[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.