Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Maybe You Should Begin That Biography Today


I read a review the other day of a sorta-kinda-biography of Lorraine Hansberry (don't know her? neither do I, but she wrote A Raisin in the Sun, so maybe we should) wherein the reviewer lamented the bio's lack of new, fresh, and vivid biographical information.

Which kinda hit home for me. Because some while ago, I wrote a slim book titled: Hope-in-the-Mist: The Extraordinary Career and Mysterious Life of Hope Mirrlees. It was, I am proud to say, the first biography of Ms Mirrlees ever, and it taught me a great deal about the difficulties of the genre.

At one point, Mirrlees's nephew, Count Robin Ian Evelyn Milne Stewart de la Lanne-Mirrlees, wrote to me applauding an anecdote recorded in my first draft of the book and suggested the whole would benefit from several more of these.

Well, yes. But the anecdote was one of very few such (that I could find) recorded by Hope's peers. Who surely had many such on tap had anybody asked them. But nobody did. While they were alive.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

If you're thinking that Someday you'd like to write a biography of somebody still living whom you admire but are putting it off until you're a much better writer than you are today...

Cut bait or get off the pot!

Seriously, there's no reason to wait and every reason to act. The first part of any biography is interviewing the subject, if alive. The second is interviewing as many people as possible who know or knew him or her. And the third part, the actual writing? Well...

That can take as many years as it takes. The history of biography is also the history of procrastination.

But when you finally get around to the hard work of biography, the information will be there, long after the people who provided it are gone. And if you turn out to be as talentless as you think you are (people who think this rarely are), well, then the information will exist or someone else to find and use the way you originally wanted to.

End of sermon.  Take a day, think it over. Then, if you're the person this post is aimed at, get started.

People yet unborn will be glad you did.

And yet another page from the Image Book . . .

Again, we are reminded how limited my drawing skills are. At the top, it says, "Half-Man Half..." And below it are possible things the fellow might be from the waist down.

Strangely enough, this character did make it into the novel. At any rate, he looks a lot like a triton named Pelagius who puts in a brief but memorable appearance at the Bay of Dreams. So the Image Book is beginning to work.

Still a long way away from starting the novel, though.

Above: For those who came in late, my latest novel, The Iron Dragon's Mother, will be published in 48 days. To draw attention to this fact, I'm serializing the Image Book I made to help me imagine a strange world for the book.

Top: My slim book about Hope Mirrlees. The physical book is now pretty much unobtainable. But publisher Henry Wessells has made an affordable ebook available at Weightless Books. That was important to me because there's so little written about Mirrlees that if you're a scholar writing about her, you really do have to have read it. A page discussing the book and giving the link for purchase is  to be found at:


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