A lively microbiography of Chaucer that tells the story of the tumultuous year that led to the creation of "The Canterbury Tales" In 1386, Geoffrey Chaucer endured his worst year, but began his best poem. The father of English literature did not enjoy in his lifetime the literary celebrity that he has today--far from it. The middle-aged Chaucer was living in London, working as a midlevel bureaucrat and sometime poet, until a personal and professional crisis set him down the road leading to "The Canterbury Tales." In the politically and economically fraught London of the late fourteenth century, Chaucer was swept up against his will in a series of disastrous events that would ultimately leave him jobless, homeless, separated from his wife, exiled from his city, and isolated in the countryside of Kent--with no more audience to hear the poetry he labored over. At the loneliest time of his life, Chaucer made the revolutionary decision to keep writing, and to write for a national audience, for posterity, and for fame. Brought expertly to life by Paul Strohm, this is the eye-opening story of the birth one of the most celebrated literary creations of the English language.
Praise for "Chaucer's Tale" "Paul Strohm illuminates how 1386 marked a decisive year for Geoffrey Chaucer, one in which he went from accomplished coterie poet to the popular author of the work of genius for which he is celebrated to this day: "The Canterbury Tales." In "Chaucer's Tale, " Strohm, one of the finest medievalists of our time, brings this turbulent moment in Chaucer's England to life, recovering in vivid detail the professional and creative pilgrimage that led Chaucer to compose so memorable a fictional one." --James Shapiro, author of "1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare" "Strohm uses his analysis of Chaucer's annus horribilis of 1386 as a jumping-off point for exploring no less a question than who Chaucer was--as a functionary, a resident of London, a member of the King's circle and of Parliament, and a writer working in the fourteenth century. Strohm's scholarship is scrupulous; his conclusions fascinating. This is a portrait not just of Chaucer but of the complex and rapidly changing world in which he lived, worked, and wrote--a tale that intrigues at every turn." --Charlie Lovett, author of "The Bookman's Tale" and "First Impressions" "In this thrilling book, Paul Strohm lets us in on little-known secrets of living life in London in the fourteenth century. He fearlessly dives into the nitty-gritty about the wool trade, and comes to the conclusion that Chaucer, having been banished to Kent, invents his own audience in teh figures of the Canterbury Pilgrims. This is an imaginative re-creation of everything you ever wanted to know about Chaucer." --Terry Jones, author of ""Who Murdered Chaucer?"" "Inspired by Paul Strohm's excellent "Chaucer's Tale," a new book about a terrible year in Chaucer's life, I dug around in Chaucer's biography and learned that his time on earth was a mix of "Boardwalk Empire" and "Game of Thrones."" --Flavorwire "Remarkable . . . The unearthing of a real-life tale as fascinating as any of Chaucer's own making."--"Booklist "(Starred Review) "Strohm brings his authority as a medievalist to this lively biography... With vibrant portraits of Chaucer's contemporaries--including the imperious John of Gaunt and the shifty London mayor Nicholas Brembre--Strohm's focus on one year in Chaucer's life offers an expansive view of medieval England."--"Kirkus Reviews" "Strohm's well chosen public documents and contextual excerpts from Chaucer's work offer a glimpse into Chaucer's personal life and literary ambition as well as insight into the horrible year that launched his greatest work. Strohm really shines at literary criticism..."--"Publishers Weekly" --Paul Strohm
Paul Strohm has taught medieval literature at Columbia University and was the J. R. R. Tolkien Professor of English Language and Literature at Oxford University. He and his wife live in New York City and Oxford, England.