Burning Boy: The Life and Work of Stephen Crane by Paul Auster - review by Stephen Amidon

Stephen Amidon

The Irresistible Call of Cannon Fire

Burning Boy: The Life and Work of Stephen Crane


Faber & Faber 800pp £25

Many readers, particularly older ones, will know Stephen Crane as the author of the American Civil War novel The Red Badge of Courage, which for most of the 20th century was a staple of high-school curricula in the United States and elsewhere. For them, Crane was a one-hit wonder who wrote a famous war story but not much else. Recently, even that limited status has been under threat. As Paul Auster puts it in the opening pages of Burning Boy, his massive biography of Crane, ‘now, for reasons I find difficult to understand, the book seems to have fallen off the required reading lists, which has the double effect of depriving young students of an important literary experience and relegating Crane to the shadows.’

It’s a situation that Auster, celebrated author of such novels as The New York Trilogy and The Music of Chance, sets out to remedy in this spirited life of Crane. He wants not only to revive interest in the author but also to place him at the pinnacle

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

RLF - March

Follow Literary Review on Twitter