Friday, October 14, 2011

Lyndall Gordon Interview on Biography

Thanks to LISNews, I learned yesterday about Lyndall Gordon on Biography, a Five Books Interview from The Browser. Librarians who suggest books to readers may want to browse through these interviews with "experts" who each identify five defining books in their field. Gordon is a biographer who has written about Charlotte Bronte, T.S. Eliot, Emily Dickinson, and Virginia Woolf. In her interview, she names five books that stretch the definition of biography in some way. The article which stretches over four web pages will especially interest anyone who likes literary biography, as the subjects are Eliot, Dorothy Wordsworth, Anton Chekhov, Eva Hoffman, and Jane Austen.

Gordon says the emphasis on facts separates biography from fiction, but the good biography has to go beyond the facts and probe the unknown life. Her favorites seem to include some thoughtful speculation. She also says that they focus on a particular time or phase of the subjects' lives. There is a place for straight documentation, she says, but biographies that are focused are usually better reading.

It appears that there is a Five Books Interview nearly every day. Recent topics include Spanish and Moorish cooking, memoirs, border story fiction, and elementary education. "Orson Scott Card on Science Fiction" should interest many readers and librarians.

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