Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Sunday Salon - Lazy Bones Contemplates Author Biographies


Wow, I intended to post something earlier today and then I napped. And napped. And napped. I even intended to blow through the last third of The Solitary Vice today, but again, that nap thing. So, I can't report on The Solitary Vice, but I can toss you all a bone and pose a question.

In Chapter 5, "Between the Lines," Brottman contemplates author biographies. She likens a reader's fascination with the minutiae of his or her favorite author with celebrity gossip and the like. Not in a bad way necessarily since Brottman herself loves a good author biography. She also mentions author memoirs and the pros and cons of those. I realize I'm being vague, but I'm too bleary-eyed to go back and look up passages, so stay with me...

Myself, I hardly ever read author bios. I know I've read a few, mostly short, and almost all of them were in middle or high school in preparation for some paper or project or other. While I enjoy learning about my favorite authors (and some I dislike, too) I generally pick up pieces of information here and there: bits on wikipedia, more reputable sites like publishers and papers, articles, etc. I can't think of a single time when I've sought out an author bio on my own.

On the other hand, I have read quite a few author memoirs: Paul Auster's Hand to Mouth and The Red Notebook, Siri Hustvedt's A Plea for Eros (a book of essays, personal ones), Philip Roth's Patrimony. For some weird reason it never so much as crosses my mind to read a biographical info by anyone other than the author (in which case it would be autobiographical info, I know, couldn't think how to word it just now).

The question:

Am I alone in my ignorance of author biographies? Do others of you seek them out? Settle down in a comfy chair to spelunk through your fave author's dirt? I admit, now that I'm thinking about it, it sounds kind of fun. I think I just heard my wishlist groan.

16 comments:

  1. For the longest time, other than the short blurb about the author in a book or whatever acknowledgment or author's note offered up, I wouldn't go much beyond that for information about an author. Now that I write reviews for my blog, I do sometimes go so far as to search out the author's website and read up on the author that way. I subscribe to a few author's blogs as well. I don't generally go beyond that though.

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  2. The only author biographies I've read are children's books about Dr. Seuss and Tomie DePaolo.

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  3. Naps are SO GOOD. I passed out for about two hours today and the only downside is that I've felt super lazy ever since.

    I don't tend to search out author biographies, although I did read "Invincible Louisa" about Louisa May Alcott back in the day. I'm sure it would be interesting though to learn about favorite writers.

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  4. Since you know I don't read, the question is moot in my case. Just wanted to give you the heads up that Season 4 is out this week. You'll have to get it on your own this time... Sorry!

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  5. Naps are divine. I napped for several hours today, too.

    As far as author bios, I read only what's offered on the book cover/jacket, or the blurb if it's in an anthology. The only authors I've read extensive bios of are Sylvia Plath (had to, for my Master's) and Anne Sexton (because she's my girl).

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  6. I do read biographies of authors but not so frequently!

    Napping is good for the soul!

    Do check out my Sunday Salon posts :D

    SS 1: Review of The Dark Child

    SS 2: Musings about books

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  7. I read biographies of authors who are long dead. More current authors I don't want to know about; I guess I need the distance of quite a few years to want to know about their lives.

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  8. The only author biography I've ever read was Southern Daughter about Margaret Mitchell and I absolutely loved it. I have been fascinated by her and her novel since I was in high school. I would probably read more if I had two lives to read with. For the most part, I'd rather read their work.

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  9. Actually, I do try to find out a bit about an author I am unfamiliar with, but most of the time I just go to Wikipedia and look them up. Not really high class research or anything. And I do like a good memoir, though usually not authors. Weird, aren't I?

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  10. When we were in the uni reading English Lit, part of the fun as discussing the sordid sex lives of the writers (and the lecturers). It made reading those stuffy books a little more bearable.

    But as for reading the biography, only if the author has a really interesting life - like say, Colette.

    I read Author's bio the way I read celebrity gossips. Not very intellectual, I know.

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  11. Coincidentally, Siri Hustvedt and Paul Auster were on the radio on Sunday afternoon talking from their home in Brooklyn about the writers' community that exists there. It really made me want to visit.

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  12. I've always wanted to read more about author's lives, but then I think I have so little time to read books in the first place that author biographies are so far down on my list of priorities so I never get to them. And I love naps. In fact, hooray for naps.

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  13. Naps are such a good thing. The Italians and Spanish have it right!=)

    For me, I guess it depends on just how interested I am. I have even gone to the lengths of visiting a home of one of my favorite authors in Denmark. I guess for me it is when I feel a very personal connection on some level that I will seek out to know more about the author. Really good question!

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  14. I missed out on author's biographies until I did a research project on Jane Austen, and then I realized just how much a few biographies can alter my reactions and responses to a book. Granted, I don't read them nearly as often as I'd like, but there are only so many hours in the day!

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  15. I hardly read any bios. Period. This morning over coffee I just said to my friends about how little biographies I have read. I have read only Dostoevky, Tolstoy and Bulgakov because they were part of my research to write the dissertation.

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  16. Sunday naps are great!
    I've never really read in-depth about any author, just getting bits from websites and such. I have that biography of Capote but haven't even opened it. Oh and one on Jane Austen. But other than that I don't think I've ever looked at a proper author bio book.

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