Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Reading Biographies

I don't read many biographies because I am not curious enough about other people's lives. A very few biographies matter to me, and they matter to me because they touch my own life at crucial points. Andrew Motion's biography of Philip Larkin explained to me, before I came out as gay, that unfulfilment can be a source of artistic power; it developed that theme like a novel. In Richard Davenport-Hines' biography of Auden, I saw my own flight from country, orchestrated like an opera. And now Hilary Spurling's biography of Matisse grips me with a familiar power: in its depiction of the artist's struggles, of his wife's devotion to his art, of his artistic breakthroughs, it beguiles like a Romance.

2 comments:

Esme B J Lee said...

Jee, read Richard Ellman's bio of Oscar Wilde. It is great as a scan of the century he lived in and as an introduction to modern as we know it.

Barbara Jean

Jee Leong Koh said...

Hi Barbara Jean,
I've heard so much about the greatnenss of Ellman's bio that I am BOUND to find it disappointing. Thanks for the recommendation and the reminder. If only dear Oscar is truly interesting...