Biography

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1225

Lloyd Alexander is a towering figure figure in young adult literature with his fiction earning awards, critical praise, and a large audience. He did not come by his fame and popularity easily; he labored for many years and endured frequent rejections before achieving renown. The tremendous success of his second novel for young adults, The Book of Three (1964; see separate entry, Vol. 5), made him almost overnight one of the foremost writers for young people. The book's lyrical prose, complex characters, and well-structured plot justifiably garnered critical acclaim and great acceptance from the book-buying public.

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He was born in Philadelphia on January 30, 1924 to Edna Chudley Alexander and Alan Audley Alexander, a stockbroker. As a youngster, he was an avid reader of mythology and folk tales. These early readings may have inspired The Arkadians (1995; see separate entry, Vol. 9) and his other recent writings for young adults and younger children that focus on African and Asian cultures as well as that of Ancient Greece.

Alexander worked as a teenager to earn money for college but only attended a semester at West Chester State Teacher's College before joining the army in 1942, where he worked as an intelligence agent. While stationed for a time in Wales, he developed a passion for Celtic folklore and culture that inspired his Prydain Chronicles. He was later stationed in Paris as a counterintelligence agent. After being discharged from the army, he attended Sorbonne University in Paris, where he not only received a college degree but met and married his wife, Janine Denni.

Alexander bounced from one job to another for years, working as a cartoonist, artist, advertising writer, and editor, while writing novels in his spare time. Unable to find a publisher for his first three novels, all for adults, Alexander struggled to support his family. He turned his frustration into humor and wrote a book And Let the Credit Go (1955), about the travails of writing for publication. In the early 1960s, he turned his attention to young audiences and wrote Time Cat, which was published in 1963 (republished in 1996). While writing this book he came across Welsh folklore, which rekindled his youthful interest in Celtic mythology and culture, thus inspiring The Book of Three, the first of the Prydain Chronicles, a series of daring yet humorous adventures set in a land of mysterious magic.

Since then, Alexander's reputation has climbed not only among critics, but among a large audience that includes adult readers as well as young ones. C. S. Lewis once wrote that a way to tell whether a book for young readers is good is to read and enjoy it as a youngster and then read it again years later—if one still liked the book as an adult, then it is probably good literature. Nearly all of Alexander's books meet this criterion, with graceful prose, interesting characters sharp wit, and complex plots, all appealing to young and old readers. He has proven himself to be a master craftsman in several types of novels; sword-and-sorcery fantasies like the Prydain Chronicles; adventures set in ancient cultures and mythological worlds like The Arkadians; and a series of fine melodramatic mysteries featuring the courageous and versatile Vesper Holly. He has also written a more realistic group of novels about war and its effects—the Westmark Trilogy. Alexander's recent writing seems to chiefly focus on the mythologies, folklore, and cultures of the world. In addition to The Arkadians, The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen (1991) tells of adventure and magic in a land much like ancient China, and a book for younger readers, The Fortune Tellers (1992), focuses on Cameroon in west central Africa. in literature for young adults whose fiction has earned awards, elicited critical praise, and attracted a large audience. He did not come by his present fame and popularity easily; despite frequent rejections he persevered over many years before The Book of Three, his second novel for young adults, achieved great success on the strength of its lyrical prose, complex characters, and well-structured plot. He became, seemingly overnight to the public, one of the foremost writers for young people.

He was born in Philadelphia on January 30, 1924 to Edna Chudley Alexander and Alan Audley Alexander, a stockbroker. He was an avid reader when young of mythology and folk tales; these readings early in life may be the inspiration for The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen and his other recent writings for young adults and younger children that focus on the cultures of Africa, Ancient Greece, and China. During his teenage years he worked to earn money for college but only attended a semester at West Chester State Teacher's College before joining the army in 1942. An intelligence agent in the army, he was stationed for a time in Wales where he developed the passion for Celtic folklore and culture that inspired his Prydain Chronicles. He was later stationed in Paris and worked there in counterintelligence. After being discharged from the army, he attended Sorbonne University, where he not only received a college degree but met and won his wife, Janine Denni.

Alexander bounced from one job to another for years, working as a cartoonist, artist, advertising writer, editor, and in similar jobs while writing novels in his spare time. His first three novels, all for adults, went unpublished while Alexander struggled to support his family. He turned his frustration into humor and wrote a book And Let the Credit Go about the travails of writing for publication. This book was published in 1955 and was followed by others for adults. In the early 1960s, he turned his attention to young audiences and wrote Time Cat, which was published in 1963 (republished in 1996). While writing this book, he had the good fortune to again encounter Welsh folklore which not only rekindled his youthful interest in Celtic culture and mythology but inspired his initial great success The Book of Three (1964), the first of the Prydain Chronicles, a series of daring yet humorous adventures set in a land of mysterious magic.

Alexander's reputation since then has climbed not only among critics but among a large audience that includes adult readers as well as young ones. C. S. Lewis once wrote that a way to tell whether a book for young readers is good is to read and enjoy it as a youngster and then read it again years later—if one still liked the book as an adult then it is probably good literature. Nearly every book Alexander has written meets Lewis's criterion, with graceful prose, interesting characters, sharp wit, and complex plots appealing to young and old readers. He has proven himself to be a master craftsman in sword-and-sorcery fantasies like those of the Prydain Chronicles, adventures set in mythological worlds and ancient cultures like The Iron Ring, a series of fine melodramatic mysteries featuring the courageous and versatile Vesper Holly, and a more realistic series of novels about war and its effects called the Westmark Trilogy. As of the present writing, Alexander seems to be focusing on the mythologies, folklore, and cultures of the antique world. His most recent works have included not only The Iron Ring, but The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen that tells of ancient China, The Arkadians that tells of adventure and magic in the era when the Ancient Greek culture was forming, and The Fortune Tellers (1992), a book for younger readers, that focuses on Cameroon.

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