I am in a biography phase at the moment. That’s kind of how my reading goes these last couple of years – through phases. There was a Proust phase, a 19th C French classics phase (Stendhal, Balzac, Flaubert, Dumas, Maupassant, etc), a 19th/20th C Russian phase (Dostoievsky, Tolstoi, Chekov, Tourginev, Gogol, etc), a Japanese lit phase (Genji, Murakami, Mishima, Soseki, Tanizaki, Abe Kobo, etc) and for the past year or so, biographies. Actually, a really long time ago, my friend Charlie was already into biographies and at the time (a much younger and naïve me) I found them boring. How wrong I was! I am just ripping through them these days. I started with a recent French biography of Lafayette and then finally got through Jean-Yves Tadié’s Proust. I then swung into Ellman’s Joyce biography which inspired me to reread Portait and Ulysses. I loved this second reading (the first reading was about 8 years ago using the 1922 text. This time I used the new Vintage 1961 printing and found it excellent and I also tried the recent French translation which I found disappointing). What an incredible book. I cannot, however, claim total victory for I am still intimidated by Finnegan’s Wake. One of these days…I also read Budgen’s and Gilbert’s commentaries on their friendships with Joyce and their interpretations of Ulysses which were strikingly at odds and yet complimentary at the same time. Anyway, after that I was on to Blotner’s 2 vol. Faulkner biography in the original hardcover. As we say in French, “un régale!”. It was outstanding and inspired me to purchase the remaining two American Library Faulkner’s that I didn’t have. I loved rereading old favorites (Sound and Fury especially) and discovered new ones (Absalom, Absalom!, Go Down, Moses, Intruder in the Dust). There are probably another 8 novels I didn’t read yet but then life is long, right?
More recently, I finished (and blogged about) Spitz’s Beatles biography which was incredible and insightful. And just last week I finised O’Brien’s Picasso biography which was enlightening. I made me want to read biographies about some of my favorite artists (Matisse, Schiele, Daumier, Courbet…reminds me that I never finished my Courbet bio…)
Bogged down for the moment in Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time which is, for the moment, kind of tedious. I hate not finishing books (with the aforementioned exception of course), so I am still trying to trudge my way through it.
Whew! Finally wrote a Sunday blog post. Boy, this is hard work sometimes!
Any suggestions for other biography musts? I heard that the latest Einstein biography was great. Others??