Photo: Bill Hayes

Photo: Bill Hayes

The World Broke in Two - and the Year That Changed Literature

Bill Goldstein’s The World Broke in Two: Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, E.M. Forster, and the Year That Changed Literature is a revelatory narrative of the intersecting lives and works of revered authors Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, E.M. Forster, and D.H. Lawrence during 1922, the birth year of modernism.

Willa Cather famously said, “The world broke in two in 1922 or thereabouts,” referring to the schism created in literature when modernism was invented. Bill Goldstein tells the story of this pivotal year in literary history, by weaving together the intellectual and personal journeys of these four legendary writers.

At the start of the year, all four are at a loss for words, confronting an uncertain creative future despite success in the past. The literary ground is shifting, as Ulysses is published in February and Proust’s In Search of Lost Time begins to be published in England in the autumn. Yet, dismal as their prospects seemed in January, by the end of the year Woolf had started Mrs. Dalloway; Forster has, for the first time in nearly a decade, returned to work on the novel that will become A Passage to India; Lawrence has written Kangaroo, his unjustly neglected and most autobiographical novel; and Eliot has finished—and published to acclaim—“The Waste Land.”

Goldstein, who was the founding editor of the New York Times books website, and reviews books and interviews authors for NBC’s Weekend Today in New York, combines biography, social history and literary criticism to capture this seminal span in a narrative also revealing intense personal drama in these writers’ lives. Braiding the four life stories together within each chapter, Goldstein shifts perspective from one to the other of the quartet through segues afforded by their encounters, diaries, letters—which he researched meticulously over a decade—and nearly simultaneous breakthroughs and stumbles recounted in the separate narratives. The interconnected stories blend to bring to life a unified literary biography of their magically productive literary year 1922.

Goldstein is the curator of public programs at Roosevelt House, the public policy institute of New York’s Hunter College. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Goldstein received a PhD in English from the City University of New York Graduate Center in 2010. He is the recipient of writing fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, the Ucross Foundation, and elsewhere for his work on The World Broke in Two.

Barbara Zappile will be in conversation with Goldstein At the Patisserie Fauchere, meeting center on 2nd Floor - Sunday September 17th at  2pm - 3.15pm

This event is Free