Understanding Paul West is the first book-length study of the prolific British author praised by the Paris Review as "one of the most original and interesting writers practicing the craft today." David Madden offers an analytical introduction to the fiction of Paul West, charting the writer's daring experiments with narrative structure and form as well as his unceasing commitment to stylistic virtuosity.
Madden examines West's search for a definitive style in Tenement of Clay and his turn to realism in the Alley Jaggers trilogy. Madden then explores West's experimentation in the 1970s with narrative self-consciousness in Colonel Mint, Caliban's Filibuster, and Gala and provides close readings of his next decade of historical fiction. Madden's concluding examination of Rat Man in Paris and The Place in Flowers Where Pollen Rests reveals the novelist's longstanding themes of personal alienation and the role of the artist in an inimical society.
David W. Madden is professor of American and Irish literature at California State University in Sacramento.
"Madden has discovered and explained things about my work that I never knew; he is an able, sensible, and utterly unabashed contemporary critic."—Paul West.