Peter Conrad

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Books

Agent: Caroline Dawnay
Assistant: Kat Aitken

Books

Peter Conrad lives in New York, London, Lisbon and Oxford, where he teaches English at Christ Church. A polymath, he has written many books, including THE SONG OF LOVE AND DEATH, monographs on Hitchcock and Orson Welles and CREATION: Artists, Gods and Origins.

He currently writes a column for the Guardian.

Latest publication:

HOW THE WORLD WAS WON: The Americanization of Everywhere

‘We Are All Americans Now’ proclaimed headlines around the world on the day after 9/11

It was not news: it had been true for several decades. In 1945, profiting from a world war that had bankrupted the other combatants, the United States established a new global order, and – despite French resistance to Coca-Cola and processed cheese, and Russia’s antagonistic economic theory – set about Americanizing all other countries.

Idealistic by nature, Americans saw this as a mission of redemption. The new empire’s subjects were eager enough to be converted, though not for moral and spiritual reasons: America proved irresistible because of the gloss and glamour of its self-presentation, and the consumer goods it bestowed on the markets.

America did indeed save the world, though isolationists in Washington wondered whether the expensive effort was worthwhile. And despite the first flush of enthusiasm for the liberating GIs with their gifts of chocolate bars and nylon stockings, a wrenching disillusionment followed in the 1960s during the Vietnam War.

9/11 gave a sudden and traumatic warning that the American century might be coming to an abrupt, premature end.

Looking back over the era since 1945, Peter Conrad tracks America’s rise and measures what we have gained and lost by Americanization. Inevitably he deals with resistance to this domination – even by Americans. But as an admirer of the country’s people, landscape and culture, Conrad ends by saying ‘Thanks, America’.

Conrad delights us with a kaleidoscopic presentation of America’s unstoppable creativity: its output of great, good and enjoyably bad art, of jeans and jazz, fast food and fridges, comic books and motorbikes, technologies and therapies, along with the heroic, erotic or terrifyingly violent cinematic scenarios that have Americanized even our dreams.

Non-Fiction

Publication DetailsNotes
2009

Thames & Hudson

Peter Conrad visits every corner of the globe to explain why islands appeal to us, and on the way covers everything from the myth of Atlantis to Watteau’s erotic Cytherea, from Prospero’s magical kingdom to Nelson Mandela’s prison.

2011

Thames & Hudson

Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner, the two greatest operatic composers of their time, had everything and nothing in common. Their achievements were comparable, but their personalities, their approaches to music and drama, and their complex legacies made them incompatible. Verdi thought of art as a comfort to mankind; it pleased Wagner to believe that the nervous intensity of his operas might drive listeners mad. Is it impossible - as Peter Conrad asks in this book, the first to investigate their affinities and explain their mutual mistrust - to love them both?

2007

Thames & Hudson

A study of the competition between gods and artists, from the beginning of the world until almost the end.

2006

Cassell

A new edition of Peter Conrad`s brilliant impressionistic survey of 1200 years of English literature, updated to embrace the literature of the close of the second millennium and the beginning of the third.

2003

Thames & Hudson

Both a personal memoir and a subjective history of a young country that has grown up in the world's oldest landscape, illustrated with photographs from the collection of the Australian National Gallery in Canberra.

2003

Faber & Faber

A biographical study of the man and his myths following the sequence of gods, demons and despots he played on stage and film and also in his personal life.

2000

Faber & Faber

Cultural critic Peter Conrad can date the start of his Hitchcock obsession to his first boyhood viewing of Hitchcock's Psycho, one afternoon in Tasmania some forty years ago. The master's grip on his imagination has never slackened since.

1998

Thames & Hudson

Life and Art in the 20th Century