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.