Saturday, January 31, 2009
Reading on subway.
My bookshelves are filled with biographies that I haven't read. I used to be a great biography reader but somehow as biographies have gotten longer, my attention span or interest in minutiae has receded. I think there is a great art in writing one the proper length. I think most lives can be covered in 300 pages unless the work is meant for scholars.
I recently read The Long Embrace by Judith Freeman: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved. I found this one the right length and very absorbing despite it focusing almost exclusively on his marriage. She brought it to life through traveling to the many, and I mean many, houses the Chandlers lived in over the course of their marriage.
Girls Like Us is giving me trouble though. Do I really need to know when each of these women met all the other song writers/singers in this era? I expected the book to focus on the era more too. And it's too long. Too many dull details. If you're going to write about three people, I'd eliminate some of the less important information.
Prize for the dullest biography I ever read would be the one about Joyce Carol Oates (Invisible Writer). Not the biographer's fault though. Oates never does anything but write.
But maybe it's me and my every diminishing attention span. What biographies have you enjoyed?