis at twenty-four. He was so poor that he burned furniture to stay warm. He was a scourge to other poets, but more so to himself.
In the hands of Paul Collins, one of our liveliest historians, this mysteriously conflicted figure emerges as a genius both driven and undone by his artistic ambitions. Collins illuminates Poe’s huge successes and greatest flop (a 143-page prose poem titled Eureka), and even tracks down what may be Poe’s first published fiction, long hidden under an enigmatic byline. Clear-eyed and sympathetic, Edgar Allan Poe is a spellbinding story about the man once hailed as “the Shakespeare of America.”
Hannah Arendt, one of the most gifted and provocative voices of her era, was a polarizing cultural theorist—extolled by her peers as a visionary and berated by her critics as a poseur and a fraud. Born in Prussia to assimilated Jewish parents, she escaped from Hitler’s Germany in 1933 and is now best remembered for the storm of controversy that arose after the publication of her 1963 New Yorker series on the trial of the kidnapped Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann.
Arendt was a woman of many contradictions. She was brilliant, beautiful when young, and irresistible to gifted men, even in her chain-smoking, intellectually provocative middle age. She learned to write in English only at the age of thirty-six, and yet her first book, The Origins of Totalitarianism, single-handedly altered the way generations of Americans and Europeans viewed fascism and genocide. Her most famous—and most divisive—work, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, created fierce controversy that continues to this day, exacerbated by the posthumous discovery that she had been the lover of the great romantic philosopher and Nazi sympathizer Martin Heidegger.
In this fast-paced, comprehensive biography, Anne C. Heller tracks the source of Arendt’s apparent contradictions and her greatest achievements to her sense of being what she called a “conscious pariah”—one of those few people in every time and place who doesn’t “lose confidence in ourselves if society does not approve us” and will not “pay any price” to gain the acceptance of others.
“I believe in the absolute necessity of a new art of colour, of drawing and—of the artistic life,” Vincent van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo in 1888. “And if we work in that faith, it seems to me that there’s a chance that our hopes won’t be in vain.” His prediction would come true. In his brief and explosively creative life—he committed suicide a few years later at the age of thirty-seven—Van Gogh made us see the world in a new way. His shining landscapes of Provence and somber portraits of workers shattered the relationship between light and dark, and his hallucinatory visions were so bright they nearly blinded the world.
He was a great writer as well. In his six hundred–plus letters to Theo he chronicled with heartbreaking urgency his mental breakdowns, acrimonious family relations, and struggles with art dealers, who largely ignored him until the last years of his life. Shading this dark story is the artist’s acquaintance with prostitutes and penury, stormy scenes with his friend Paul Gauguin, and dissipated Parisian nights with Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Julian Bell’s passion for his subject brings the painter to life. Bell writes with slashing intensity, at once scholarly and defiantly partisan. “I have written this book out of my love for Vincent van Gogh, the uniquely exciting painter, and Vincent van Gogh, the letter writer of heart-piercing eloquence,” he declares. For Bell, Van Gogh was an artistic genius and more: he was a wonder of the world.