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The Most Famous Writer Who Ever Lived: A True Story of My Family
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Penguin Publishing Group 2016
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The Washington Post Book Club's October Pick
One of Washington Independent Review of Book's Favorite Books of 2016
“A grandson of writer MacKinlay Kantor unravels the tangles of his grandfather's life and finds many of those same threads (the good, the bad, the ugly) in his own…A compelling account, suffused with both sympathy and sharpness, of a writer who's mostly forgotten and of a grandson who's grateful.”—Kirkus Reviews

An award-winning veteran of The Washington Post and The Miami Herald, Tom Shroder has made a career of investigative journalism and human-interest stories, from those of children who claim to have memories of past lives, in his book Old Souls, to that of a former Marine suffering from debilitating PTSD and his doctor pioneering a successful psychedelic drug treat­ment in Acid Test. Shroder’s most fascinating subject, however, comes from within his own family: his grandfather MacKinlay Kantor was the world-famous author of Andersonville, the seminal novel about the Civil War. As a child, Shroder was in awe of his grandfather’s larger-than-life character. Kantor’s friends included Ernest Hemingway, Carl Sandburg, Gregory Peck, and James Cagney. He was an early mentor to the novelist John D. MacDonald and is cred­ited with discovering the singer Burl Ives. Kantor wrote the novel Glory for Me, which became the multi-Oscar-winning film The Best Years of Our Lives. He ghostwrote General Curtis LeMay’s memoirs, penning the infamous words “We’re going to bomb them back into the Stone Age,” referring to North Vietnam. Kantor also suffered from alcoholism, an outsize ego, and an abusive and publicly embarrassing personality where his family was concerned; he blew through several small fortunes in his lifetime, and died nearly destitute. In The Most Famous Writer Who Ever Lived, Shroder revisits the past—Kantor’s upbringing, his early life, his career trajectory— and writes not just the life story of one man but a meditation on fame, family secrets and legacies, and what is remembered after we are gone.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
10/04/2016
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780698194267
ASIN:
B01COJUE1E

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APA Citation (style guide)

Tom Shroder. (2016). The Most Famous Writer Who Ever Lived: A True Story of My Family. Penguin Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Tom Shroder. 2016. The Most Famous Writer Who Ever Lived: A True Story of My Family. Penguin Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Tom Shroder, The Most Famous Writer Who Ever Lived: A True Story of My Family. Penguin Publishing Group, 2016.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Tom Shroder. The Most Famous Writer Who Ever Lived: A True Story of My Family. Penguin Publishing Group, 2016.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.

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fullDescription
The Washington Post Book Club's October Pick
One of Washington Independent Review of Book's Favorite Books of 2016
“A grandson of writer MacKinlay Kantor unravels the tangles of his grandfather's life and finds many of those same threads (the good, the bad, the ugly) in his own…A compelling account, suffused with both sympathy and sharpness, of a writer who's mostly forgotten and of a grandson who's grateful.”—Kirkus Reviews

An award-winning veteran of The Washington Post and The Miami Herald, Tom Shroder has made a career of investigative journalism and human-interest stories, from those of children who claim to have memories of past lives, in his book Old Souls, to that of a former Marine suffering from debilitating PTSD and his doctor pioneering a successful psychedelic drug treat­ment in Acid Test. Shroder’s most fascinating subject, however, comes from within his own family: his grandfather MacKinlay Kantor was the world-famous author of Andersonville, the seminal novel about the Civil War. As a child, Shroder was in awe of his grandfather’s larger-than-life character. Kantor’s friends included Ernest Hemingway, Carl Sandburg, Gregory Peck, and James Cagney. He was an early mentor to the novelist John D. MacDonald and is cred­ited with discovering the singer Burl Ives. Kantor wrote the novel Glory for Me, which became the multi-Oscar-winning film The Best Years of Our Lives. He ghostwrote General Curtis LeMay’s memoirs, penning the infamous words “We’re going to bomb them back into the Stone Age,” referring to North Vietnam. Kantor also suffered from alcoholism, an outsize ego, and an abusive and publicly embarrassing personality where his family was concerned; he blew through several small fortunes in his lifetime, and died nearly destitute. In The Most Famous Writer Who Ever Lived, Shroder revisits the past—Kantor’s upbringing, his early life, his career trajectory— and writes not just the life story of one man but a meditation on fame, family secrets and legacies, and what is remembered after we are gone.
reviews
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        July 11, 2016
        The urge to investigate one’s origins is on powerful display in Shroder’s (Acid Test) exploration of his famous grandfather, Pulitzer Prize–winning author MacKinlay “Mack” Kantor. Mack was born in Iowa in 1904 and grew up in poverty, and he decided early on to become a writer. He is perhaps best known today for Andersonville, his bestselling, epic 1955 novel about the notorious Civil War prison, and for writing the novel on which the Academy Award–winning 1946 film The Best Years of Our Lives is based. Despite his successes however, Mack’s popularity had waned by the 1970s, with his decline marked by alcoholism, diminished income, and a shift to far-right politics. Shroder draws on family letters, photos, and stories; his own memory; and Mack’s papers at the Library of Congress, in the process realizing how little he really knew his complicated grandfather. He also learns the stories of Mack’s hardworking, smart, and loving mother, and his charming, large-living, manipulative con man of a father. The book is more than a biographical excavation; it’s a journey of understanding. Shroder’s visceral reactions and moving discoveries as he comes to terms with his grandfather’s life make for a trip well worth taking. Agent: Gail Ross, Ross Yoon Agency.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        A grandson of writer MacKinlay Kantor (1904-1977) unravels the tangles of his grandfather's life and finds many of those same threads (the good, the bad, the ugly) in his own life.Shroder--himself a veteran writer (Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal, 2014, etc.) and journalist (editor of the Washington Post Magazine)--remembers his once-celebrated grandfather well, though Kantor had tumbled from the literary mountain by that time. Kantor's novel Andersonville (1955) won the Pulitzer Prize, had been an enormous bestseller, but he never again produced something so well received by critics and consumers. His wealth flew from his hands like chaff. Shroder was an incredibly fortunate researcher: the Library of Congress holds 158 boxes of Kantor material, and Shroder found other caches, as well, including in his own home. Carefully sifting through all of this, and reading (and in some cases rereading) his grandfather's work, the author began to see numerous parallels in their lives, from a passion for the Civil War to their submission to the disciplines of writing. Shroder is stunned by some of his discoveries (among them: his grandfather's serial adultery), is somewhat surprised by Kantor's turn to the political right (he was friends with Curtis LeMay), and is touched by Kantor's enduring belief in his abilities despite reviewers' harshness and slumping sales. The connections the author sees between the two of them sometimes seem a bit forced or obvious--writers do share some things, whether blood relatives or not. But the more Shroder finds out about his grandfather, the more his sympathy grows--Kantor's own father was a con man of the first order--and he ends with a deeply felt appreciation. The author also notes that Kantor's wife tolerated a lot--and lovingly so. A compelling account, suffused with both sympathy and sharpness, of a writer who's mostly forgotten and of a grandson who's grateful. COPYRIGHT(1) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        October 1, 2016

        Journalist Shroder (Acid Test) proves poring over one's lineage brings to life parallels. His maternal grandfather, MacKinlay "Mack" Kantor, is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Andersonville and numerous other books. Shroder explores the lives of his great-grandfather John Kantor, a villainous swindler and author; Mack, who at times shows his own charming charlatan side; and his novelist mother. He details his family's history as his grandfather traveled, researched, and imbibed through the lows and highs of being a best-selling author. He outlines Mack's participation in the infamous Sarasota Liar's Club with John D. MacDonald, friendship with Ernest Hemingway, and Hollywood experiences with Gregory Peck and James Cagney, among others. The appeal of this memoir is Shroder's personal appreciation of writers today who have endured many of the same struggles experienced by his family of authors, including the superhuman skill of focusing on daily writing amid a barrage of distractions. VERDICT Shroder's intricate family story centers on what it takes to be a successful published author. Sprinkled with an abundance of helpful advice, it will be appreciated by aspiring writers.--Joyce Sparrow, Kenneth City, FL

        Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        October 1, 2016
        Shroder is the grandson of MacKinlay Kantor, who, back in the 1940s and 1950s, was a popular American fiction writer. Kantor authored more than 30 novels, among them the Pulitzer Prizewinning Andersonville (1955), about the infamous Confederate prison in Georgia, a work that was credited with having reinvented the historical novel. But his fame was not long lasting, and even his masterpiece is rarely read now. Shroder acknowledges his grandfather as a definite fixture in his youth, but he also admits, in this enticing hybrid of memoir and biography, that he grew dismissive of his grandfather's ego-driven personality and old-fashioned writing style. Shroder finally realized that he needed to find answers to his lingering and insistent questions about his grandfather, a quest to know aided and abetted by the Library of Congress' 158 boxes of letters, contracts, manuscripts, photographs, and more documenting Kantor's life and career. Shroder's exploration of his grandfather's life reveals a deeply flawed man, but the more Shroder learned about his grandfather, the more he learned about himself; and this deeply personal process is fascinating to observe.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2016, American Library Association.)

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        August 15, 2016
        A grandson of writer MacKinlay Kantor (1904-1977) unravels the tangles of his grandfathers life and finds many of those same threads (the good, the bad, the ugly) in his own life.Shroderhimself a veteran writer (Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal, 2014, etc.) and journalist (editor of the Washington Post Magazine)remembers his once-celebrated grandfather well, though Kantor had tumbled from the literary mountain by that time. Kantors novel Andersonville (1955) won the Pulitzer Prize, had been an enormous bestseller, but he never again produced something so well received by critics and consumers. His wealth flew from his hands like chaff. Shroder was an incredibly fortunate researcher: the Library of Congress holds 158 boxes of Kantor material, and Shroder found other caches, as well, including in his own home. Carefully sifting through all of this, and reading (and in some cases rereading) his grandfathers work, the author began to see numerous parallels in their lives, from a passion for the Civil War to their submission to the disciplines of writing. Shroder is stunned by some of his discoveries (among them: his grandfathers serial adultery), is somewhat surprised by Kantors turn to the political right (he was friends with Curtis LeMay), and is touched by Kantors enduring belief in his abilities despite reviewers harshness and slumping sales. The connections the author sees between the two of them sometimes seem a bit forced or obviouswriters do share some things, whether blood relatives or not. But the more Shroder finds out about his grandfather, the more his sympathy growsKantors own father was a con man of the first orderand he ends with a deeply felt appreciation. The author also notes that Kantors wife tolerated a lotand lovingly so. A compelling account, suffused with both sympathy and sharpness, of a writer whos mostly forgotten and of a grandson whos grateful.

        COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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The Washington Post Book Club's October Pick
One of Washington Independent Review of Book's Favorite Books of 2016
“A grandson of writer MacKinlay Kantor unravels the tangles of his grandfather's life and finds many of those same threads (the good, the bad, the ugly) in his own…A compelling account, suffused with both sympathy and sharpness, of a writer who's mostly forgotten and of a grandson who's grateful.”—Kirkus Reviews

An award-winning veteran of The Washington Post and The Miami Herald, Tom Shroder has made a career of investigative journalism and human-interest stories, from those of children who claim to have memories of past lives, in his book Old Souls, to that of a former Marine suffering from debilitating PTSD and his doctor pioneering a successful psychedelic drug treat­ment in Acid Test. Shroder’s most fascinating subject, however, comes from within his own family:...
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