Biographies, Memoirs and Autobiographies Message Board
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And just last night I finished Ivan Doig's magnificent memoir This House of Sky, which I'll probably go back and reread sections of today because I really didn't want it to end, just a lovely book.
"Selected Letters of John Keats" (I just love the letters of people ... I think they more than qualify as "Memoirs").
"Dune Boy" by Edwin Way Teale (Teale was Pulitzer winner for series of Naturalist books where he and his wife drove their old Hudson thousands of miles, following each season as it moved across the country). "Dune Boy" is his memoir of growing up in Northern Indiana (where I grew up, too).
Right now, I'm rereading (well, sort of ... my first "reading" was around 1960 as a teenager; thumbing through the book to read just the juicy parts) Frank Harris' "My Life and Loves." It's surprisingly interesting (the "Life" part, that is ... the "Love" part is rather repetitive and nowhere as, uh, arousing(?) as Cleland's "Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure") in that he roamed several continents and knew many noted persons of history during the Fin de Siècle period. Of course, it's fairly obvious that Harris "enlarged" upon his own history, but, still, it makes for a good summer read.
Fun autobiographical reads I had way back in the day were those of Ron Popeil and R. David Thomas (that's Dave Thomas the Wendy's founder to you.. but it's too common a name in that form at this point for LT's system).
I did the same thing earlier. I was aghast that there wasn't a Shakespeare group, so I created "Shakespeare Shindig" only to find out, via a message, that there was already a group called "The Globe" (I was scanning for the Bard's name, not his theater).
I'm sure it will all get sorted out eventually. So, Louis, should we figure out how to combine with the other "Memoirs" group?
(I think I'll copy most of this message to the blog, if it hasn't already been addressed)
This is a genre I have not always frequented. I am primarily a fiction reader, but in the last year I am making an effort to read more non-fiction and this seems to where I have landed for my favorite non-fiction books. I suppose it is because it is reading someone's real story. Other memoirs, biographies, autobiographies I have read include Lucky Man, Hole in My Life, Behind rebel lines, Night and A Million Little Pieces (before it the controversy. I look forward to ideas for what to read next in this genre!
I'm quite a big fan of 'showbiz' memoirs and biographies - the best one I've read lately was Round Mr. Horne, about Kenneth Horne, a fascinating but ill-remembered figure in British radio comedy.
anyone reading Marley and Me? can't wait til i get my paws on that one :)
Other memoirs I've read this year are Raimond Gaita's Romulus, My Father and John McGahern's Memoir, both simply written but beautiful.
A couple of caveats:
Wodehouse in real life was an intensely private person, so there is much that can never be known about what he really thought and felt at key points in his life. That, however, doesn't always stop McCrum from speculating from insufficient evidence. You can enjoy the wealth of facts presented without always accepting McCrum's inferences, of course.
In a similar vein, McCrum aspires to psychobiography, and here too the lack of sufficient evidence doesn't always stop him. These passages stand out easily, though, and again you don't always have to accept his speculations.
The 100 page section on the period of Wodehouse's internment by the Germans reads almost like a thriller. You will find yourself turning the pages to find out what strange twist of fate comes next.
For me, the bio has deepened my appreciation for Wodehouse's immense literary achievement.
As for biographies, I'm currently reading Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood, and earlier this year I read Athenais by Lisa Hilton. An incredibly engaging book, and the cover wasn't half bad either. :)
I think that's enough for now.
Speedbumps: Flooring it Through Hollywood by Teri Garr. Her battle with MS comes near the end, otherwise nothing spectacular.
Lessons in Becoming Myself by Ellen Burstyn. Interesting story, though some have complained it comes off as too "new age-y".
Microthrills: True Stories from a Life of Small Highs by Wendy Spero. Quirky, but a fun read.
The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee. Memoir with a self-admitted focus on author's book-related career. Very highly recommended for anyone interested enough in reading to join LT in the first place!
Fat Girl by Judith Moore and Food and Loathing by Betsy Lerner. Both are autobiographical from childhood to adult, keeping the focus on the weight issue, rather than general autobios.
Devil in the Details by Jennifer Traig. Focuses on author's story of a childhood struggling with religious OCD.
All the fishes come home to roost : an American misfit in India by Rachel Manija Brown. Author's childhood living at a ashram in India, and being the only caucasian in her entire school there, etc.
I've read a few others in the past year, but these are the ones that stood out for me.
Currently, I'm on a scientist bio kick. The last bio I completed was for Sir Isaac Newton called The Last Sorcerer. I'm currently reading Conflict in the Cosmos: Fred Hoyle's Life in Science.
Indeed, this biography thing threatens to get out of control. I have started the process or writing my first book which will be a biography! I guess they can be addicting. :-)
The autobiography I am currently reading is The Honeycomb by Adela Rogers St. John. Her perspective on the events she covered as one of the first female reporters and the stars she hobnobbed with in early Hollywood make for interesting reading.
She doesn't write chronologically, almost stream-of-consciousness. Considering she wrote it in her seventies, it is probably like the conversations I will be having with my grandchildren in a few years about our family history :-)
At many points, I was laughing out loud, even though I was all by myself. That's always a good thing in Life.
Also, his unfettered way of looking at Life and cutting through all the bullshit was very refreshing and inspiring.
"In the end, only kindness matters."
The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn is a thorough and up-to-date account. Author Eric Ives wrote an earlier biography of Anne Boleyn which seems to show up in the bibliographies of a lot of the intervening books on Boleyn, Henry VIII, and collective biographies of his wives.
Meg Stewart has also written a biography of Margaret Olley, Far from a Still Life, which I am looking forward to.
Update: It was a quite remarkable story!
I just started a new group called Biographies of Eccentrics and Outsiders, if you are interested in those sorts of people. For any lover of biography, strange or otherwise, my favourite has to be The Orientalist by Tom Reiss. An incredible piece of biographical detective work, revealing how a Jewish boy of German parentage, raised in Baku, Azerbaijan, spent his early adult life in literary Berlin (at the same time as Nabokov), wrote prolifically, and ended up being buried - as a Muslim - in Positano, Italy. Extraordinary.