Booking Through Thursday: Too Much Information?

From today’s Booking Through Thursday:

Have you ever been put off an author’s books after reading a biography of them? Or the reverse – a biography has made you love an author more?

I don’t read that many biographies of authors, especially nowadays, but for the most part, I’d say no to both. Charles Dickens is my favorite author, and as reading biographies of him will show, he engaged in some very unbecoming behavior, especially involving his separation from his wife. Yet unattractive as this aspect of his personal life is, I still love his novels. As for a biography making me love an author more, I wouldn’t say it’s increased my affection for an author so much as it’s given me another perspective on his or her books, and deepened my appreciation of them. Dickens again is a good example of this, as is Charlotte Bronte.

On the other hand, biographies have tended to confirm my existing prejudices against certain writers. For instance, I tried several novels by Anthony Trollope before giving up on his books. Not only did I find most of his novels on the dull side, and sorely in need of pruning, there was a sort of snobbishness that emanated from them. (I don’t know if I would have the same reaction to them now–it’s been a good twenty years since I’ve tried one.) When I later read in his autobiography about Anthony’s dismissive attitude toward the books of his mother, Fanny–whose hard work kept the family going–my reservations about him were confirmed.

Finally, although biographies are not involved, there are living authors whose behavior has kept me from reading their books. Authors who have engaged in plagiarism or who have passed off fiction as nonfiction, authors who have engaged in bullying tactics after receiving negative or even neutral reviews, and authors who simply have too-big egos are ones whose books I won’t read, even if they might have merit. Life is way too short, and my list of books to be read way too long, to bother with such people.

8 thoughts on “Booking Through Thursday: Too Much Information?”

  1. Interesting question. To see life in relation to art – I have read biographies of poets (e.g. Wordsworth, Auden, Keats, Dickinson) that have increased my appreciation of their poetry.

    However, I have precious little time to read all the literature/fiction that I would like, thus I have read few biographies of writers. Love historical biographies, though.

  2. Lynn Irwin Stewart

    Interesting, Susan. I don’t think anything about a long-dead author would bother me, at this point, however, I think I could get ticked off at somebody nowadays — there are TV shows and movies I won’t watch if someone is in them that I can’t stand — so I imagine an author could make me feel the same way.

    In fact, today I’m pretty ticked at Stephen King. Now, honestly, I haven’t read a SK novel in years and years so this isn’t going to impact that at all — and little would he care — but I don’t think I could pick up a SK book today and be able to read it. And, by the way, I haven’t read any of Stephanie Meyers’ novels either — I just think SK saying she is not a good writer went over the line. Some folks say, well, he’s also a critic — but I’m not convinced that any author (especially a wildly successful one)should really be knocking another author — I mean he has the right to say whatever he wants but it just seams mean to me. He could have just said he didn’t like her style or that type of story would be okay

    Sorry for the rant…

  3. Amy @ Passages to the Past

    “Life is way too short, and my list of books to be read way too long, to bother with such people. “…what a perfect statement! I agree whole-heartedly!

    Mr. Trollope doesn’t sound like a very nice man…talking bad about your momma is not a good idea. I know mine would kick my butt!

  4. Plagiarism is a big one for me. There was a writer I really respected and loved to watch being interviewed but when I found out she had stolen someone else’s work for her own…that was it.

  5. I think the reading a novel often gives you a feel for the author – and then you find that ‘feel’ is totally wrong! Horrible people can write brilliant books and vice versa.

    IMHO artists in general tend to be slightly ‘unusual’ humans – if they weren’t, they wouldn’t have the dedication (or obsession) to be what they are. However the ‘unusual’ aspects are not always endearing.

    I agree about Trollope – definitely a snob, though whether he had any cause to be, I’m not sure. And also about conscious plagiarism – a deadly sin.

  6. i’m not so bothered about authors from another era, as it is hard to judge them from this one. However, I totally agree with you on contemporary authors – although luckily all of the people I like to read have nothing in their lives I would object to.

    The only other thing that puts me off an author (especially fiction) though is when I find out that their books have been ghost-written – especially when the ghost-writer doesn’t get any credit at all.

  7. I wonder if Lady Carbury is based on Trollope’s mother? It seems obvious now.

    I’ve been forever affected by reading biographies of Coleridge; I think of Wordsworth as a vampire, sucking the talent out of both STC and sister Dorothy.

    So it really pisses me off when I’m moved by a fabuous line by WW.

    As far as contemporary authors — who knows if any of it is even true, or if it’s just dreck meant to create publicity?

  8. I’d say no to both. Not to say it couldn’t happen – I might take such a dislike to someone or to something they’d done that I wouldn’t read their books – but it hasn’t happened yet.

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