Book Fight!

Tough love for literature

Episode 78: A.J.A. Symons, The Quest for Corvo


This week’s book is a Mike pick, a 1934 cult classic subtitled “An Experiment in Biography.” Symons, a rare book collector, fell in love with a novel called Hadrian the Seventh, and went off in search of information about its author, one Baron Corvo, also known as Frederick Rolfe, among other pseudonyms. Symons details not just what he found, but how he found it, making this book rather groundbreaking in form, a kind of progenitor of documentaries like Searching for Sugarman.


We talk about Frederick Rolfe’s rather amazing life, which included a lot of vitriolic letters and burned bridges. We also talk about the book’s handling of Rolfe’s homosexuality, which Symons sees as the central “problem” that led to nearly all of Rolfe’s troubles.

Speaking of sex, here’s a 538 story about OK Cupid’s stats-loving founder, which includes the two graphs Tom references on the show, about ages of attraction for men and women.

Also, we’re still in the middle of our annual fund drive, which you can donate to here, via Indiegogo. Every few bucks is appreciated. We hope the annual fundraising isn’t too annoying, but until we figure out some better, more efficient way to monetize the work we do putting this thing together, this is the best we can do.

As always, we’d love to get your feedback on what we talked about during the episode. You can email us, hit us up on Twitter, or just leave a comment here on the site. If you like the show, please consider writing us an iTunes review, and spread the word to your literature-loving friends.

You can stream the episode right here on our site, download the mp3 file, or subscribe (for free) via iTunes, or your favorite podcast app, and never miss another installment.

Thanks for listening!


Download Episode 78 (right-click, save-as)


Author: mikeingram25

writer, editor

4 thoughts on “Episode 78: A.J.A. Symons, The Quest for Corvo

  1. I wish the “men are mostly creeps” tag had more posts in it.

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