Search - List of Books by Jonathan Raban
"Over emphatic negatives always suggest that what is being denied may be what is really being asserted." -- Jonathan Raban
Jonathan Raban (born 14 June 1942, Hempton, Norfolk, UK) is a British travel writer and novelist. He is the author of Waxwings, Passage to Juneau, Bad Land, Hunting Mister Heartbreak, Coasting, Old Glory, Arabia Through the Looking Glass and Soft City.
His awards include the National Book Critics Circle Award, The Royal Society of Literature's Heinemann Award, the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award, the PEN West Creative Nonfiction Award, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award, and a 1997 Washington State Governor's Writer's Award. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Harper's Magazine, The New York Review of Books, Outside, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, and other magazines. In 1990 Raban, a British citizen, moved from London to Seattle, where he now lives with his daughter.
"In an underdeveloped country don't drink the water. In a developed country don't breathe the air."
Early Life and Education more less
Jonathan Raban grew up in a succession of vicarages and parsonages. His father, Peter Raban, was an Anglican priest and his mother, Monica, the writer of romance stories for women’s magazines before her marriage.
Raban attended the The King's School, Worcester, until at 16 he threatened to leave school for a post as a copy boy at a local newspaper. He describes the miserable time he spent there in Chapter 3 of Coasting (An Insular War):
'To begin with, there was an internal blaze of hurt and disbelief, like a bursting appendix. But after a few months the day-to-day terrorism of boarding school settled into an acceptable, at least survivable, normality. I knew well enough the beatings, crushings and physical humiliations were all on the curriculum if you were going to be properly educated as an Englishman. They were an essential part of the privilege for which your parents were making their well-trumpeted financial sacrifices. My own father had been at the school, in the same house, twenty-three years before me ... King's had made a Man of him, and it was going to make a Man of me.'
His father allowed him to attend Peter Symonds School, Winchester, and the coed Brockenhurst Grammar School and from there Raban went to the University of Hull (1960—1965), where he studied English literature. '
After graduating he joined the Salisbury Repertory Company but it was not a success. He returned to Hull to start graduate work and also worked as a minicab driver, ferrying drunken Icelandic seamen to prostitutes. In Coasting , Raban comments on the five years he spent living in the city of Hull during the 1960s and his abiding fondness for it:
'I had hung on after graduation. I'd taught for a term in a Hull secondary school (in Hessle). I'd started a doctrate, reading a dozen novels a week, making desultory notes, playing poker in the evenings, getting married and unmarried, and generally kept myself in the way of the idle occupation that passed for "doing research" ... But it was in the vacations and in term-time that I fell in love with the city. I moonlighted from my studies as a private-hire taxi driver, and roamed the dark streets in a radio-controlled Vauxhall Velox.'
Academic Career more less
He started a thesis on Jewish immigration to New York but ended up as an assistant lecturer at the University of Aberystwyth (1965—67) and as lecturer at the University of East Anglia, Norwich under Malcolm Bradbury (1967—69) teaching British and American literature (Hull University went on to award Raban an honorary D. Litt in 2005 (see ). He then moved to London in 1969 to live by his pen and was soon absorbed into the bibulous society that gathered around Ian Hamilton, the New Review, and the “Pillars of Hercules” pub in Soho, where, in Raban’s own words, "everybody was a writer". He was also recommended by Bradbury to Anthony Thwaite, who offered him work as reviewer for the New Statesman, and published a book on Mark Twain.
After traveling around Arabia, he then proceeded on a journey down the Mississippi in the footsteps of Huckleberry Finn. The writing of this book, Old Glory, was filmed in the early 1980s for the South Bank Show broadcast on British commercial television (a film that now appears lost). He bought a 17th century farm labourer’s cottage in the Dengie Marshes in Essex (mentioned at the end of Coasting). He spent the years between 1988 (London) and 1990 (Seattle) traveling through America to carry out research for his book Hunting Mister Heartbreak. He currently lives in Seattle with his daughter, Julia, on a permanent basis following his divorce in 1997. He describes his separation from his wife, Jean Lenihan, a dance reviewer for The Seattle Times, and the ensuing personal trauma in intimate detail at the conclusion of Passage to Juneau. A similar breakup theme runs through the plot of Waxwings. (He was also married twice in England — to Bridget Johnson, a student in Hull in 1964 [dissolved 1970s], and to Caroline Cuthbert, an art dealer/curator in London in 1985 [dissolved 1990].)The biggest influence on Raban's life since he became a writer is the American poet Robert Lowell. They met in 1970, when Raban was not yet 30, and remained friends until Lowell's death seven years later. For most of the 70s Raban lived with Lowell and his wife, Caroline Blackwood in the basement of their rambling house in Redcliffe Square, west London. Raban states that "[it] was his example of turning the turmoil of his life into art that inspired me."
Though he is primarily regarded as a travel writer, Raban’s accounts often blend the story of a journey with rich discussion of the history of the water through which he travels and the land around it. Even as he maintains a dispassionate and often unforgiving stance towards the people he meets on his travels, he does not shirk from sharing his own perceived foibles and failings with the reader. Frequently, Raban’s autobiographical accounts of journeys taken mirror transformations in his own life or the world at large: Old Glory takes place during the buildup to Ronald Reagan’s victory in the 1980 presidential election, Coasting as the Falklands War begins, and Passage to Juneau as the failure of the author’s marriage becomes apparent. Similarly melancholic and personal themes of turmoil and loss can be detected in his novels.
- The Technique of Modern Fiction (1968)
- Huckleberry Finn (1968)
- The Society of the Poem (1971)
- Soft City (1974), ISBN 0-525-20661-2
- Arabia Through the Looking Glass (1979), ISBN 0-00-654022-8
- An American Voyage (1981), ISBN 0-671-25061-2
- Foreign Land (1985), ISBN 0-670-80767-2
- Coasting (1987), ISBN 0-671-45480-3
- A Writing Life, 1968-1987 (1989), ISBN 0-06-016166-3
- God, Man and Mrs Thatcher (1989), ISBN 0-06-016166-3
- A Discovery of America (1991), ISBN 0-06-018209-1
- The Oxford Book of the Sea (1992), ISBN 0-19-214197-X
- An American Romance (1996), ISBN 0-679-44254-5
- A Sea and Its Meanings (travel writing; 1999), ISBN 0-679-44262-6
- Waxwings (2003), ISBN 0-375-41008-2
- Dispatches From the Home Front (2006), ISBN 1-59017-175-6
- Surveillance (2006), ISBN 978-0-375-42244-7
- Heinemann Award, 1982
- Thomas Cook Travel Book Award, 1981 and 1991
- National Book Critics Circle Award, 1996
- The Stranger newspaper "Genius Awards", 2006 Article
Total Books: 102
Inspiration and Writing Style more less
- Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
- Summer Lightning by PG Wodehouse
- Put Out More Flags by Evelyn Waugh
- The Whitsun Weddings and High Windows by Philip Larkin
- Collected Poems by Robert Lowell
Articles and interviews
- The Arts Fuse - Interview with Jonathan Raban about the Critical Condition and his novel, Surveillance
- University of Washington, Upon Reflection - Video interview with Jonathan Raban about his book on immigrants in Montana, Badlands
Jonathan RabanJonathan Raban