Classics Club July Question

Friday, July 11, 2014

Have you ever read a biography on a classic author? If so, tell us about it. If you had already read works by this author, did reading a biography of his/her life change your perspective on the author’s writing? Why or why not?
I have actually read quite a few biographies of authors. I’m always fascinated by the man or woman behind the pen. One of my favorites was Papa Hemingway by A.E. Hotchner. The author knew Hemingway personally in his later years and his portrayal of the author is a loving one. I’ve struggled with some of Hemingway’s work; I loved A Moveable Feast, but get lost in the misogyny of some of his novels. Seeing Hemingway through the eyes of a friend helped me temper my disdain a bit and try to understand the man on a deeper level.
Mockingbird by Charles J. Shields was another interesting one. To Kill a Mockingbird is such a beloved book and its author is so elusive. I loved learning more about not just Harper, but also her sister and father and the impact they had on her life. The book itself is a bit dry, but it did give me a deeper understanding of how Harper’s own life influenced her famous novel.
I read Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, which is not a biography precisely, but more of a journey of a book. But it also gives an in depth look at Mitchell’s life before and after it was published and the grueling process of getting it written. Again, gaining more information about the author added to my appreciation of her novel.
Up next for me is the biography of Zelda written by Nancy Milford. My book club is reading it later this year and I’m so excited to check it out. Let me know if you’ve read it and what you thought!

Join in the fun at the Classics Club Blog.


Ellie said...

I own many literary biographies but have actually only read one (Wilkie Collins by Peter Ackroyd. It's time to get to some more I think. Mockingbird sounds really interesting.

Bybee said...

I really enjoy literary biographies. Virginia Woolf by Hermione Lee really helped me appreciate Woolf more, and lessened my feelings of intimidation. I actually felt closer to her in the chapter where Lee explores VW the reader.

Private Demons, a biography about Shirley Jackson is my all-time favorite.

I think I'm gonna take note of all the ones I've read and make a blog post about this. Thanks, O Avid One!

Other Women's Stories said...

Did you know there's a new biography of Harper Lee coming out next week? The Mockingbird Next Door is out July 15. Reclusive Lee granted its author access to her life, which is really quite remarkable. I can't wait until my copy arrives!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Ellie - Collins would be an interesting author to learn more about. Adding it to my list!

Bybee - I can't wait for that post! I just added the two you mentioned to my TBR list, they both sound good!

Carrie - I had no idea! I'm definitely going to have to check that one out.

Jillian said...

I'd love to read Mockingbird. & that biography on Mitchell was excellent. :) I plan on reading some bios on Hemingway too!

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

I bet Zelda is a really fascinating read and I'd definitely be interested in learning more about Hemingway. Last year I listened to Pain, Parties, Work (maybe not in that order?) about Sylvia Plath and it was really eye opening. Another one I really liked was a biography on Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) by Morton N. Cohen. I would love to read one on Dickens but haven't found a title yet.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Marianne - Authors seem to lead such fascinating lives!

Trish - That Plath book sounds really good. I'm going to have to add it to the ever-expanding list!

thecuecard said...

Yeah how about Out of Africa about Isak Dinesen -- not exactly biography but more memoir I guess. It's a classic! Or West With the Night by Beryl Markham

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

thecuecard - I've always been curious about Out of Africa.

Lory said...

Your reads all sound interesting, plus the comments add even more! To put in one more title, I loved My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead. It's not exactly (or only) a biography, but the life of George Eliot is one of the threads explored. I didn't know much about her before, and it was very enlightening.

Brona said...

I've read do many bios & memoirs over the years, I haven't known where to start with this question. (A holiday in Canberra and a houseful of visitors this month has also made blogging a challenge this month!)

I'd like to read more about Harper Lee though.

Anonymous said...

Susan - I have that biography of Woolf. It's been stuck on my shelf for about 4 years now. seems like I should dust it down soon

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Lory - I just read My Life in Middlemarch last week! I had no idea it was a biography (of sorts) of Eliot!

Brona Joy - Hosting people always makes my reading time disappear :)

bookertalk - Maybe I need to grab a copy too!

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