Illuminating the Way

This week’s Booking Through Thursday highlights an issue that I have often contemplated in the past:

Have you ever been put off an author’s books after reading a biography of them? Or the reverse – a biography has made you love an author more?

It’s more than a simple matter of ‘love’ or ‘hate’. In the past, I have felt iffy about delving into the lives of writers – especially those whose work I adore – because I feel as though it will somehow taint my perception of their literature. Of course, I’m speaking more generally about nonfiction, including writings not originally intended for publication. Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath and several other writers have had their diaries and correspondences have been posthumously published, and I find myself wondering whether it’s acceptable.

Nevertheless, I do read them, because I want to know more about the writers I love. And it’s inadvertently the case that these biographies and letters and diaries do transform the way we perceive literature – but it’s in a positive light. I’m not sure how it is for others, but I find myself appreciating a book more when I have a knowledge of the circumstances in which that book was conceived. What else, but biographies and other such writings, could illuminate the way for us readers? It is then that we are able to truly see that literature and life are deeply intertwined.

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10 thoughts on “Illuminating the Way

  1. Its really interesting to think about whether these authors would want their personal writings published. I’d never thought about it like that before.

  2. In the case of Sylvia Plath it does give you a better understanding of her books when you understand her personally. Hope you have a great day!

  3. I am much the same way. I usually start with just the story, and maybe the biographical blurb on the back cover. But sometimes after I have read and enjoyed several books by one author, I like to read more about them, figuring their own life story goes into the stories they write. Often it enhances my reading of their work.

  4. I always felt there should a distance maintained between fans and stars, so readers and authors! But I guess not since bookstores are hosting author events.

    The truth is, at least for me, knowing the life of an author might incline me to read more of the works. Knowing is key to understand the authorial meaning in fiction. After all, author is a life, reading an author is just getting to know the life.

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