Saturday, February 26, 2011

Survey of Author

The title of the book I am studying is called, A Separate Peace. The author of the book is American John Knowles.

            The author is not what made me interested in the book, but rather the book itself. This was John’s first published book and he was never able to match the success of A Separate Peace. This book is considered an American classic and is used in many high schools for study. As well, there are a lot of critical articles on this book that makes my analysis of the book easier to do. From reading the book, I have learned a little bit about the author’s style of writing and do enjoy reading it. He keeps the plot simple and allows the reader to connect to the characters.

            Knowles was born in September of 1926 and was the third born child. His father was the vice president of a coal company. When Knowles was 15, he went to a boarding school in New Hampshire and graduated from the school in 1945. After 8 months with the USA army, Knowles went to Yale and worked with the school newspaper. After school Knowles spent some time traveling Europe, before moving to New York City where he wrote for many magazines including Cosmopolitan. In 1959, Knowles first book, A Separate Peace, was published and became very successful. Again Knowles spent some time in Europe as well as the Middle East. With success of A Separate Peace, John was able to become a full time writer. None of John’s ten other books ever reached the same success of his first one. Knowles died in his Florida house in 2001 (at the age of 75), after battling a brief illness.  

            John Knowles published ten other novels. Morning in Antibes was his second published novel and was the first of his Mediterranean novels. Double Vision: American Thoughts Abroad was published in 1964. The book was a chronicle of his two-year travels to Europe and the Middle-East. Indian Summer was Knowles fourth published novel. This one also had some success. Knowles other books include: Phineas: Six Stories (1968), The Paragon (1971), Spreading Fires (1974), A Vein of Riches (1978), Peace Breaks Out (1981), A Stolen Past (1983) and The Private Life of Axie Reed (1986). There were two genres that Knowles liked to write about. One genre is prep school fiction. He enjoyed writing novels about people who are coming of age. A Separate Peace, for example, tells a story of teenage boys coming of age during a time of war. The other genre used by Knowles was Mediterranean. Again, fiction.

            In 1941, Knowles attended a boarding school in New Hampshire called Exeter. This school became the setting for his first book, A Separate Peace. As well, in his first novel, Knowles uses the same time period he would have been in boarding school, which was during WWII. Another big influence on Knowles’ writing was his trip to the Middle East. This trip was his inspiration to writing a series of Mediterranean novels. The book A Vein of Riches was about the coal mining business, which was the business Knowles’ father was a part of. The school Exeter was a lot like the school used in A Separate Peace. Both schools had the rivers, the English-style buildings, and the playing fields. In fact, you could say they were the same school due to all the similarities used in the novel. Both schools have the focus on scholarly work and athletics. The time period of WWII was also the same as Johns real life experience. Knowles has said that each character in his first novel has a little bit of him in them. As well, their experiences that they have at the school, is loosely based on Knowles own experience at boarding school. Even including similar clubs he was involved with.
           John Knowles like to write books loosely based on his life and experiences. For most of his books there was a Mediterranean theme to it. This is due to the time Knowles spent in the Middle East. Knowles also liked to tell a story about a tragic hero and jealously. For example, in A Separate Peace, Finny is the tragic hero; a good scholar and a natural athlete, until his best friend gives him a ‘crippling’ blow. Finny’s best friend Gene provides what is the jealously in this novel, as he can no longer take Finny’s innocence.

            John Knowles most successful book is A Separate Peace.  This book was about a boys prep school and told a story of boys be coming of age. This book was published eight years after A Catcher in the Rye. A Catcher in the Rye also told a story of boys in prep school, becoming of age. Due to the similar theme both books have, John Knowles was often compared to the author of A Catcher in the Rye author J.D. Salinger. Even though the books were very different in style, structure and subject manner, critics often compared the two because of the similar theme both books have.

1 comment:

  1. Bloom, Harold, ed. Bloom's Guides. New York: Infobase, 2008. Print. John Knowles' A Separate Peace.