Monday, 3 March 2014

And Nothing but the Truth. . .

There is an interesting post on The New York Review of Books blog by Tim Parks entitled "Writers into Saints". It talks about the apparent need for literary biographers to glorify the lives of writers and to gloss over or justify their behavior as if they "were afraid that the work might be diminished by a life that was less than noble or not essentially directed toward a lofty cause." Among the examples he cites are biographies of Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, Samuel Beckett, and James Joyce. 
Parks sees this tendency most pronounced in the biographies of Charles Dickens. He states:

Quite apart from the writer’s [Dickens'] dramatic rejection of his wife after she had given him ten children, there is simply an enormous resistance to admitting what a tyrant the man was, seeking to control the lives of those around him to an extraordinary degree, deeply disappointed and punitive when they didn’t live up to his expectations, which was almost always, yet at the same time fearful of any sign of competition.

Parks' comments are telling: shouldn't we be able to accept a writer--warts and all--and still be able to critically appraise his/her work?

For the full text, please see

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