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Beyond the Blurb: On Critics and Criticism. Published by Cow Eye Press
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02/07/2007

Comments

Harry

I think it's a basic human behaviour to gossip. So that's probably the main reason I read biography, literary or otherwise - nosiness.

Any insights into the work are just a bonus.

Jonathan  Mayhew

Life is interesting; it's biography that's dull. That is, certain conceptions of what makes information relevant. The amount of detail about an author's life that is really interesting might fill about twelve pages. The problem is filling the other 988 pages of the biography.

Tom

I can understand a personal disinterest in, or even antipathy toward, literary biography, but I don't understand the continuous campaign against the form that appears in this blog. Elevating art from the tedium of everyday life is one thing, exalting it as an artifact whose appearance is wholly separate from everyday life is another. One hardly can be disinterested in the milieu in which Woolf or Hemingway or Kerouac wrote; certainly not only their lives but also their work is inseparable from the particular times and places in which they lived. Inversely, there's a lot of fascination -- for a gossip-hungry reader like myself, I guess -- in reading about how a man like Faulkner, self-educated and living in near-complete isolation from the ferment of his times, could create the works he did. As for Polito's bio, clearly your having read it indicates no less curiosity about the life a literary figure led than what anyone else might have. And while I know that you're a great admirer of Thompson's work, sixty pages sounds like just about the right amount to cover the most productive period of his working life.

Dan Green

I agree with Jonathan Mayhew. For most writers we're still reading, about twelve pages worth of biographical information would probably suffice.

Jonathan David Jackson

While certainly there's much to learn from a writer's creative process, the more I know about an author (or any artist)'s beyond that process the less I involve myself with her or his art. Worse recent case of biographical corruption: news media whoring Anna Nicole Smith upon her death: siren over substance (however fascinating a siren she may have been, rest and keep her).

Imani

"One hardly can be disinterested in the milieu in which Woolf or Hemingway or Kerouac wrote; certainly not only their lives but also their work is inseparable from the particular times and places in which they lived." - Tom

I have read Hemingway and confess that none of his novels sparked any particular interest in his life--not enough that I'd want to read a biography. Through random readings here and there I've learnt that he used to be a reporter which provided inspiration for his writings. Very well. Throw in an anecdote or two and that would be perfectly satisfactory.

If I really wanted to know about the "milieu" of his novels, surely history books would serve as a better source than a biography informing me of what his favourite snacks were and who he slept with.

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