Sasha might be enjoying reading the “About the Author” pages a smidge too much –

[This is all obviously off the top of my head. Hello, lazy weekend.] [And thanks to The Boyfriend for letting me borrow his Robert Lowell poetry books for yet another fuzzy book pictorial.]

You know the whole la-dee-dah about letting the text speak for itself, the author being dead and all that jazz, the Not Looking Three Seats to Your Left when a particular piece is being workshopped. Well. Hee. Although I tend to ascribe to these, I still can’t tamp down the fascination I have for author’s lives. [I remember last year: My brain exploded when I learned that romance novelist Eloisa James was the poet Robert Bly's daughter -- it was like two ends of my shelves collided into a flurry of man-poetry and petticoats. Awesome.] It’s these connections that thrill me to no end.

You have all been witness to my obsession over the Paul Auster – Siri Hustvedt – Lydia Davis connection. Si Sasha, literary intrigera. [I don't know how to explain this fascination. Or maybe I do, and I don't really want to, haha. I know I'll implicate myself.] I am thankful though: It was precisely the knowing a portion of the behind-the-scenes of Auster’s life that I ended up discovering Hustvedt and Davis. And, well, Hustvedt is now one of my favorite novelists — one of the authors I’m so thankful to have chanced upon this year.

I guess you can see where I’m going. Last month, I read my first Jean Stafford, The Mountain Lion. And then, in the introduction, I read about her marriage to Robert Lowell. I did that Huh thing, and moved on. Last week, I read The New York Stories of Elizabeth Hardwick, loved it, and was informed by the introduction [that I tend to read midway through books, haha] that Elizabeth Hardwick was married to Robert Lowell a year after he left Jean Stafford. There is something wrong with me, because I squealed.

[And with a little Wikipedia-hunting, I found out that Lowell then moved on to Lady Caroline Blackwood, also a writer, moonlighting as a muse -- and Blackwood was married to Lucian Freud way before she met Lowell -- and Lucian Freud is one of my favorite painters ever. My brain, still exploding. And guess what? Two of Blackwood's novels are available from NYRB Classics too -- Corrigan and Great Granny Webster. Hee. I am so reading you, Miss Blackwood. And dude. Wiki tells me: Lowell died clutching one of Freud’s portraits of Blackwood in the back seat of a New York cab, on his way back to his second wife, Elizabeth Hardwick. Good lord, my heart. These are stories in themselves!]

Introduction-trolling or Google-fu-ing antics aside, I do try to not let this fascination get in the way of enjoying the text itself, though. These connections might thrill me, but literature will always be the highest priority. I mean, come on, I admit that reading someone’s fiction because she was someone’s third wife is a weird way to find a book to read — but letting that information cloud one’s judgment, in whatever manner, is just, well, not for me. I don’t think I can ever go so far as having the author’s lives stand as substitutes for the work that they do. They’ll always be wonderful supplementary material, or a parallel read.

Then again, sometimes, the author’s lives are way better reads for me than the things they write. Then then again, someone’s fiction could — BAH. I’ll stop generalizing here, because I am bad at it. Usually if it applies to flaky ol’ me.

So. Where was I? O ya, reading. Back to your weekends, kids.

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3 comments

  1. teadevotee · · Reply

    Oh, Sasha, I totally agree. The books of certain writers are all the more intriguing because of their private lives. Fitzgerald? Lawrence? Even Woolf? I want to know a writer is out there, living and experiencing things. Plus, y’know, I like gossip and trivia.

    1. As much as I like Barthes and his Death of the Author movement/manifesto, I just want to know about the authors real lives. Well, the lives of the authors whose works I actually like. I especially like these connections. It is trivia and gossip, haha. Too often, literature comes to us divorced from its maker. They’ve got lives of their own. So it’s always interesting when I take a peek. Realize these writers are, of course, human. And a tad scandalous.

  2. [...] Me, all a-giddy about the “About the Author” pages, and discovering real-life connections of literary loves. Also, this month, this book blog turned a year old. [...]

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