Sunday, November 18, 2007
A Biography Challege
I have perhaps already been overly ambitious in the number and scope of reading challenges for which I've signed up of late. But I can't say that I've ever regretted embarking on a challenge even when I haven't managed to work my way to the end of my proposed reading list or to blog diligently about each book from it that I did complete. For even when I don't adhere to the letter of the challenge, I nearly always stretch my reading horizons in the attempt.
The In Their Shoes Reading Challenge won't take me into new genre territory as I'm already a devoted reader of biographies, but it will provide excellent incentive to tackle the many tantalizing biographies that are currently adding considerable heft to my TBR pile. And since one of the characters in the novel that I'm writing is a biographer, I can call the whole endeavour research. I'll be thinking, as I read my way through my list, not just about the life of the subject of each biography, but about how the author went about shaping that life into a book.
The parameters of the challenge are straightforward. It runs throughout 2008. The goal is for each participant to select a number of books of his or her own choosing that fit within the rubric of biography, autobiography, or memoir, and to read and blog about those books before the end of the year.
Here's my list:
Anatole Broyard, Kafka Was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir (1997);
Bill Bryson, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir (2006);
James Campbell, Exiled in Paris: Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Samuel Beckett, and Others on the Left Bank (2003);
Susan Cheever, American Bloomsbury: Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau: Their Lives, Their Loves, Their Work (2006);
Victoria Glendinning, Leonard Woolf (2006);
Charlotte Gray, Reluctant Genius: The Passions and Inventions of Alexander Graham Bell (2006);
Robert Lecker, Dr. Delicious: Memoirs of a Life in CanLit (2006);
Hermione Lee, Edith Wharton (2007);
A. David Moody, Ezra Pound: Poet, Volume I: The Young Genius 1885-1920 (2007);
Ruth Panofsky, The Force of Vocation: The Literary Career of Adele Wiseman (2006)
Charles J. Shields, Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee (2006); and,
Claire Tomalin, Thomas Hardy (2007).
A couple of these I've already begun; indeed, I read to the halfway point of Tomalin's Thomas Hardy last spring. But I've let so much time elapse since I set them down that in each case I plan to start over so as not to deprive myself of that glorious sense of the sweep of a life that one only gets from being thoroughly immersed in a good biography from beginning to end. Twelve books in twelve months, some of them very substantial tomes. I may not manage it given all the other books I expect to read alongside them, but, as ever, I will relish the attempt.