The woman whose face appears on the Czech five-hundred koruna doesn’t appear there without consequence. During the late 19th century, politically active Božena Němcová was an innovator of Czech literature. Twenty-first century writer Kelcey Parker Ervick continues Němcová’s legacy in her own fairy tale-like work: a biographical collage, The Bitter Life of Božena Němcová....more
Posts Tagged: biography
New evidence uncovered by history professor and researcher Thomas Weber indicates that Hitler himself wrote the 1923 biography Adolf Hitler: His Life and His Speeches, which is credited to Baron Adolf Victor von Koerbe. Weber’s research implies that Hitler had designs on power earlier than historians originally thought, reports Dina Kraft for the New York Times....more
Although best known for “The Lottery”, there was much more to Shirley Jackson’s work—and life. At the New York Times, Charles McGrath reviews of Ruth Franklin’s new biography A Rather Haunted Life, and explores Franklin’s journalistic yet personal take on the woman who remains massively influential, but often overlooked in the American literary canon....more
We’ve always been fascinated by the possibility of understanding the person behind the work. For Lit Hub, Heller McAlpin examines a long tradition of writing about writers:
There’s a special frisson of pleasure in reading about writers’ early struggles when you know what the future holds for them—which in the case of most of these authors is posthumous literary acclaim beyond their wildest dreams.
But dip into nearly any of Stevens’s poems, to the last, and be braced by a voice like none other, in its knitted playfulness and in its majesty.
For most of his life, Wallace Stevens worked a day job as an insurance executive, and yet he still found time to become one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century....more
Stuck at home with numerous young children, with a husband who had little interest in her work and actively discouraged her intellectual pursuits, Howe rebelled in small ways. In the late 1840s, Howe secretly began to write a novel. She described the book as a “history of a strange creature,” and it tells the story of a Laurence, a scholar who lived as both man and woman.
How exactly did Joan Didion go from writing for conservative weekly the National Review to serving as a leading voice for the left? The New Yorker offers an answer:
What changed was her understanding of where dropouts come from, of why people turn into runaways and acidheads and members of the Symbionese Liberation Army, why parents abandon their children on highway dividers, why Harlem teen-agers go rampaging through Central Park at night, why middle-class boys form “posses” and prey sexually on young girls—and, above all, why the press fixates on these stories.
At the New Yorker, John Colapinto explores Nabokov’s quintessentially American classic, Lolita, and just how a Russian-born writer could so perfectly capture American culture as an emigre, working specifically with Robert Roper’s new biography on the great writer, Nabokov in America: On the Road to ‘Lolita.’ Of specific and extremely endearing interest: Nabokov’s obsession with the kitsch, and an ad he titled “Adoration of Spoons.”...more
On the eve of a new biopic and on the long tail of posthumous publishing and popularization—Christian Lorentzen takes a long, compassionate, critical look at David Foster Wallace and on the ways in which a prolific writer gets written into the public memory—as intellectual behemoth, creative luminary, contemptuous snob, major depressive, motivational speaker:
A writer who courted contradiction and paradox, who could come on as a curmudgeon and a scold, who emerged from an avant-garde tradition and never retreated into conventional realism, he has been reduced to a wisdom-dispensing sage on the one hand and shorthand for the Writer As Tortured Soul on the other.
If we want to mistake success in Hollywood for a state of grace, then Welles is our Lucifer — the archangel closest to the Almighty whose beastly arrogance is to blame for whatever hell he woke up in. But what if Hollywood, and Welles, are neither of those things?
If you’ve been curious about Robert Moses but put off by the sheer heft of volumes like The Power Broker, a forthcoming comic book rendering of the master builder’s reign is a fun new option. The book, titled Robert Moses, comes from a long French tradition of giving traditionally serious subjects the comic treatment....more
Simultaneously divisive and overlooked, Saul Bellow’s work has produced both fervent supporters and detractors while alienating many younger readers. This spring, a new biography by Zachary Leader will bring the late author back into the conversation. Vulture‘s Lee Siegel reflects on the strengths and shortcomings of a writer whose political incorrectness was matched only by his liberating language....more
Writers love writing about other writers’s wives. The spouse of a creative person has recently become a popular subject to novelize. But this fad is just a cheap trick, says Sarah Weinman in New Republic, that frees authors from the biographic reality of their subjects and eliminates the ordinary drudgery involved in writing a book....more
The Gabriel García Márquez accolades continue to roll in—over at The Paris Review, the complete text of Silvana Paternostro’s oral biography of Márquez is available. It’s full of enlightening tidbits from the author’s friends and family, like:
GUILLERMO ANGULO: His greatest inspiration was his grandmother.
After centuries of shuffling papers, biographers must now deal with the sudden digitization of the self, and the behavioral changes that have followed.
Over at The Millions, Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin considers how email technology has affected biography—and what’s gotten lost in the shift from paper to computer....more
In the New Yorker, Lee Siegel sheds light on the oft-seen contradiction between artists and their art in her review of Deborah Solomon’s biography “American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell.”
In contrast to his idealized paintings of happy hetero Americans, Rockwell is described as a depressed, compulsively obsessive, and “a repressed homosexual.”
You might call this condition of artistic creation the law of opposites, which can be a displacement of identity, as in the case of the gay composers and actors of yesteryear, or a transmutation of identity.