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As a novelist, biographer, editor, and screenwriter, Nicholas Mosley has always been concerned with the central paradox of writing: if by definition fiction is untrue, and biography never complete, is there a form that will enable a writer to get at the truth of a life? In Efforts at Truth Mosley scrutinizes his own life and work, but examines them as a curious observer, fascinated by the constant interaction of reality and the written word.
As a life, it has been colorful, in settings ranging from the West Indies to a remote Welsh hill farm, from war action in Italy to battles with Hollywood moguls, from the Colony Room to the House of Lords. In print, the range has been as wide: editor of a controversial religious magazine, author of the acclaimed novel series Catastrophe Practice, screenwriter of his own work with Joe Losey and John Frankenheimer, biographer of his notorious father Oswald Mosley, and in 1990, winner of the Whitbread Award for his novel Hopeful Monsters.
Nicholas Mosley is the son of Oswald Mosley, the fiery leader of the separatist union movement in England who was imprisoned for opposing WWII. This heavy cultural heritage may account for the odd mix of British upper-class bohemianism and intellectual self-flagellation that hovers over this eccentric literary dilettante. Trust funds provided by his mother and his first wife left Mosley free to move from large house to large house and from woman to woman, to father five children and to write many novels (Hopeful Monsters won the Whitbread Prize in 1990), screenplays and the biography of his father. He was also able to work pro bono as editor of Prism, an Episcopal journal, not to mention pick up a peerage in 1966--in nonliterary life, Nicholas Mosley is Lord Ravensdale. Despite the high level of intellectual discourse and Mosley's unquestionable prose skill, this book is shapeless and often tedious. He worries his ego as a dog does a slipper. First wife Rosemary stays with him through affairs and wanderings; second wife Verity is still Lady Ravensdale; and his mistress, Natalie, floats in and out of the story like a lost soul. He claims his children are too important to include here, but the gap is troubling. He relies on lengthy summaries of almost all his books to gloss the literary autobiography and accompanies them with long quotations from his own letters and those of friends. The result comes across as self-aggrandizing and not especially revealing.