Sunday, October 15, 2006

The time-torn man

Richard Holmes has a lovely review of Claire Tomalin's Hardy biography at the Guardian Review. When I was a Young Person I had an obsession with literary biography (Holmes himself was a particular favorite, and I still find myself often recommending his books--the Shelley and Coleridge ones in particular, I think the decision to split the Coleridge life into two volumes was unmatched genius) and read them constantly, but at some point it became too close to what I might do for work, and in fact I rarely find myself reading one these days unless it's strictly related to research. But then literary biography seems to be losing its prominence as a genre--what was I reading about this recently? Its heyday came in the 1980s and 1990s, this person was arguing, and it has now been somewhat displaced at least in the marketplace by other kinds of narrative nonfiction. NB good ongoing series of jokes about literary biography in Martin Amis's flawed but often very funny (and apt-about-the-unsuccessful-writer's-life for sure) novel The Information.

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