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An Unexpected Life

320 pages / 6.12 x 9.25 inches / 12 halftones


  Hardcover / 9780807130391 / March 2005

This thoroughly engaging memoir tells the story of a fascinating life marked by unlooked-for good fortune—a life at once distinctive and representative of a generation. With the detail, immediacy, and character delineation of a novel, Joseph Blotner describes how from ordinary beginnings he underwent the trials of being taken captive in World War II, experienced the pleasures and perils of family life, and became an esteemed scholar and the biographer of the literary giants William Faulkner and Robert Penn Warren.

Blotner fluidly recounts his early years and studies, his ordeals as a Flying Fortress bombardier who was shot down, his harrowing time as a German prisoner of war, and the career trajectory that took him from testing Surf detergent commercials to succeeding in publishing and academia. He offers a riveting and remarkably clear-eyed view of Faulkner, with whom he developed a close friendship. Faulkner appears here in a new light, as a private man judging track meets, dining with friends, and falling in love with an aspiring writer from Tennessee.

An Unexpected Life goes on to narrate Blotner's international travels, the death of his wife, and his remarriage. At each turn, Blotner introduces the diverse individuals he has met, measuring his years against the historical backdrop, including the cold war. The result is an autobiography that encompasses passion as well as privation, comedy as well as drama.

Despite periods of hardship, Joseph Blotner has indeed lived an unexpectedly lucky life, and readers are fortunate that he has decided to share it. His story will appeal to readers interested in World War II and in the literary and academic landscape of the twentieth century.

Joseph Blotner lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, and is the author or editor of seven previous books, including Faulkner: A Biography and Robert Penn Warren: A Biography. A member of the French Legion of Honor, he is a professor emeritus of English at the University of Michigan.

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