Dispatches | July 08, 2007
Lost in Literary Fandom
Okay, here’s the truth of my current reading habits.
More often than not, I prefer to read about writers rather than what they’ve actually written. Ann Charters’s Kerouac: A Biography instead of On the Road? You bet. Diane Middlebrook’s Anne Sexton, A Biography rather than Sexton’s poetry? Positively. Mina Loy, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Byron, Shelley (both Percy and Mary), Zelda Fitzgerald (yes, she was also a writer), Edmund Wilson, Jane Austen, the Brontes, and Yeats: the list goes on (though in most cases I’ve read the writers’ original works too.) I simply have an insatiable appetite for literary gossip, particularly the tribulations of love and publication.
I love literary biographies. I love biographies period. It is an addiction akin to being a peeping Tom; I want to see writers in their unguarded, messiest moments.
Last week, after reading the New Yorker’s review of Tina Brown’s The Diana Chronicles, I rushed out and bought the book, paying full price.
“Why do you want to read that?” my husband asked from across the dinner table.
Since we both spend practically all day reading at the magazine, he likes for us to talk during dinner, but I couldn’t wait to dive into the drama of Diana’s life.
I looked at him questioningly. “What do you mean why? Why not?”
“She was famous for absolutely nothing.”
“Exactly,” I said.
I tried to explain that being famous because of who you are and not what you do is an underappreciated talent. I like to read about these people whose greatest artistic creations are themselves: Edie Sedgwick, Jackie O., Bianca Jagger, Paris Hilton and an assortment of model-groupie-celebrity-wife types.
Yet there are limits to my fandom. While we were in London, I was tempted to visit Althorp, Diana’s ancestral home but I knew my husband would never go along. We did find Sylvia Plath’s former apartments in Primrose Hill, though—both the one on Fitzroy that had also been the childhood home of Yeats and the one she had shared with Ted Hughes on Chalcot Square. It seems that paying homage to a poet rather than a princess is more acceptable.
The larger point is that all of our lives-given a good narrator-are equally fascinating. Every person’s life, whether that of a princess, poet, or postman, is full of its own glories and disappointments and should be shared with the world.
SEE THE ISSUE
Feb 28 2020
2020 Miller Guest Judge in the Spotlight: Alex Sujong Laughlin
2020 Miller Audio Prize Guest Judge Alex Sujong Laughlin shares her journey to becoming an audio producer, the lens through which she sees the world, and how TikTok makes her
Oct 15 2019
Last Call for Submissions to the Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize
The LASY DAY to enter TMR‘s Editors’ Prize has arrived And with it, the last call. The 29th Annual Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize Contest closes tonight! You have the rest of
Mar 08 2019
Interview with 2019 Miller Audio Prize Guest Judge Cher Vincent
Our guest judge this year, Cher Vincent (she/her), is an audio producer based in Chicago. She is currently Lead Audio Producer for One Illinois, a nonprofit news outlet, covering statewide news and producing