Friday, 8 January 2010

Biographies and Auto-Biographies.


This was originally going to be a post about my thoughts on Lisa Rogak’s ‘Haunted Heart (The Life and Times of Stephen King)’ and Hank Wagner’s ‘Prince of Stories (The Many Worlds of Neil Gaiman’ but it’s been a couple of weeks since the books came through the door and I haven’t picked up either of them. The reason? I’m just not interested in reading biographies. I’ve got as much interest in finding out what Stephen King’s first job was after college as I suspect he has in finding out what my first job was (care assistant in a psychiatric hospital, those were happy times!)
As soon as I realised this I was reminded of the New Year’s resolution I made to read books that I wouldn’t normally look twice at and knew I’d have to give at least one of these books a go. Which one though? Well, your comments (at the bottom of this post) will decide that one! I’ll give it a week or so and whichever book gets the most votes will be the one that I read. Comments please!



I think the thing with me is that it’s the book in my hand that interests me most of all although the process of inspiration etc that lies behind the writing comes a pretty close second. I loved reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s biography (can’t remember the author off the top of my head), for example, as it was really detailed about how Tolkien wrote his works and the thought that went into them. If it’s not about either of those things then I’m not really that interested in finding out more. If I want to hear about people’s lives then I’ll more often than not talk to the people who are actually a part of my life and find out about theirs. I’m not so sure that I want to know too much about a favourite author’s life as I sometimes feel this knowledge can get in the way of the book itself (I’ve posted about this before but don’t have the time to go and dig up the link). I want to escape into a world, not necessarily be reminded of some of the more mundane things that led to its creation...
Having said that though, if Joe Abercrombie ever writes his autobiography in the same way he writes his blog (and various forum posts) then I’d definitely read it! :o)

How about you though? If there was a biography of your favourite author would you go and read it or would you prefer to stick with the fictional works of that author instead? Am I missing out on something great about biographies? Leave a comment and let me know...

9 comments:

logankstewart said...

I've only ever read one biography, and that was of Bob Dylan. I wanted to try different genres from the norm, and thought Dylan would be exciting. It was, but I still struggled to get through it. If I want to read about someone's life, I usually get the abbreviated version online (Wikipedia, author's blog, etc.)

Between these two, I'd definitely choose Neil Gaiman. Good luck with whichever you pick.

Seak said...

My vote's Neil Gaiman too. I could just never get into Stephen King.

Anonymous said...

1 vote for Geiman :)

Celine said...

I read a great biography of Shirley Jackson, recently ("Private Demons: The Life of Shirley Jackson," by Judy Oppenheimer)but I can't make up my mind whether I regret it or not. Certainly it drastically affected my enjoyment of her work.

I'm like yourself, I think, I prefer to read the fiction and leave the author's life out of it.

Luke Forney said...

I read the Stephen King biography a few months back, and it wasn't that wonderful. The entire book seemed to be filled with little facts that I had garnered over the years from other sources, including Stephen King's books. It had a few things that I thought were neat, but for the most part it wasn't anything new.

Weirdmage said...

I've read a few biographies, and find them interesting. But I got to admit I love getting to know things just for the sake of knowing them.

When it comes to author biographies I think the one that gave me the most was an unauthorized one about Dan Brown ,(sorry don't remember the author of that one).
I think author biographies can be great for explaining what "made" the author write like he/she did. If you don't find that interesting they're probably just a waste of your time.

Of the two you have to choose between I would go for the Neil Gaiman biography.

Magemanda said...

Deffo the Gaiman for me as well. Would be interested to hear your thoughts.

With Stephen King, I think his own book "On Writing" would be better for you to read - contains some info about his life but much more about his writing and suggestions on how to go about being a successful writer. I enjoyed it - there is a review on my blog if you're interested.

Marduk said...

The only one I've read is on Anton La Vey - founder of the Church of Satan. It was a very interesting read, mainly to find out what made him tick and why he went this route with his life.

As for these ones - another vote for Gaiman.

N. R. Alexander said...

I was very much looking forward to Haunted Heart, in fact, but in the end I didn't make it very far into Rogak's biography. She kept going on about how the best, truest bios were all written without the permission of their subjects, and I thought to myself more than once what a different tune she'd be singing if King had agreed to talk to her. From what I read - the first three, four chapters, it was a very pedestrian, very fact-based bio; not a lot of fun at all.

Go with the Gaiman!