Press Reactions to Paul O'Keeffe's Books

Some Sort of Genius: A Life of Wyndham Lewis (Jonathan Cape: 2000)

'Paul O'Keeffe has written a magnificent biography of Lewis, rich in revealing anecdote, with a dark sense of humour that relishes the many ironies of Lewis's life. This will be the definitive biography of Lewis for decades to come.'  Lawrence Rainey, Independent

'Paul O'Keeffe has done brilliantly in pointing up many of the myths and falsifications which Lewis encouraged, and in uncovering many new facts. He has a relish for detail which he uses to telling, and often darkly comic effect'.  Mathew Sturgis, T.L.S.

'O'Keeffe carries us meticulously through the ups and downs of Lewis's long career. His diligence in digging out more, and more reliable, facts about Lewis's trajectory through twentieth-century art and letter is to be applauded.' William Scammell, Independent on Sunday

'O'Keeffe's is a massive work of scholarship, painstaking detective work and exhaustive detail - a biography in the mould of Richard Ellman's James Joyce.' Andrew Taylor, Literary Review

Gaudier-Brzeska: An Absolute case of Genius (Allen Lane: 2004)

 'Paul O'Keeffe's biography is the most exhaustive and lurid to date. It opens with back-to-back forensic descriptions of what happens to a block of stone when hit by a chisel, and to a human head when hit by a bullet. The point he wants to make is that for this precocious avant-gardeist, violence, struggle, and physical and emotional mess were a way of life. O'Keeffe offers a vivid account of Gaudier's tumultuous life and death.' James Hall, Sunday Times

'This must now rank as the definitive biography of the artist who inspired an entire generation of modern sculptors such as Hepworth Moore and Frink. 'Contemporary Review

'O'Keeffe produces a full and stimulating read - describing people, pictures and sculpture with flair and zeal. Like Gaudier, O'Keeffe relishes making the familiar strange - most notably in the minutiae of an opening sequence, likening the bruising of marble by an errant chisel to a bullet hammering through a human skull.' Alice Ferrebe, Scotland on Sunday

'The opening pages are arresting and O'Keeffe's style is felicitious. This carefully and scrupulously wrought biography is certainly worthy of Gaudier's extraordinary life and work.' Tom Rosenthal, The Times

A Genius For Failure: The Life of Benjamin Robert Haydon (Bodley Head: 2009)

'Paul O'Keeffe has written a compelling book that sweeps the reader along at a pace rarely associated with the normal activities of an artist's life. He is a natural story-teller and relishes each episode for its comic as well as tragic aspects'. Julian Treuherz, Apollo

'Paul O'Keeffe manages to make extensive use of Haydon's journals while also maintaining a quietly humorous detachment. It is not simply that he finds the balance between sympathy and judgment in his account of Haydon's character. He also finds new perspectives on this familiar tale of brief early success and long inexorable decline.  Given the endless follies and ironies of this life, and the many opportunities for sententiousness that it generates, it is heartening to read a study as tactful and unobtrusive as A Genius for Failure, in which Haydon steps forth, as full of colour and bluster as ever, but with dignity as well as absurdity, and a perspicacious, as well as a biting tongue.' Gregory Dart, T.L.S.

Paul O'Keeffe gives a fine account of a true monomaniac. He allows Haydon to speak for himself with nicely chosen extracts from the writings, sometimes given in dialogue form as if in a novel. This is very effective, conjuring up a vivid image of the permanently irascible and thin-skinned artist.' Stephen Wildman, The Art Newspaper

'Paul O'Keeffe's achievement in tracking [Haydon's] descent into the abyss is considerable. The book has all the thoroughness of his previous lives of Wyndham Lewis and Gaudier-Brzeska, and all their willingness to unpick knots of difficulty... It is calm, capacious and very sympathetic to its subject.' Andrew Motion, Guardian

                     Waterloo: The Aftermath (Bodley Head 2014)

'...a tour de force of fast moving storytelling....This is a very good book, and a model of how narrative history should be written... one that anybody remotely interested in the battle should read.' Spectator 

'O'Keeffe is a Swiftian... The [book] is a hugely readable mix of side effects and after effects, held together by imaginative structuring, and storytelling in the great narrative tradition.' Guardian

'For sheer writing quality and grim realism I would not miss O'Keeffe.' Literary Review

'The most original and fascinating book in the current crop. If you buy one book to mark this anniversary [of Waterloo], buy this one.' Washington Post