The writers who crafted the innovative ideas, characters and worlds that changed our perception of reality and shaped our future are revealed in probing, wide-ranging and provocative interviews that first appeared in Playboy magazine. From the masters of the stage like Henry Miller and Tennessee Williams to the controversial revolutionaries of the word Vladimir Nabokov and Allen Ginsberg to the kings of science fiction and horror Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury and Chuck Palahniuk, these literary geniuses reflect the very best of the Playboy Interview.
- Biography: general
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Saul Bellow was born in Canada but brought to Chicago at the age of nine and educated there. He attended the Universities of Chicago, Northwestern and Wisconsin as well as fitting in a wartime stint in the Merchant Marine.
His first novel - Dangling Man - was published when he was in his twenties. Later novels, The Victim, The Adventures of Augie March, Seize the Day, Henderson the Rain King, Herzog, Mr Sammler's Planet, Humboldt's Gift, The Dean's December and Him With His Foot In His Mouth And Other Stories have brought him innumerable literary grants, awards, prizes, scholarships, fellowships and honours not only in his own country but internationally as well.
He is probably the only man to have received an Honorary Degree from both Harvard and Yale in the same year. He has also written plays, short stories, articles for learned journals, been a war correspondent in Israel and held positions in a number of universities in the United States and elsewhere. He speaks four or five languages and has travelled extensively.
In 1976 Saul Bellow was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. In 1984 President Mitterand made him a commander of the Legion of Honour.
Chuck Palahniuk is the bestselling author of fifteen fictional works, including Fight Club, Invisible Monsters, Survivor, Choke, Lullaby, Diary, Haunted, Rant, Pygmy, Tell-All, Damned, Doomed, Beautiful You, and, most recently, Make Something Up. He lives in the Pacific Northwest.
Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis in 1922 and studied biochemistry at Cornell University. An army intelligence scout during the Second World War, he was captured by the Germans and witnessed the destruction of Dresden by Allied bombers, an experience which inspired his classic novel Slaughterhouse-Five.
After the war he worked as a police reporter, an advertising copywriter and a public relations man for General Electric. His first novel Player Piano (1952) achieved underground success. Cat's Cradle (1963) was hailed by Graham Greene as 'one of the best novels of the year by one of the ablest living authors'.
His eighth book, Slaughterhouse-Five was published in 1969 and was a literary and commercial success, and was made into a film in 1972. Vonnegut is the author of thirteen other novels, three collections of stories and five non-fiction books. Kurt Vonnegut died in 2007.
Norman Mailer was born in 1923 and went to Harvard when he was sixteen. He majored in engineering, but it was while he was at university that he became interested in writing; he published his first story when he was eighteen. After graduating he served during the war in the Philippines with the Twelfth Armoured Cavalry regiment from Texas; those were the years that formed The Naked and the Dead (1948).
His other books include Barbary Shore (1951), The Deer Park (1955), Advertisements for Myself (1959), Deaths for the Ladies, a volume of poetry (1962), The Presidential Papers (1963), An American Dream (1964), Why Are We in Vietnam? (1967), The Armies of the Night (1968), Miami and the Siege of Chicago (1968), A Fire on the Moon (1970), The Prisoner of Sex (1971), Marilyn (1973), Some Honourable Men (1976), Genius and Lust - A Journey Through the Writings of Henry Miller (1976), A Transit to Narcissus (1978), The Executioner's Song (1979) and Tough Guys Don't Dance (1983). The Deer Park has been adapted into a play and was successfully profuced off Broadway. He also directed four films.
In 1955 Norman Mailer co-founded the Village Voice, and he was the editor of Dissent from 1952 until 1963. For his part in demonstrations against the war in Vietnam he was gaoled in 1967. He was President of PEN (US chapter) from 1984 to 1986 and was winner of the National Book Award for Arts and Letters in 1969 and of the Pulitzer Prize twice, once in 1969 and again in 1980.
Norman Mailer was married six times and had nine children. He died in November 2007.
Vladimir Nabokov was born in St. Petersburg in 1899. He studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, before moving to Berlin in 1922. Between 1923 and 1940 he published novels, short stories, plays, poems and translations in the Russian language and established himself as one of the most outstanding Russian émigré writers.
In 1940 he moved with his wife and son to America, where he worked as a lecturer and professor until he retired from teaching in 1959. Nabokov published his first novel in English, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, in 1941.
His other books include Ada; Laughter in the Dark; Despair; Pnin; Nabokov's Dozen; Invitation to a Beheading; Mary; Bend Sinister; Glory; Pale Fire; The Gift; The Luzhin Defense and Lolita, which brought him worldwide fame. In 1973 he was awarded the American National Medal for Literature. Vladimir Nabokov died in 1977.
Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-80) French existentialist philosopher, novelist, and playwright who, with Jean Anouilh, dominated the postwar French theatre. In 1964 he refused the Nobel Prize for literature. In 1929 Sartre graduated from the École Normale Supérieure, where he formed a lifelong partnership with his fellow student Simone de Beauvoir, the writer and feminist. His melodramatic plays explore moral conflicts with a deep Gallic pessimism, while also expounding the philosophical existentialism he popularized in the 1940s.
The first, Les Mouches, an interpretation of the Orestes story, opened in 1943 in Paris. As The Flies it was produced in New York in 1947 and in London in 1951. The one-act Huis-Clos opened in Paris in 1944 and was subsequently produced in London as Vicious Circle and in New York as No Exit. Morts sans sépultures (1946), about a group of captured Resistance fighters, was seen in London as Men Without Shadows (1947) and in New York as The Victors (1948).
Le Diable et le bon dieu (1951), based on the Faust of Goethe, is often regarded as Sartre's best dramatic work. His other plays include Nekrassov (1955), about a confidence trickster who assumes the identity of the Soviet ambassador, and the wartime drama Les Séquestrés d'Altona (1959), produced in 1961 in London as Loser Wins and in 1965 in New York as The Condemned of Altona. Sartre's adaptation of the elder Dumas's Kean was seen in 1953 in Paris, reworked as a US musical in 1961, and produced at the Oxford Playhouse in 1970 (later transferring to London).
Jean-Paul Sartre (1904-1980) was a French existentialist philosopher, dramatist, novelist and critic. He is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential European thinkers of the twentieth century.
Truman Capote was born in New Orleans in 1924 and was raised in various parts of the south, his family spending winters in New Orleans and summers in Alabama and New Georgia.
By the age of fourteen he had already started writing short stories, some of which were published. He left school when he was fifteen and subsequently worked for the New Yorker which provided his first - and last - regular job.
Following his spell with the New Yorker, Capote spent two years on a Louisiana farm where he wrote Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948). He lived, at one time or another, in Greece, Italy, Africa and the West Indies, and travelled in Russia and the Orient.
He is the author of many highly praised books, including A Tree of Night and Other Stories (1949), The Grass Harp (1951), Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958), In Cold Blood (1965), which immediately became the centre of a storm of controversy on its publication, Music for Chameleons (1980) and Answered Prayers (1986), all of which are published by Penguin. Truman Capote died in August 1984.
Lee Child was born in 1954 in Coventry, England, but spent his formative years in the nearby city of Birmingham. By coincidence he won a scholarship to the same high school that JRR Tolkien had attended.
He went to law school in Sheffield, England, and after part-time work in the theatre he joined Granada Television in Manchester for what turned out to be an eighteen-year career as a presentation director during British TV's "golden age." During his tenure his company made Brideshead Revisited, The Jewel in the Crown, Prime Suspect, and Cracker.
But he was fired in 1995 at the age of 40 as a result of corporate restructuring. Always a voracious reader, he decided to see an opportunity where others might have seen a crisis and bought six dollars' worth of paper and pencils and sat down to write a book, Killing Floor, the first in the Jack Reacher series. Killing Floor was an immediate success and launched the series which has grown in sales and impact with every new instalment.
Lee has three homes - an apartment in Manhattan, a country house in the south of France, and whatever air-plane cabin he happens to be in while travelling between the two. In the US he drives a supercharged Jaguar, which was built in Jaguar's Browns Lane plant, thirty yards from the hospital in which he was born.
Lee spends his spare time reading, listening to music, and watching the Yankees, Aston Villa, or Marseilles soccer. He is married with a grown-up daughter. He is tall and slim, despite an appalling diet and a refusal to exercise.
Ray Bradbury has published some 500 short stories, novels, plays and poems since his first story appeared in Weird Tales when he was twenty years old.
Among his many famous works are ‘Fahrenheit 451’, ‘The Illustrated Man’ and ‘The Martian Chronicles’.
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