by Richard Ellmann
2013, originally published 1987 • 736 pages • Vintage
How do you evaluate a biography?
Different books do different things, but few have so specific a goal as the biography. A biography seeks to illuminate one human’s life; any adaptive readings… well, that’s what historical fiction is for. Group biographies do require a thesis (why do these stories need to be told plurally instead of singularly?) but the singular biography, especially the singular biography about an Important Literary Figure, needs no such explanation for its existence. And if the biographer doesn’t make themselves known or makes themselves intrusive (which are both two sides of the same coin), then I never really feel like a biography is a product of a specific biographer—it seems like just the facts, ma’am.
When I read nonfiction, I feel like I turn into my friend Science Princess, who is so enchanted and fascinated by our world that fiction holds little allure for her. Whatever literary flaws they possess usually get a pass, because I’m learning! After all, I’m a fan—I’m well-used to stripping narratives down for spare parts and scant representation. At least reality has a marrow for me to strip down to.
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
For some insane reason, I thought that my final finals season at Agnes meant that I would have tons of time for reading. This was not only a lie, but a damned lie. I checked out every book I could only get at my college library and a handful of books from the local library. Fines piled up on the school books and the local books went home, unread, save for one: The Man in the High Castle. I’d only known Philip K. Dick by reputation, and I had confused The Man in the High Castle, the “Nazis won World War II” story, with another “Nazis won World War II” alternate history short story that was much more dour and depressing. Well, not that this isn’t…
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
I started Tiny Beautiful Things on a Sunday and logged into my library account later that day. Huh, I thought, it’s due tomorrow. I tried to renew it, but was faced with the fact that somebody else wanted to read it as badly as I did. What was a bibliophile in her last weeks of college to do? Why, finish it the next day, of course, neatly avoiding library fines and actual work in one fell swoop. It’s not procrastination if you’re doing something else productive, we all know that.
Reading in the Dark by Seamus Deane
As you may know, I’m going to be in Ireland over the holidays on a school trip entitled “Literary Ireland”—as you might guess, I’m currently taking an Irish Literature course. The first novel for the course was Seamus Deane’s Reading in the Dark, which I’d never heard or encountered before. Since it was due the week after Dragon*Con, I powered through it in two or three days right before, so that means this review may not be comprehensive as it could have been. Oh, well.
Life: The Movie
by Neal Gabler
One of the political science classes I am taking this semester has a great deal of reading involved. I’m not a nonfiction person, and these books are meant to fuel discussion more than anything else, but they’re quite interesting.
Life: The Movie is one of these books.